Monday, June 27, 2011

Retired Methodist Minister, Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell, on Marriage Equality in New York

As a member of the board of PFLAG National, it is difficult to explain the joy that is mine now that now that New York State has legislated marriage equality. The love and courage that I have seen in the parents of lesbian, gay and transgender sons and daughters who are members of the board has been inspiring. I am a parent and a straight ally of LGBT rights in church and society. The human rights struggles of LGBTQ persons and couples cannot be separated from the struggles that were ours in the Civil Rights movement; I remember well my joy when signiicant legislation was passed in the journey to racial justice. 

And today, as an old "foot soldier" of the Civil Rights Movement who is African American, I rejoice in response to the passage of marriage equality in New York state.

Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell
Member of the National Board of PFLAG
A retired United Methodist Minister

Friday, June 24, 2011

PFLAG NATIONAL CELEBRATES NY STATE MARRIAGE EQUALITY VICTORY!

PFLAG National (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) - the nation's largest grassroots-based family organization for families, friends and allies of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people – has issued the following statement regarding the 33 - 29 vote in favor of marriage equality in New York State.

“We applaud Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State legislature for their historic vote in favor of marriage equality. This step towards equal civil rights – in one of the largest states in our nation – affirms recent polls that most Americans are now in favor of marriage equality for our LGBT loved ones. PFLAG mothers and fathers all over the state of New York will be celebrating with their sons and daughters, who can now legally marry the people they love in their hometowns,” said Jody Huckaby, Executive Director of PFLAG National.

“After years of actively fighting for marriage equality in New York State, I am elated that both of my sons – gay and straight – will now have the same basic civil right to marry the person they love in the state in which they were raised,” said Dale Bernstein, PFLAG National Board Member, PFLAG Mom, and lifelong New York resident.

PFLAG National is committed to securing full civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, by providing support, education and advocacy. Founded in 1973 by mothers and fathers, PFLAG has more than 200,000 members and supporters in more than 350 chapters throughout the United States. To learn more, please visit www.pflag.org.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

UMC Minister Amy DeLong Found Guilty

Photo credit: Stacy Bengs

Sad and frustrating news out of Kaukauna, WI, where UMC Minister Amy DeLong was found guilty of marrying a lesbian couple.


Yes, you read that correctly - a pastor was found guilty of performing a wedding ceremony. Is that really what it's come to now?




Of course, she was found not guilty of "being a self-avowed practicing homosexual." So at least there's that.

Read all the details in this article from the Associated Press: Associate Press/Amy DeLong

DeLong's website, Love on Trial, can be found by clicking here.

And if this whole thing is as upsetting to you as it is to us, please send your words of support to Amy DeLong by clicking here. Tell her you're a PFLAG member - or supporter - and that you support HER.  Loving words will go a long way.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Education Department Affirms Right to Form Gay-Straight Alliances

