Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Why Am I An Ally?

Today, on this last day of Black History Month, we hear from guest blogger Howard J. Ross. Howard is a builder of innovations in the field of diversity and inclusion and a unifier of people, organizations, and causes.  He is founder & Chief Learning Officer of Cook Ross Inc. and an adviser to major global educational, corporate, philanthropic, and governmental organizations. Through his unique combination of a personal and system-focused approach, Howard is an advocate for high-performing organizational cultures that advance people, performance, and profits. Howard has served more than 25 years as an influential business consultant to hundreds of organizations across the globe, specializing in leadership, diversity, and organizational transformation.  He is the architect of award-winning diversity and leadership education programs including ReInventing Diversity, the Diversity Toolkit, and CultureVision.

  
Why am I an ally?

People have asked me that question for years and I don’t know quite how to answer it.  For example, I have no gay or lesbian family members.  The simple answer is that I was raised right.  My grandparents were all Eastern European Jews who came to this country in the early 20th Century.  Virtually our entire family who stayed behind in Europe was killed during the Holocaust.  The message in my home when I was growing up was very clear.  Bad things can happen to people who are different, and it is your responsibility to do something about it.  And over my years of engagement in social justice issues it has become clear to me that if we are going to create true change in our society, if we are ever going to fulfill the vision of our country, then we all have to get involved.  

There are the reasons that we are used to hearing.  That, for example, in a just society, a society that prides itself on a vision of equality, it is simply unacceptable for some people to be treated as second-class citizens; to be denied the rights that others have, simply because their orientation is different.  That it is simply unacceptable for a group of people to be openly insulted, and verbally abused, even by presidential candidates.   And that it is unacceptable for young people to be openly bullied in schools and treated so dismissively by society that they take their own lives four times more frequently than others.  One would think that in a nation supposedly committed to “justice for all,” these kinds of things would be clearly unacceptable. 

Can that many people really not understand what “all” means??

And so I have studied what it takes to be an ally.  I have tried to educate myself as much as possible about the personal and societal issues that people who are different from me face.  I work to understand my own privilege.  I align myself personally and privately with advocacy organizations.  I try to initiate ways that I can contribute without being asked.  I try to promote inclusion in every way I can.  I try to own and share my own internalized homophobia, racism and sexism so that I can be a model for other people to normalize their ownership of their own “stuff.”  I am willing to have uncomfortable conversations.  I don't tolerate offensive comments or jokes around me.  I refuse to accept differential treatment that benefits me if I am aware of it. 
I have done all of those things for years (with varying levels of success), yet I realized at some point that the way we supported people who are disadvantaged or oppressed by societal structures or cultural patterns has often had a paternalistic side to it.  Those of us in the dominant group have often done social justice work for those who were disempowered.  But in doing so, we have often missed the boat.  In my mind, the issue is not what I can do “for them,” but what I can do to create a society to live in, and for my children and grandchildren to grow up in, that really fulfills the vision of America.  I recently saw a quote from the Aboriginal Activist Group from Queensland Australia that captured the sentiment well:

“If you have come to help me you are wasting your time.  But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

Beyond that, I believe there is a compelling selfish reason for straight people to support equality.  Homophobia cripples relationships between straight men and between straight women.  For example, when as straight men we love and care for a man, ingrained homophobia often stops us from fully expressing our love to each other.  It can stop us from fully being with each other.  It can stop us from the full richness of human relationship, out of the fear that if we really communicate it, they make think we are “one of them”.

So, for all of those reasons and to honor my ancestors, for as long as I am able, whenever I encounter a place where people are being treated inequitably, whether it is because of race, gender, sexual orientation or for any other reason, I will take a stand at their side.

