Monday, November 28, 2011
The Salvation Army’s bell-ringing volunteers and shiny red donation pails have become a familiar sight for many holiday shoppers during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, with their yearly “Red Kettle” campaign in full swing for this holiday season as volunteers aim to raise millions for families in need to help finance clothing, toys, and Christmas dinners. However, LGBT advocates are raising their voices against these seemingly neutral collectors. The Salvation Army lists many position statements on its website, including a statement on “homosexuality” which reads: “The Salvation Army believes…that Christians whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life. There is no scriptural support for same-sex unions as equal to, or as an alternative to, heterosexual marriage.”
Last year, Jeffrey Curnow, the corporate and public relations manager for the Salvation Army, defended the foundation’s views, admitting that they are indeed theological, but are “intended for our church members and those who are interested in our church.” They “would never expect everyone we help, our donors, or even our non-church-member employees to necessarily agree with these theological positions.” The Salvation Army also includes disclaimer of-sorts in their public position statement: “Likewise, there is no scriptural support for demeaning or mistreating anyone for reason of his or her sexual orientation.”
Yet, despite Curnow’s claim that The Salvation Army “serves countless people…including gays and lesbians,” many cite the organization’s discriminatory past. Bil Browing of The Bilerico Project, a group blogging site for LGBTQ advocates, asks people to consider the group’s history before they donate: “While you might think you’re helping the hungry and homeless by dropping a few dollars into the bright red buckets, not everyone can share in the donations…The organization also has a record of actively lobbying governments worldwide for ant-gay policies.” Browning was turned away when he and his boyfriend were homeless, and was told to leave “the ‘sinful homosexual lifestyle’ behind” if the couple wanted help.
The Salvation Army is known to have fought against U.S. anti-discrimination laws which prohibited employment discrimination against sexual orientation and sought exemption from federal non-discrimination policies. The group also threatened to close all of their New York soup kitchens in 2004 if they had to offer benefits to same-sex couples in domestic partnerships.
Yes, The Salvation Army does indeed help many families who urgently seek assistance in the holiday seasons, but at what cost? Andy Thayer from the Gay Liberation Network puts the problem in a unique perspective: “If a racist organization was trying to collect money with the massage that some of the money was going toward good, would you support them?” Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to donate to the organization must be determined on a personal level.
This winter, many supporters of LGBT equality are suggesting Americans donate to organizations that support the LGBT community. We hope you consider PFLAG National in your search for affirming organizations this season. PFLAG National directly helps LGBT people, their families, and friends by promoting education, support, and advocacy. PFLAG National helps by providing scholarships to young students, hosting national conventions, and fighting for equality at the state and national level. For more information on how to donate visit PFLAG National’s website or contact PFLAG National Member Services at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 467-8180, option 3.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Last night, Howard County Councilmembers heard testimony on CB54-2011, an update to the County’s Human Rights Act which would prohibit housing, employment, credit, law enforcement, and public accommodations discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression for all residents. The bill was drafted in part by PFLAG Columbia-Howard County and Gender Rights Maryland in July and introduced in October. The bill is sponsored by four of the council’s members.
More than 70 people showed their support for the bill at the hearing by wearing purple clothing, and many PFLAG voices were heard, all of which received warm and heartfelt applause for the emotional testimony they courageously shared in support of basic rights for all families throughout the county.
While over a dozen Howard Country residents testified expressing their full support for these critical protections, arguments from three individuals – two of whom did not reside in Howard County - were also submitted for the record. These individuals expressed concerns about the legislation, yet failed to substantiate their claims when pressed by Council Members.
On the other hand, many local residents, including several PFLAG members, referenced report-after-report including NCTEand NGLTF’s groundbreaking report, Injustice at Every Turn Report, and GLSEN’s 2008 Harsh Realities report demonstrating the very real and severe discrimination and harassment far too many transgender and gender non-conforming individuals experience. These advocates also mentioned the professional statements from the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association further demonstrating the extent of the prejudice and discrimination experienced by these people, and the need for legal protections to help mitigate these realities.
Our very own PFLAG Columbia-Howard County chapter leader said it best:
We need a transgender anti-discrimination bill because legislation engenders education and reduces ignorance, which will help keep our kids safe, and allows them to grow into the productive members of society that we all want them to be.
Take Action: All of us at PFLAG National strongly support parents just like Catherine who work so hard to protect their kids, ensuring they will have equal opportunities to successfully transition into thriving adults. The Howard County Council has the tools to build this level playing field through the swift passage of CB54-2011. If you live in Howard County, it’s still possible to express your support for the bill by writing to Howard County Councilmembers before their December 5th vote.