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education released a Dear Colleague letter affirming the rights of students to form gay-straight alliance (GSA) organizations on campus.  The letter, written by Education Secretary Arne Duncan, emphasized the serious problems of bullying and harassment in U.S. schools, especially with regards to LGBT students.
Harassment and bullying are serious problems in our schools, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students are the targets of disproportionate shares of these problems. Thirty-two percent of students aged 12-18 experienced verbal or physical bullying during the 2007-2008 school year;and, according to a recent survey, more than 90 percent of LGBT students in grades 6 through 12 reported being verbally harassed — and almost half reported being physically harassed — during the 2008-2009 school year.High levels of harassment and bullying correlate with poorer educational outcomes, lower future aspirations, frequent school absenteeism, and lower grade-point averages. Recent tragedies involving LGBT students and students perceived to be LGBT only underscore the need for safer schools. 
Secretary Duncan highlighted the positive effects GSAs have in schools:
Gay-straight alliances (GSAs) and similar student-initiated groups addressing LGBT issues can play an important role in promoting safer schools and creating more welcoming learning environments.  Nationwide, students are forming these groups in part to combat bullying and harassment of LGBT students and to promote understanding and respect in the school community.  Although the efforts of these groups focus primarily on the needs of LGBT students, students who have LGBT family members and friends, and students who are perceived to be LGBT, messages of respect, tolerance, and inclusion benefit all our students.  By encouraging dialogue and providing supportive resources, these groups can help make schools safe and affirming environments for everyone.
And he goes on to articulate the disturbing reality that many LGBT students experience in school when trying to form GSAs: their clubs often face a multitude of barriers from schools themselves:
But in spite of the positive effect these groups can have in schools, some such groups have been unlawfully excluded from school grounds, prevented from forming, or denied access to school resources.  These same barriers have sometimes been used to target religious and other student groups, leading Congress to pass the Equal Access Act.
The letter strongly encourages public schools to comply with the Equal Access Act, which requires that all public secondary school students be given equal access to clubs and organizations, and protects all kinds of student organizations.  Also, it announces a new set of guidelines that the Department of Education’s General Counsel is issuing, which aim to create school environments in which students, including LGBT students, can feel safe and free to be themselves. 
Overall, this announcement makes it clear that the U.S. Department of Education is committed to building safer schools for all students, including LGBT students. 
Please thank Secretary Duncan for his support of the rights of LGBT student organizations in public schools by calling 1-800-872-5327, emailing or writing to the U.S. Department of Education (400 Maryland Avenue, SW Washington, D.C. 20202) today!

Monday, June 20, 2011

The United Methodist Church: Time For A Transformation?

Another blog post from PFLAG National Board Member Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell, a retired United Methodist Minister of the Rocky Mountain (Denver) Conference:

"Gays and Lesbians have a more difficult time than we (blacks) did. We had our families and our churches on our side. All too often they have neither."  
- James Lawson

I re-discovered these words of James Lawson, now a retired United Methodist minister who was/is a proponent and living example of, as well as teacher of nonviolence in the Civil Rights Movement. His relationship with Martin Luther King and leadership in "The Movement" is well documented and well remembered by those of us who were foot soldiers during that time.

My search for this quotation from Jim was prompted by the headline of a United Methodist News Service story, Gandhi urges graduates to 'transform' Africa. Gandhi, who is the grandson of Mohandis "Mahatma" Gandhi, was the speaker at this year's Africa University graduation in Zimbabwe. 

He, Jim Lawson and I -- along with scores of others -- were arrested at the 2000 Cleveland United Methodist General Conference, protesting anti-gay UMC language and legislation. At the Soulforce demonstrations at the conference, Jim Lawson spoke the eloquent words above.

We are on the brink of the Amy DeLong trial and as we hear, some say that delegates from Africa to the 2012 General Conference will vote to maintain our discriminatory United Methodist legislation. I wonder how many at the Africa University graduation knew this bit of Arun Gandhi's history? For in our struggles for racial justice and equality, Africans in Africa, and African Americans in the USA had our families and our churches as our allies in our struggles; as Jim Lawson reminds us, this is not always true for LGBT people in their struggles for justice.  

African and African American delegates at the 2012 General Conference could help to "transform" The United Methodist Church if they vote to affirm rather than reject those whose sexual orientation is same gender loving.

Could it be that the words and the presence of Arun Gandhi at Africa University might encourage The UMC to become a Church for the 21st century, and not a reflection of centuries long gone?

Many of us are praying and hoping this will be true.

Monday, June 13, 2011

UMC Minister Amy Delong On Trial

Today's guest blogger is PFLAG National Board Member Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell, a retired United Methodist Minister of the Rocky Mountain (Denver) Conference:


Amy DeLong, an ordained United Methodist Minister, will go on trial on June 21, 2011 for performing a Holy Union of two women in 2009. and because she has been open about her committed relationship to her female partner of 15 years. The United Methodist Church has for many years abided by language and legislation enacted by the legislative body of the denomination, a General Conference of many years ago, that prohibits United Methodist clergy from performing Holy Unions for same sex couples. The denomination also puts on church trial, clergy who have been charged because they acknowledge that they are in a same gender relationship. Many of us are praying and hoping that Amy Delong will be judged not guilty in 2011 as Tituba was in 1692 in the Salem witch trials.