But I don’t stand for them; I stand with them, for justice.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The More Things Change, The More They Remain The Same

Our post today comes from PFLAG National Board Member Rev. Gilbert Caldwell. Rev. Caldwell is a retired United Methodist Pastor, who also served on the staff of the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race based in the Methodist Building on Capitol Hill.
"Journey Fellowship Baptist Church was kicked out of Daviess-McLean Baptist Association in August for allowing a chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays to meet monthly on church property. Association leaders said that by accommodating the group, the church plant formerly known as Seven Hills Baptist Church implied endorsement of views contrary to what Southern Baptists believe."  (The Christian Century, January 19 2012) The news item about this church in Owensboro, Kentucky, reminded me of my experiences with some Methodist Churches in North Carolina in the 1950's. I was one of the few African American college students involved in the North Carolina Methodist Student Movement, an organization of College and University students. I was a member of the Executive Committee for the group and there were some Methodist Churches that would not allow us to meet in their buildings because of their anti-racial integration practices. I also was denied access to the swimming facilities at the Methodist Camp Ground at Lake Junaluska, N.C. where NCMSM held its summer meetings because of policy of racial segregation. It is difficult for me to understand how some Christian churches in the south that once practiced racial segregation and in time reversed that practice, could be in the 21st century and be anti-LGBT. George Santayana wrote; "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." How true, how true!

Friday, February 24, 2012

D.C. Council Hears Testimony for Anti-Bullying Act

The Bullying and Intimidation Prevention Act of 2011(Bill 19-011) is a bill that seeks to prohibit both face-to-face and electronic (online) bullying, in District of Columbia public schools, charter schools, libraries, Universities and Department of Parks and Recreation sites. It would also set up bullying prevention programs within these agencies, protecting LGBT students, or students who are perceived to be LGBT, from harassment in schools. Studies have shown that when students feel unsafe or uncomfortable at school their grades may be lower than average, they have higher rates of absence due to fear of being bullied, and have higher rates of depression and thoughts of self-harm.  Nine out of ten LGBT students have been harassed in school, and most incidents go unreported because students feel that nothing will be done to help them.

PFLAG submitted written testimony for the record when thebill was first introduced, stressing the importance of this life-saving bill, and we strongly support the Bill 19-011 in its current form and urge the DC Council to bring it to a vote without delay.

On February 8th the DC Council Committee of the Whole held a hearing for agency performance oversight directed towards DC Public Schools, the Office of the Superintendent of Education, DC Public Charter schools and the Office of the Deputy Mayor of Education. Over 80 community leaders and organizations committed to building safer schools testified in support of the legislation, testified at the hearing, and urged Councilmembers to push the bill through without further delay – the legislation was first introduced in 2010 and still awaits a full vote by the Council. Nearly every DC Council Member has co-sponsored the bill and Councilman Muriel Bowser spoke to the effect that as soon as the bill comes back to the council, it will be passed saying, “school has to be safe”.

Take Action: Our LGBT loved ones and students deserve to attend a fear-free environment where they feel safe and secure. If you live in the DC Metro area, please consider submitting your own testimony in support for ensuring that every classroom is safe for all students to learn, grow and thrive. You may submit your testimony by contacting Priscilla McIver at 202-724-8196 or e-mail pford@dccouncil.us before Tuesday, March 8, 2012.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Policy Matters Special Edition!


The LGBT community has had so much to celebrate over the past few weeks; it can be easy to feel as though our struggles are slowing down. However, we can’t ever let our guard down. As all these wonderful things happened, there are many other much less positive stories you may have missed: 

Tennessee’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill Advances in House Despite Protests: Despite nationwide criticism, a controversial Tennessee bill that would restrict references to homosexuality in schools has cleared its first hurdle in the state's House of Representatives. Supporters of the bill, such as Democratic state Rep. John DeBerry, argue that the bill helps protect parents' right to educate their children about their beliefs on their own terms. [Huff Post]

Virginia Same-Sex Adoption Faces Major Hurdle: The Virginia state Senate passed legislation Thursday allowing private adoption agencies to deny placements that conflict with their religious or moral beliefs, including opposition to homosexuality. [Huff Post]