Monday, November 21, 2011
Israeli TV star Assi Azar is touring the United States this month, screening his film, “Mom & Dad: I have Something to Tell You,” in which he tries to understand his parents’ journey to accepting him after he came out as a gay man. Two years after coming out to his parents privately, he came out very publicly in the media. When he came out, Mr. Azar was already a famous host of a children’s television show, now he hosts Israel’s most popular show, Big Brother. Since coming out Mr. Azar has been an advocate for LGBT equality, and was named one of the 100 most influential gay people in the world by Out Magazine.
In the film Mr. Azar visits Support Groups for Parents of Gay Children (a group modeled after PFLAG) to try to understand why his parents had such a difficult time accepting him. Mr. Azar learns that his parents' needed time and education to help them understand the issues and process their own feelings about his identity. Mr. Azar says that coming out stories are often entirely focused on the individual who is coming out, but the event is life changing for the family members as well. He felt it was important that his film “is not from the kids’ point of view only, but from the parents’ point of view.”
Yesterday Mr. Azar, along with representatives from the Embassy of Israel, met with PFLAG National Executive Director Jody Huckaby, Deputy Executive Director Beth Kohm, and Policy Intern Laura Van Dyke to talk about how his moving film can be incorporated into the great work that PFLAG chapters are already doing. Look out for more updates from PFLAG National about the film “Mom & Dad: I have Something to Tell You,” and the possibility of a second screening tour sometime in the spring of 2012.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
According to Gwendolyn Ann Smith, the founder of TDOR, "The Transgender Day of Remembrance serves several purposes. It raises public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people, an action that current media doesn’t perform. Day of Remembrance publicly mourns and honors the lives of our brothers and sisters who might otherwise be forgotten. Through the vigil, we express love and respect for our people in the face of national indifference and hatred. Day of Remembrance reminds non-transgender people that we are their sons, daughters, parents, friends and lovers. Day of Remembrance gives our allies a chance to step forward with us and stand in vigil, memorializing those of us who’ve died by anti-transgender violence.”
Research and personal stories remind us that transgender people of color are particularly vulnerable to experiencing prejudice, discrimination, murder, and police brutality. In 2010, the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) partnered with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), to release a startling report detailing the experiences of transgender people of color.
The key findings revealed:
- Nearly half (49%) of Black respondents reported having attempted suicide
- Trans black students reported alarming rates of harassment (49%), physical assault (27%), and sexual assault (15%) at school; harassment was so severe that it led 21% to leave school. 6% percent were also expelled due to bias.
- Black transgender people had an extremely high unemployment rate at 26%, four times the rate of the general population.
- Thirty-two percent (32%) of Black transgender people lost a job due to bias and 48% were not hired for a job due to bias.
- Forty-six percent of Black transgender people were harassed, 15% were physically assaulted, and 13% were sexually assaulted at work
- Thirty-eight percent of Black transgender people who had interacted with the police reported harassment, 14% reported physical assault, and 6% reported sexual assault.
In response to these and other egregious acts of violence, on Wednesday, November 16th, the White House convened a special meeting designed to address violence against transgender people. Anti-violence advocates and transgender community members spoke out and stepped up to discuss strategies and best practices aimed at addressing the issue. The meeting was facilitated by the NCTE’s Executive Director, Mara Keisling, along with Gwendolyn Ann Smith. PFLAG National was also in attendance as a strong advocate for transgender equal rights and specially addressed the unique challenges that transgender and gender non-conforming students experience in schools across the nation.
These oppressive conditions and acts of violence against transgender community members must stop.
In 1998, PFLAG became the first national organization to include transgender people in its mission statement; we also became the first national organization to develop a public policy that is completely transgender inclusive. Sadly, here we are in 2011 and we are still seeking basic vital protections for the health and well-being of our transgender loved ones. In honor of those we have lost to violence and hate, this year and in years passed, PFLAG National and our 350 chapters across the country, re-commit to supporting the needs and rights of transgender people and their families everywhere.
On Sunday, please take time to remember transgender hate crime victims, as well as those who face violence and discrimination every day.
To find out what events are taking place in your community, please visit http://www.transgenderdor.org/.
Friday, November 18, 2011
Thursday, November 17, 2011
The California Supreme Court issued its advisory opinion which stated that the proponents of Proposition 8 have a standing to appeal. The lawsuit can now continue within the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and expectations are high for a speedy and efficient ruling. View the complete Supreme Court ruling here.
Though progress on the Proposition 8 trail has been in hibernation for several months, we have not forgotten the monumental importance of this legislation. If the Ninth Circuit Court rules in favor of marriage equality, California will set an amazing precedent for future marriage equality cases around the country.
The motion which asks the courts to publically reveal the original video from the Prop 8 trail is already being fast-tracked. Oral arguments before the court will be heard Thursday, December 8 at 2:30 p.m. (PST).