Who was Tituba? I first heard of her in one of the classrooms of a racially segregated school in Texas where I grew up many,many years ago. Our teachers, all of whom were black as was the student body, felt that it was important for their black students to become acquainted with black persons whose names and lives were an important part of history.Too often their stories were made invisible by a culture and practice that rendered them second class. Tituba was a slave who belonged to a Rev. Samuel Parris. She was one of the first three women to be arrested who were accused of engaging in witchcraft during the beginning of the Salem Witch Trials. Tituba, who in some writings is described as the "black witch" was dark of skin because of her ancestry that was thought to be South American Indian. Before arriving in Salem, she spent time as a slave in Barbados. Tituba was not hanged as were many of the women, but the visions that she described and the demons she claimed she saw, made her a "witch" in the minds of many of those who knew her.

The coming trial of Amy DeLong cannot help but cause me to remember what I have heard and what I have read about those long ago trials in Salem.

The United Methodist Church in its language and legislation and its trials, has made of clergy who help same sex couples celebrate the love from God that they express toward each other, Witches. And, if those clergy acknowledge that they are in a same-gender loving relationship themselves as Amy has done, their "Witch-ness" is compounded. We now regret the insensitive irrationality of the Salem Trials. I wonder how will The United Methodist Church express its regret, when in that time that is certain to come, performing a same sex union and/or being open about one's same gender relationship, will no longer be considered "incompatible with Christian teaching" as our current United Methodist Book of Discipline states?

How ironic it is that in a year when The Presbyterian Church (USA) through voting at the regional level, affirmed the ordination of same gender loving clergy, we in The United Methodist Church are bringing Amy Delong to trial?

My hope is that the Rev. Amy DeLong will be found not guilty as those who judge her remember how wrong the Methodist denomination was when some in the Church once used the Bible to support slavery, racial segregation and prohibitions against the ordination of women. And, if those memories are insufficient to render her not guilty, may her judges recognize that if the military now believes that the practice of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is morally unjustifiable, why cannot The United Methodist Church do the same?

We used to sing in the marches and the protest lines of the Civil Rights Movement, a Spiritual that ended with these words; "Before I'll be a slave, I'll be buried in my grave, and go home to my Lord and be free." I have known Gay United Methodist clergy who because of the restrictions of their Church against them being open about their Gay sexual orientation, in death have experienced the affirmation and acceptance of a loving God, that was denied them by their Church while they lived.

May the members and friends of PFLAG, those related to other Gay rights organizations, and those in religious bodies that now accept clergy like Amy DeLong, let The United Methodist Church know they are watching and hoping and praying as she is being tried. May her trial be "The Last United Methodist Trial" of a clergyperson whose "Call to Ministry" compels them to be in ministry to and with all persons and to be open about their sexual orientation.

**********

For more information about Amy DeLong, including her personal statement on the trial, please visit www.loveontrial.org.

To read the UMC's position, please click here to visit www.umc.org.

Friday, June 10, 2011

PFLAG NATIONAL TO TRACY MORGAN: YOU MUST TAKE MEANINGFUL ACTION TO PROVE THE SINCERITY OF YOUR WORDS

Following is a press statement PFLAG has issued regarding Tracy Morgan's homophobic rant during a performance in Nashville the other night:

WASHINGTON – PFLAG National (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) - the nation's largest grassroots-based family organization for families, friends and allies of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people – has issued the following statement following Tracy Morgan's anti-gay remarks during a performance in Nashville, TN.