Utah Debates New Health Education Amendment: HB 363, Health Education Amendments would alter Utah law by categorically prohibiting even the mere discussion of certain topics, including homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, and contraception. [ACLU]

New Hampshire Lawmakers Consider Rolling Back Marriage Equality: As several states debate measures to legalize gay marriage, New Hampshire is considering a repeal of its same-sex marriage law. The repeal has the backing of some top leaders in the GOP-controlled Legislature. But rescinding rights is never easy, particularly in a state that takes its liberties seriously. [NPR]

Bill Angers Nebraska LGBT Rights Supporters: LGBT rights advocates are preparing to fight a bill in the 
Nebraska Legislature that would prevent cities from enforcing local rules to protect LGBT people from discrimination. Omaha Sen. Beau McCoy says his proposal would ensure that businesses are not subjected to “piecemeal regulations” by cities and counties. But opponents claim it's designed to pre-empt an Omaha anti-
discrimination measure. [Kearney Hub]

Will Anchorage Voters Grant Civil Rights Protections to LGBT Community? In Anchorage, Alaska, voters will soon be able to vote on whether or not LGBT should have civil rights. One Anchorage is working tirelessly to ensure that the majority of citizens vote “yes” on Prop 5, which protects LGBT citizens from discrimination. Most disconcerting is the fact that citizens will be able to strip rights from thousands of people, simply by filling out a ballot. No matter how much we disagree with a group of people, we should never have the power to vote their rights away.

Christie Vetoes Marriage Equality in New Jersey: In an interview airing tonight on CNN, Christie told Piers Morgan he recognizes same-sex marriage is a "very emotional and very divisive" issue, and feels that the state’s citizens should vote on the issue. But the Republican governor said his widely expected veto should have come as no surprise to anyone who knows that he is Catholic and has long opposed same-sex marriage. How unfortunate that one man’s personal morality has gravely impacted the lives of thousands in New Jersey. [USA Today]

UPDATE: There is reason to celebrate one previously negative “Policy Matters” story—in Oklahoma, legislation which sought to re-instate a statewide DADT has been taken off of the table. “We are relieved the brave men and women of the Oklahoma National Guard will not have their readiness compromised by the damage this legislation would have created.” Said Laura Belmonte, chair of Oklahoma’s The Equality Network

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Policy Matters 2/22

Do you enjoy reading Policy Matters? Enjoy staying on-top of LGBT news? Then sign up for PFLAG Action Alerts today

Front Page Headlines

Pelosi Endorsement of Marriage Equality Plank Raises Stakes for Democrats: A move to put same-sex marriage in the Democratic Party platform at this year’s convention could prove problematic for Democrats as they seek to keep the election-year conversation focused on their efforts to right the economy. [The Hill]

Maryland Senate Committee Approves Marriage Equality Bill: A Maryland Senate committee approved a gay marriage bill on Tuesday, sending the issue to the full Senate and moving Maryland closer to becoming the eighth state to legalize same-sex nuptials. The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee voted 7 to 4 in favor of the bill - supported by Gov. Martin O'Malley - and the full Senate was expected to vote later in the week. The bill was approved last week by the lower house. [Reuters]

Lesbian Minister at Crux of Presbyterian Divide: The highest court of the U.S. Presbyterian Church will convene in Texas on Friday to consider whether a lesbian minister violated ecclesiastical law when she blessed the weddings of same-sex couples in California. [New York Times]

Policy Watch

Cheltenham Approves Human Relations Commission Protecting Against Discrimination due to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity; Joins 26 Other Communities Statewide: Cheltenham Township became the 27th community in PA last night to adopt an ordinance protecting against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, in addition to other protected categories already covered by state and federal law. [Citizens’ Call]

Christie Keeps his Promise to Veto Marriage Equality Bill: Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a newly passed bill on Friday that would legalize same-sex marriage in New Jersey, setting a difficult path for advocates who vowed to fight “with every last breath” to override him. The governor’s veto was conditional, asking the State Legislature to amend the bill, so that rather than legalizing same-sex marriages, it would establish an overseer to handle complaints that the state’s five-year-old civil union law did not provide same-sex couples the same protections that marriage would. [NY Times]