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Passage of this bill is truly an historic step forward!
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Today the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10 to 8 along party lines in favor of the Respect for Marriage Act (S. 598). Originally authored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and co-sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), RMA would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which currently prohibits marriage equality at the federal level. The bill must now be scheduled by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) for a full Senate discussion. “[I]f I have to reintroduce it next session, I’ll reintroduce it,” said Sen. Feinstein, stating her dedication to passing the repeal bill. “[W]e’ll just march on. We’ll continue this.” [Politico]
Though a House version of this bill is not expected to be seen during this congressional session, the historic nature of today’s vote cannot be denied. In addition to the advancement of RMA in the committee stage, the 30 Senate co-sponsors and 132 House co-sponsors who support the marriage ban repeal, the current administration which declared DOMA to be unconstitutional, and more than 50% of Americans who support the repeal, come together to form a strong foundation of national support.
Sen. Gillibrand comments on the importance of today’s progressive vote toward marriage equality: “This is a major step forward to end the discrimination that is currently enshrined into the U.S. law…Marriage is the true foundation for strong families. Every loving, committed couple deserves the basic human right to get married…no politician should stand in the way of this fact.”
Take Action: With your help, we can continue to raise awareness about the importance of federally recognized marriage equality. Take a moment to contact your U.S. Senator. If they do currently support the repeal of DOMA then send them a thank you letter! If they do not, urge them to support the Respect for Marriage Act once it reaches the Senate floor in order to give committed couples around the country the federal rights they deserve.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Today the future of LGBT equality at the local level is looking bright as a record number of newly-appointed openly LGBT candidates across America are elected into office. According to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, at least 53 of their 75 endorsed candidates won their elections this year. Highlights from these elections include:
- Texas: Openly lesbian Mayor Annise D. Parker has been re-elected for a second-term in Houston.
- Massachusetts: Alex Morse is now the youngest Mayor of Holyoke, Mass. This openly gay 22-year old won the position over incumbent Elaine Pluta.
- Connecticut: Openly gay Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio is the first elected mayor of New London in nearly nine decades. Previous majors had been elected by city councilmembers, not by public vote.
- Virginia: Adam Ebbin was elected to the state Senate as its first openly gay senator.
- Texas: Mike Laster became the first openly gay man on the Houston City Council.
- North Carolina: LaWana Mayfield became the first openly lesbian woman on the Charlotte City Council.
- Indiana: Zach Adamson is now the first openly gay Indianapolis City Councilmember.
- Montana: Caitlin Copple has been elected as an openly lesbian councilmember in Missoula.
- Ohio: Chris Seelback is the first openly LGBT councilmember in Cincinnati’s history.
- Colorado: Robin Kneich was elected as the first openly LGBT Denver councilmember.
- Michigan: In Traverse City, legislators chose to keep non-discrimination ordinances in effect, prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people in employment and housing.
The presence of LGBT legislators increases the likelihood that their states will adopt anti-discrimination policies and support LGBT equal rights legislation at the local level. Having LGBT political leaders also helps to re-shape the stereotypes some officials may have about LGBT people. Openly bisexual state Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona elaborates on how she and other LGBT members have helped shift fellow legislators’ approach to LGBT issues: “I haven’t changed [the other members’] minds about gay people and policies, but it’s really changed the way they talk about it. And to be honest…that makes a difference.” [USA Today]
Tony Perkins, President of the LGBT opposition group the Family Research Council, worries that LGBT elected officials will “redefine marriage and support special rights for people based on their sexual behavior.” Perkins says he is not alone in this fear: “[L]ike minded voters wouldn’t support them.”
However, a recent Gallup Poll from June 2011 shows that 67% of voters would be willing to vote for a gay or lesbian president. This has increased tremendously from 2007 when 55% were willing, and from 1978 when only 25% would consider voting for a gay or lesbian president. Even those who are 65 years old and above are showing increased acceptance of gay and lesbian political leaders—52% of senior citizens would consider voting for a lesbian or gay president compared to 38% in 2007.
Though the successes of LGB people in the political world are growing, we have seen limited representation of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals in our nation’s elected political positions. With increased visibility and acceptance, we are confident that transgender and gender non-conforming individuals will be able to celebrate many more victories in the future. For now, supporters of LGBT equality legislation have reason to celebrate a definitive step forward for openly LGBT politicians. “The election of gay and lesbian candidates in places where they have never won before is a major step forward,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund. “All of the openly LGBT candidates who stepped up to run for office this year are true leaders who deserve our profound thanks.”
Friday, November 4, 2011
|Photo: Brendan Hoffman/WireImage for PFLAG National|