“At a time when bullying and harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth is at an all-time high - when kids are being assaulted, are dying - to joke about committing violence against a child is outrageous and reprehensible. As a celebrity, Mr. Morgan needs to understand that his words have power; inciting violence against gay and lesbian kids in the name of comedy – stating that he would stab his own son to death if he was gay – is absolutely unconscionable. A simple apology is not enough – Mr. Morgan must take meaningful action to prove the sincerity of that apology,” said Jody Huckaby, Executive Director of PFLAG National.

PFLAG National is committed to the civil rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, providing support, education and advocacy. Founded in 1973 by mothers and fathers, PFLAG has more than 200,000 members and supporters in more than 250 chapters throughout the United States. To learn more, please visit www.pflag.org.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

TWO SPIRITS To Have Its National Television Premiere on PBS: Independent Lens, June 14th


TWO SPIRITS, a moving documentary about a Navajo teen who was one of the youngest hate-crime victims in modern history, will have its national broadcast premiere on PBS: Independent Lens, on June 14th.

From the filmmakers:
TWO SPIRITS interweaves the tragic story of a mother's loss of her son with a revealing look at a time when the world wasn't simply divided into male and female, and many Native American cultures held places of honor for people of integrated genders.

Fred Martinez was nadleehi, a male-bodied person with a feminine nature, a special gift according to his ancient Navajo culture. But the place where two discriminations meet is a dangerous place to live, and Fred became one of the youngest hate-crime victims in modern history when he was brutally murdered at sixteen. Between tradition and controversy, sex and spirit, and freedom and fear, lives the truth - the bravest choice you can make is to be yourself.
PFLAGers in Colorado became involved with Fred Martinez's story early on, actively working with the family and other organizations to raise money for a headstone for Fred's grave. Click here to read more about those efforts.
Don't miss this powerful and moving film!

CDC Study Finds LGB Teens More Likely to Experience Health Risks

On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a study which showed that lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) high school students are significantly more likely than their straight peers to be susceptible to health risks such as smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, being victims of violence, and attempting suicide. This report summarized eight years of Youth Risk Behavior Surveys administered to over 156,000 public school students in grades 9-12, with sample sizes ranging from approximately 3,700 to 37,000 students over multiple survey years. These surveys measured a wide variety of health risks and health-risk behaviors.

Some of the 135 page study’s key findings reported that LGB teens at a higher risk for:

  • Suicide Attempts. 26 percent of lesbian and gay students and 28 percent of bisexual students report having attempted suicide at least once in the previous year, compared to 6 percent of straight students
  • Sexual Violence. 24 percent of lesbian and gay students and 23 percent of bisexual students report having been forced to have sexual intercourse, compared to 7 percent of straight students
  • Feeling Unsafe. 21 percent of lesbian and gay students and 13 percent of bisexual students report having missed school in the last 30 days because they feared for their safety, compared to 5 percent of straight students.
  • Drinking and Driving. 15 percent of lesbian and gay students and 13 percent of bisexual students report having driven while drinking alcohol, compared to 8 percent of straight students.
  • Physical Assault. 16 percent of lesbian and gay students and 9 percent of bisexual students report having been injured in a physical fight, compared to 3 percent of straight students

The findings from this groundbreaking study were unveiled by researchers from the CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health at this week’s historic Federal Summit on LGBT Youth. We applaud the federal government for investing the resources necessary for conducting this important research and feature it so prominently at a Department of Education sponsored event for LGBT youth and their advocates. The findings from this report will help organizations like PFLAG continue to raise awareness and provide recommendations on how to address the risks far too many LGBT youth endure. The report also assists in helping us continue to advocate for better data collection methods to understand the risks that transgender youth in particular experience.

Lastly, we must remember that these findings do not show that lesbian, gay, and bisexual teenagers are inherently more prone to risky behaviors; rather, they demonstrate the impact of a school culture, and communities in general, that are hostile to LGB students. The CDC report notes that creating “safe and welcoming school environments” is essential to reducing the number of LGB students who are susceptible to health risks.