West Virginia Bill Would Extend Legal Protections of Marriage to Same-Sex Couples: A West Virginia lawmaker introduced a bill Thursday that would give  same-sex  couples the same legal protections as heterosexual married couples. [The Republic]

For Maryland’s LGB Legislators, Moment of Truth Looms on Same-Sex Marriage: This week, the lesbian, gay and bisexual delegates in Maryland’s State House heard testimony from podiatrists, studied urban and rural poverty rubrics, debated septic-tank regulations and wrangled over community college budgets. Meanwhile, one of the biggest legislative battles of their lives — a historic bill legalizing same-sex marriage that would have a profound impact on each of them personally — loomed in the hallways, in the news and on their minds. [Washington Post]

Washington Marriage Equality Debate Not Yes or No, but Both: Opponents of Washington state's new marriage equality law want voters to select "no" on the November 2012 ballot. And also "yes." That seeming paradox stems in competing efforts launched this week by two groups dedicated to the cause of keeping Washington from joining six other states and the District of Columbia from legalizing same-sex matrimony. [Reuters]   

Question from the Field

Dear Policy Matters,

The Indiana Marriage Discrimination Amendment or House Joint Resolution 6 (HJR-6) passed through Indiana’s House and Senate last session. Unfortunately, it is on track to become the first time in Indiana’s history where our Constitution is amended to take way rights rather than to grant them. I know the attention for measures like these is focused on North Carolina and Minnesota, but how can local, state and national LGBT communities and their allies work to prevent the measure from advancing now?

Thank you,

Matthew
---------------
Dear Matthew,

Thank you for your question! As you note correctly, Indian’s state legislature must pass legislation again this session to put forward a constitutional amendment before the voters in 2014. Unfortunately our movement is no stranger to constitutional amendments that limit our full civil rights and responsibilities in terms of relationship recognition. In fact, we have seen these actions in 29 different states, and have lost every time. We are actively working in North Carolina and Minnesota to prevent similar uniformed public policies from advancing. As you’ll note from the failed
  • The good news is that you have time to help defeat this measure – the key is to start early, build coalition, and educate communities all over the state about the real harms of HJR-6. As you know, if the measure passes, the amendment would have a dramatic effect on same-sex couples in the state. Depending on interpretation, the amendment could do the following:
  • Prevent any future attempts to allow for same-sex marriage
  • Eliminate health care benefits for same-sex partnerships
  • Eliminate legally binding documents for same-sex couples that are “substantially similar to marriage” such as wills and trusts
  • Eliminate inheritance laws from being applied to same-sex couples.
  • Eliminate hospital visitation rights

We know that HJR-6 must pass through the House and Senate again in 2012 and 2013. If it passes, unaltered, it will be on the ballot in 2014. This means that Hoosiers will cast their vote either for or against HJR-6 as it is written today.

In order to defeat HJR-6, please consider taking the following actions today: 
  • Make Your Voice Heard! Call and email your legislators today – NOW – telling them to, “Nix Six!” Share with them your reasons why this matters. To find out who your legislators are, please visit our action alert center here.
  • Discuss HJR-6 with your family, co-workers, and friends. Lots of people are not even aware this is happening. It is OUR job to talk with them, to engage them in conversation. It is very difficult to argue against one’s personal experience. Ask them: “If there is a vote to amend Indiana’s constitution to take away the rights of LGBT people, will you vote against it?”
  • Your Story! Ask your legislator to have lunch or coffee with you. You can do it! If you need some help, take a look at the tremendous leadership of Annette Gross, a PFLAG leader from our Indianapolis Chapter. They work for us! Let them get to know you for who you are; better yet, bring your mother or your kids with you!  Find your legislator here.
  • Contact allied organizations in your area such Equality Indiana, local Pride committees, open/affirming churches, GSA’s (Gay Straight Alliances), straight allied organizations, or other like-minded groups.  Find allied organizations here.
  • Share information with PFLAG National regarding the events in your part of the state by sending it to Brooke Senter, your Regional Field Manager, at bsenter.org.
  • Share your personal story, anonymously or not, in writing or on video. Share it with us by sending it to Liz Owen, lowen@pflag.org
  • Attend local meetings sponsored by PFLAG Chapters across the state, and be sure to check out Equality Indiana’s homepage for constant updates regarding HJR-6.