One of the ways PFLAG can help foster safe and welcoming schools that cultivates respect for all is by engaging more parents and community members in the process. If you are interested in building safer schools and communities, please visit our website and learn about our Cultivating Respect training program or contact our Safe Schools Coordinator today!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

PFLAG National Participates in Historic Federal Summit on LGBT Youth

Earlier this week, representatives from PFLAG National participated in the Federal Summit on LGBT Youth – an inaugural event sponsored by the U.S. Departments of Education, Health and Human Services and Justice. The two-day federal summit focused specifically on the unique needs and challenges facing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth. This is the first-ever federal summit to address the needs of LGBT youth. In announcing the summit, the Department of Education wrote:

LGBT youths are a uniquely vulnerable population in America’s schools. Because they suffer at a higher rate than many of their peer groups from physical violence, bullying, anxiety and depression, LGBT youths are more prone to exhibit high-risk behaviors such as substance abuse, sexual risk-taking and running away from home. The summit, hosted by the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, will bring together students, educators, administrators, and heads of federal and nonprofit agencies to provide information and seek solutions to these issues.


Representatives from PFLAG National facilitated a break-out session sharing best practices on how to build safer schools in small and rural communities. We had the privilege of presenting with two seasoned PFLAG chapter leaders, Linda Stroupe from Greensboro, NC and Judy Sandeen from Hastings, NE. At the end of the breakout session, we articulated several concrete recommendations and delivered them directly to officials from the Departments of Education, HHS and Justice. These recommendations outlined how to address some of the unique challenges smaller communities experience when trying to make schools safer for LGBT young people.

In addition to PFLAG’s ongoing efforts to build safer schools through training and educating our school communities across the nation, we continue to encourage you to express your support for PFLAG National’s highest education priorities in Congress – passing both the Student Non Discrimination Act (H.R. 998/S. 555) and the Safe School Improvement Act (H.R. 1648/S. 506). No federal law explicitly protects students on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, and no federal law mandates school districts to adopt comprehensive anti-bulling policies and reporting requirements. Senators Al Franken (D-MN) and Robert Casey (D-PA) along with Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO) and Linda Sanchez (D-CA) have introduced the legislation in Congress necessary to finally extend basic civil rights protections to our LGBT loved ones in school.

Please be sure to contact your Congress Members and ask them to support and help pass this life saving legislation today, ensuring that all students have access to a safe and supportive learning environment. To find out who your Congress Members are, please visit our action alert center.

To receive PFLAG National’s action alerts please subscribe to our advocacy listserve, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

In Honor of Pride, Some Words From a PFLAG Mom...

Guest blogger Annette Gross, of PFLAG Indianapolis, writes for us today:

A few weeks ago, I met the daughter of an old friend. We spoke for a while, and then she said to me, "You know, I have to tell you how wonderful you and your husband are. You love and support your gay son - you never threw him out of the house like some other parents do." Well, I was flattered and I thanked her. But then I thought about it. Why should someone thank me for doing what a parent should do in the first place - which is to love your child unconditionally?

When my son first came out in 1998, I had such mixed feelings. I was born and raised in New York City and had been around all sorts of people, including gay people, so I thought I was cool. But I also had no knowledge nor understanding of what it was like to have a gay kid. I was totally confused and couldn't imagine what might have "made him gay." So I did what a lot of parents do when their kids come out - I went into the closet. I stayed there for 2 years. I was embarrassed and thought we didn't have a "normal" family anymore. I thought I'd never have grandchildren. I felt inferior.

When I finally began going to PFLAG meetings, I learned so many new things. I found out that people are born gay - no one or no incident can "make" them gay. I also learned that GLBT people are able to have children and raise families. As I attended more meetings over many years, I met some wonderful parents who became my friends. I talked to them and read a lot and I came out of the closet.