As always, PFLAG National is a great resource! For any additional questions, please feel free to reach out to us by contacting our Policy Director, Rhodes Perry, at rperry@pflag.org. .

Thanks for the great question!

Policy Matters
---------------

P.S. Have you downloaded our new edition of Bringing the Message Home yet? Get your 2011 version of
the how-to guide to PFLAG advocacy now and share it with your chapter. Visit PFLAG nationals' website
for more information now!

If you would like to have a policy-related question featured in our next edition, please e-mail
rperry@pflag.org with your question no later than Friday, March 2,, 2012.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

“Letter a Day” Campaign Picks up Speed in Support of ECDF


Last week, PFLAG National sent an Every Child Deserves a Family (S.1770) support letter to the U.S. Senate, urging our Senators to review this life-saving legislation. Our letter was a part of the ECDF Coalition’s “Letter of the Day” campaign, designed to help educate Senators, and key staffers, about this legislation. So far, five national groups including PFLAG have sent in letters of support for ECDF, with over a dozenmore organizations planning to send their own. ECDF has the power to open millions of homes to foster care and adoption-eligible children, thousands of whom age out of the system each year without a permanent home and a forever family of their own, by banning discrimination based on the sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status of the protective parent.

While we are raising our voices to ensure that more homes are available to foster youth,, Virginia legislators took action last week to do just the opposite. . Earlier this month legislation passed which allows private adoption agencies—receiving our public tax dollars—to discriminate against parents on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill was publically condemned by U.S. Senator Warner (D-VA) who called the bill “mean spirited” and went on to say, “It is wrong to deny a foster child the opportunity to belong to a supportive, modern family simply because it is led by a same-sex couple in a loving and committed relationship.” Enacting Every Child Deserves a Family Act (S. 1770/H.R. 1681) at the federal level would override Virginia’s uninformed decision.

We applaud Senator Warner for his denouncement of such a despicable bill, and encourage all Senators to demonstrate the leadership condemning similar legislation being considered in other state legislatures which ultimately limits more nurturing and permanent homes hurting those youth in foster care waiting for their forever families.. We are grateful to the nine co-sponsors in the Senate, and ninety three co-sponsors in the House, and would like to thank Representatives Bobby Scott and Gerry Connolly, two Virginia Representatives who have also condemned the recent legislation passed in Virginia.

Take Action: We must act to ensure the consideration of this legislation as soon as possible. ECDF will save lives, build stronger families, and ensure that more children and youth are placed in loving forever homes. There are many steps you can take to show your support:
  • Call or send a letter to your U.S. Senators urging them to review, support, and co-sponsor the legislation. If they already support the bill, consider sending a message of thanks!
  • Schedule an in-state or in-district lobby visit with your chapter to speak with your Members of Congress. Contact PFLAG National for assistance if needed.
  • Sign up for PFLAG Action Alerts to stay up-to-date on crucial national and regional legislation, and continue to check our National Blog for important news.
  • Spread the word! Use information from PFLAG National’s letter of support to spread awareness about the importance of ECDF, or link to our National website’s ECDF information page.

Together we have the power to make a difference for over 107,000 children around the country! 


Tennessee Residents: Act Now to Stop the Don’t Say Gay Bill!

Today, the Tennessee House Education Committee will vote on the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill (SB0049/HB0229), which would prevent teachers and schools from discussing sexual orientation other than heterosexuality.  

This bill already passed the Senate and the K-12 Subcommittee, so we need to act now to kill the bill!
 
The Don’t Say Gay bill endangers LGBT students by preventing students facing harassment and discrimination from accessing needed information and resources. The bill potentially limits student access to supportive teachers as well as library books that discuss LGBT issues or even have LGBT characters.

We need your help! Call Now to ask committee members to oppose this harmful bill! 

This bill is especially dangerous because it makes LGBT students "invisible" and may prevent them from discussing harassment with supportive teachers and staff.

Call Now and ask the House Education Committee members to oppose this bill. Please contact any members you can, particularly if you live in one of their districts.

Richard Montgomery (R-Sevierville), Chair Phone: 615-741-5981
Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald), Vice Chair Phone: 615-741-7476
Joe Carr (R-Lascassas), Secretary Phone: 615-741-2180
Harry Brooks (R-Knoxville) Phone: 615-741-6879
Kevin Brooks (R-Cleveland) Phone: 615-741-1350
John J. DeBerry Jr (D-Memphis) Phone: 615-741-2239
Louis DeBerry (D-Memphis) Phone: 615-741-3830
Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) Phone: 615-741-1721
Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) Phone: 615-741-2134
John Forgety (R-Athens) Phone: 615-741-1725
Ron Lollar (R-Bartlett) Phone: 615-253-0294
Debra Young Maggart (R-Hendersonville) Phone: 615-253-0350
James O. “Jimmy” Naifeh (D-Covington) Phone: 615-741-0944
Joe Pitts (D-Clarksville) Phone: 615-741-2043
Dennis Powers (R-Jacksboro) Phone: 615-741-3335
John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge) Phone: 615-741-4400
Ryan Williams (R-Cookeville) Phone: 615-741-1875
John Mark Windle (D-Livingston) Phone: 615-741-1260

Monday, February 20, 2012

PFLAG National's Jamie Curtis Testifies in Baltimore County


On Tuesday, PFLAG National's Field and Policy Manager Jamie Curtis testified in Baltimore County on behalf of Bill 3-12, which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace, schools, housing, public accommodations, and financing. PFLAG National Field and Policy manager Jamie Curtis reports:
PFLAG joined 44 people who spoke on behalf of this vital legislation, including seven local PFLAG members. Only 16 people testified against the bill. Those testifying on behalf of the legislation shared moving personal stories about how discrimination has affected their lives and their families, while opponents shared misinformation about “safety concerns,” and “frivolous lawsuits” that small businesses would have to endure. Opponents failed to substantiate these concerns with peer reviewed research findings and facts. 
Anecdotal and empirical evidence reminds us that our LGBT loved ones face disproportionate rates of discrimination and lack adequate remedies in federal and state law, and, for those in Baltimore County, local law. In fact, looking at employment discrimination alone, in 29 states it is perfectly legal to fire someone simply because of their sexual orientation, and in 34 states it is legal to fire someone simply because of their gender identity. Unfortunately, Maryland is one of those 34 states that fail to protect our transgender and gender non-conforming loved ones. 
Fortunately, Bill 3-12 would expand existing human rights protections, ultimately prohibiting discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. More specifically, this legislation would provide clear protections for LGBT individuals in housing, employment, education, public accommodations, and financing. We hope that when the County Council votes next week they will vote in favor of bill 3-12 and end discrimination in Baltimore County.
Take Action. If you live in or around Baltimore County, please be sure to contact the County Council at 410-887-3196 to be connected to your Council Member—urge them to pass Bill 3-12 without amendment or delay! 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Thank you, Audre Lorde.


Today, we have another guest blogger joining us in honor of Black/African American History Month: Tiane Mitchell Gordon.  Ms. Mitchell Gordon is the founder of Square One Consulting and serves as an advisory partner, consultant, executive coach and speaker for organizations on human resources, diversity, and inclusion issues. Ms. Mitchell Gordon was Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer at AOL, LLC, and has been identified by the Society of Human Resource Management as one of its 100 Global Thought Leaders in Diversity & Inclusion. 
 