Coming out as a parent was a wonderful experience. I felt free to share my life openly with friends and new people I met. I began to get involved in advocacy. I was also able to teach people about GLBT issues. But the best part was that I could feel strong and stand up for my son. If someone said they "agreed with his lifestyle" I told them that being gay is not a lifestyle or a choice. I was educated and could speak with some authority. Now, if someone asks me if my son is married, I reply by saying "he isn't allowed." This often results in a puzzled look, so I explain how same-sex marriage isn't legal in Indiana. This in turn opens up a whole dialogue about the possible discriminatory Marriage Amendment.

So it really bothers me to think that parents who accept their GLBT kids are thought of as doing something out of the ordinary. I don't even like to use the word "accept." To me, that means I have a choice to love my child or not. Loving your children should come with the territory of being a parent. It should be the standard - not the exception. Why have kids if you're not going to embrace their unique qualities, no matter what they are. Children come in all sorts of packages - we never know what we're going to get. And very often we're surprised. That surprise may come at an early age, or it may come later in the child's life. But we can't turn away from whatever is presented to us.

I recently read a story about a high school boy who was an atheist. He protested when his school was going to say a prayer at the graduation ceremony. Not only did the school turn against him, but his own parents did. They threw him and his belongings out into the street! I was appalled! Parents should be a safe haven for their kids, no matter what their sexual orientation is or their religious beliefs are. I know there are some parents out there who listen to the homophobic rantings of their religious leaders rather than accept their GLBT kids. Again, to me, there is no question - your child comes first.

Every year, I march with my PFLAG chapter in the Indy Pride Parade. The first year when I marched, I remember hearing the spectators on the sidewalk yell and cheer when they saw our PFLAG banner. I asked one of the members of my chapter why people were so happy to see us. She said it was because to them, PFLAG represents the parents they don't have - the parents who rejected them. That moment made me aware of the difficulties many in the GLBT community have when they first come out. I believe that coming out must be the bravest thing a person can do - they unfortunately must have to face the fact that they stand the chance of losing what they need the most - their family's love and support.

One of the goals of PFLAG is to help parents learn how to support their GLBT kids and help them feel safe and wanted in the world. I know, too, that there will always be parents who just don't get it. They might stay in the closet for a long time, perhaps never coming out. Others may throw their kids out, rejecting them due to fear and ignorance. But PFLAG will always be there for them should they decide to take that first step toward enlightenment.

When I meet someone in the gay community who thanks me for being a PFLAG mom, I am still flattered. It is a very humbling experience. But really, the GLBT community is the group of people who should be thanked - they live in a world too often filled with homophobia and hate. Yet they go out each day and teach us what it is like to hold your head up and be who you really are.

This is what I should have told my friend's daughter. And I hope for a time when parents won't be thanked for doing what should come naturally - for doing what should be the norm - loving our kids and standing up for them.

PFLAG National Celebrates the Heartland...Chicago! And celebrate we did...

Our inaugural Chicago event was a winner, thanks to a gorgeous setting, beautiful music, delicious food, a host who is TRULY a role model for straight allies everywhere, and three honorees who have dedicated their lives to moving equality forward at the community, local and state levels.

Affinity Community Services Executive Director Kim L. Hunt,LGBT/Chicago Police Dept. Liaison Officer Jose Rios and Illinois State Representative Greg Harris were honored on Thursday, June 2nd as leaders in the PFLAG mission of support, education and advocacy. All three work tirelessly to make this country not only an equal place for our LGBT loved ones, but a safe place as well.


Host Hal Sparks was by equal measures hilarious and heartfelt, delivering comedy that contributed to the celebratory spirit of the evening, as well as moving words that inspired all of us – LGBT and allies alike – to keep fighting the good fight.



Event co-chairs John and Char Cepek made sure the evening honors recognized not only the work of the three honorees, but also celebrated the many civil union ceremonies that went on in Chicago and all over the state of Illinois on June 2nd.

A great time was had by all – and we look forward to next year!