We are honored to not only have Tiane as our guest blogger, but also her support for PFLAG National. As former co-chair of our S4E Gala this year she will continue to demonstrate her commitment by joining us on our gala host committee

Each year I look to my bookshelves for words of inspiration as I prepare for Black History and Women’s History month celebrations.  And though there are many bold and fierce Black and female poets, essayist and authors –Sonia Sanchez, Alice Walker, June Jordan, Beah Richards, Maya Angelou--from whom I can chose, it is the work and life of Audre Lorde that catches my attention time and time again.  Because she refused to be ‘circumscribed by any simple identity”, her messages speak to the need for a breadth and depth of true inclusion.  Writing as a Black woman, a mother, a daughter, a Lesbian, a feminist and a visionary, she speaks to the importance of claiming and celebrating all of our selves in order that others can find their own voices.  Thank you, Audre Lorde.

Black History and Women’s History months, as well as every diversity celebration provide us opportunities to find, claim and celebrate our selves…all of our selves…without apology.  Especially when, as she reminded us “I find I am constantly being encouraged to pluck out some aspect of myself and present this as the meaningful whole, eclipsing or denying the other parts of self.  Her words require and demand that, instead of denying any aspect of all of who we are, we embrace them wholeheartedly.  Thank you, Audre Lorde.

Audre Lorde,  I suspect, would have been an advocate for the work of PFLAG and its mission and its goals.  She would have loved the holistic approach to moving equality forward. She would have understood the courage, bravery, strength and love that are required for PFLAG’s undertakings. The parents, families and friends of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons would understand applaud her sentiment “There is no such thing as a single issue struggle because we do not live single issue lives”.  Thank you, Audre Lorde.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thank you, Rev. Coates!

Following is a letter from PFLAG National Board Member Rev. Gilbert Caldwell. Rev. Caldwell is a retired United Methodist Pastor, who also served on the staff of the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race based in the Methodist Building on Capitol Hill.

 I write to congratulate and thank Rev. Delman Coates. While there is a 40 year difference in age between us, as African-American pastors, we have walked a different path but arrived at the same view on marriage equality for LGBT Marylanders and same-sex couples.

For me, the path began as an active foot soldier alongside Dr. King.  

The justice journey of LGBT people and same-sex couples is certainly very different from the Civil Rights Movement, but there are similarities in the use of faith, religion and scripture to justify discrimination, as well as the desire to seek constitutional support for justice and equality for LGBT people. One of the challenges we have in the church is enabling people to discover and affirm their God-given dignity. Rev. Coates has done that for the many gay people in the black community with his decision to no longer be silent on the issue of marriage equality for LGBT people. I imagine the decision to speak out did not come lightly and quickly for the reverend. 

Early in my own ministry, I was influenced by the writings and civil rights advocacy of Malcolm Boyd, a white Episcopalian clergyman. When he declared himself gay within his denomination, I found myself wondering, "Must I deny the positive impact his writings have had on my ministry because of his sexual orientation? Must I suppress my appreciation for his civil rights activism as a white clergyman because he is gay?” In time, logic, rationality, and my Christian faith enabled me to continue appreciating his gifts and, as a result, I became a straight ally and advocate of the rights of LGBT persons.  

Thank you again to Rev. Coates! I only hope that more of our pastoral colleagues will walk this path and join us in speaking out on behalf of our LGBT brothers and sisters in the black community.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

White House Announces Plan to Host Nationwide LGBT Conferences


In the early months of 2012, the White House intends to host a series of LGBT conferences nationwide in order to educate the public on the administration’s efforts to “ensure health, well-being, security, justice, and equality for LGBT Americans.”

The first conference will be on February 16th in Philadelphia, and focuses on health. Featured speakers include Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. The following events will continue until June. Subsequent conferences will cover issues of housing and homelessness, safe schools and communities, HIV/AIDS prevention, and several currently unannounced topics. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Valentine for Children Who Need Our Love


Today, as we honor our loved ones and express our devotion to our families, PFLAG National will send out our Every Child Deserves a Family Act (ECDF) Senate Support letter, urging every U.S. Senator to review S. 1770 and become co-sponsors of this life-saving legislation. If passed, ECDF has the power to open the door for 107,000 children who are eligible for adoption by allowing an additional two million LGBT parents interested in adopting a child to do so thanks to necessary protections offer by the legislation that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and marital status. 

Because of the lack of available, qualified parents currently, over thousands of children will have no forever family to celebrate with and 27,000 will age out of the system, lacking a familial structure that will leave them vulnerable and at risk to substance abuse, early parenthood, incarceration, and homelessness on Valentine’s Day. We must take action and encourage our lawmakers to co-sponsor and advance this critical legislation. Every child deserves to have a lovingand permanent family.

Take Action:  
Email your Members of Congress and ask them to support the Every Child Deserves a Family Act (H.R. 1681/S. 1770) today!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Virginia v Loving Families


Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, a holiday which celebrates the love and commitment we have for one another. As parents, partners, and friends around the world gather to reflect upon their affectionate bonds, the state of Virginia is rushing to halt the creation of loving families.

Del. Todd Gilbert (R-Woodstock) and Sen. Jeffrey McWaters (R-Virginia Beach) are sponsoring a bill which, if passed, will allow private adoption agencies to deny placements if they conflict with their religious or moral beliefs. The bill, which supposedly aims to protect religious freedoms, has already passed both chambers and now awaits Governor Bob McDonnell (R)’s signature, something he has already agreed to sign once it reaches his desk.

 “What this bill is designed to do, is allow any agency to discriminate based on sexual orientation [and gender identity],” Sen. Mark R. Herring (D-Loudoun) said during a committee hearing. Christine James-Brown of the Child Welfare League of America also expressed her displeasure with the proposed law: “These children have been through so much already. It is cruel to deny them a secure home with a qualified family that happens to differ from the religious or moral beliefs held by a particular agency.”

Several legislators are objecting to the bill based on financial grounds in addition to its discriminatory language. In Virginia, there are 77 private agencies which are funded by the state. “You have the right to exercise religion as you see fit,” says Sen. John Edwards (D-Roanoke), “but you don’t have a right to impose it on someone else using state dollars.”

A federal bill would override Virginia’s anti-family legislation, and would also overturn similar laws in Utah, Arizona, and Nebraska. The Every Child Deserves a Family Act (H.R. 1681/S. 1770), sponsored by Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) in the House and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in the Senate, is currently pending action in Congress. ECDF would open up more homes for foster youth by restricting federal funding for states employing discriminatory practices in adoption and foster care placements based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status or the sexual orientation or gender identity of the foster youth involved.

Take Action: Email your Members of Congress and ask them to support the Every Child Deserves a Family Act (H.R. 1681/S. 1770) today! 

HUD Announces New Rules Against LGBT Housing Discrimination


U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan of  announced that a new rule banning LGBT discrimination in federal housing programs will be codified next week. “LGBT discrimination is real,” says Sec. Donovan, “and we must do something about it.” The proposed rule was announced last June and will go into effect 30 days after the law is codified.

The new rule prohibits any HUD-assisted or HUD-insured housing facility from asking a potential applicant about their sexual orientation or gender identity and bans discrimination against LGBT people by lenders offering Federal Housing Administration mortgages. The definition of “family” used by HUD programs is clarified under the new rule, and states that families cannot be excluded from HUD programs because of sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status. The law will cover over an estimated 5.5 million Americans who are living in low-income subsidized housing. 

“Enacting a rule is not enough. Training and education are essential to ensuring rules are followed in communities across the country,” said Sec. Donovan. HUD also intends to provide training surrounding the new rule. “Publishing this rule next week won’t be the end of the process—but in many ways, just the beginning.”