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 before Tuesday, March 8, 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.” 

Obama Administration Remarks on Anti-LGBT Adoption Legislation

In Virginia, lawmakers are attempting to pass legislation which would allow state adoption agencies to discriminate against an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The proposed law would allow placement agencies to reject a potential parent or child if the person’s “characteristics” conflict with their religious or moral beliefs.

Shin Inouye, a spokesperson for the Obama Administration, says that President Obama believes adoption shouldn’t be “based on discriminatory and irrelevant factors” like sexual orientation and gender identity. “He has long believed that we must ensure adoption rights for all couples and individuals based on their interest in offering a loving home…adoptive families come in many forms,” said Inouye.

A federal bill would nullify such legislation in VA if it were passed into law, and other such laws that exist in states like Utah, Arizona and Nebraska. The Every Child Deserves a Family Act (H.R. 1681/S. 1770) 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.. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) in the House and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in the Senate, is currently pending in Congress. When asked if President Obama would support ECDF in order to counter discriminatory adoption and foster care policies, Inouye provided a positive and hopeful reply: “While we have not reviewed Congressman Stark’s legislation, we share [ECDF’s] goals to expand adoption rights and move the dialogue forward on this issue.” 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Black History, LGBT History, Women's History is OUR History

Today's guest blogger is PFLAG National Board Member Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell. We are so honored to have him share his thoughts with us in honor of Black/African-American History Month:

My wife Grace and I have seen the movie "Red Tails" which depicts the story of the African American Tuskegee Airmen, who were denied the opportunity to demonstrate their skill as pilots because of their race. Although they were segregated, the movie is about their success once given the opportunity to demonstrate their ability. As I watched the movie I thought of a relative who had been a Tuskegee Airman. It was the history that was depicted in the film that brought forth my emotions, more so than did the film itself. My life has been shaped by the tribulations of triumphs I have known, because of my race, thus it brought forth very personal tears of sorrow and joy.

Watching and experiencing this movie is what brought to mind the subject for this essay. Blacks, LGBTs, Women...all have known discrimination, denial, and exclusion. Blacks because of race, Women because of gender, and LGBT people because of sexual orientation and gender identity.

If in our acknowledgement and celebration of the particular histories of persons, we do not make of that history, a history that belongs to all of us, it does not become important to our daily lives. "Lift Every Voice and Sing" is the name of the song/hymn that has become a second national anthem to the African American community. It has these words; "We have come over a way that with tears has been watered. We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered". I believe more than ever that that "We" embraces not just those of us who are black, but also those of who are not black.

It is this understanding of our human commonality that has guided me in my journey as a straight ally/advocate of LGBT rights, and as a proud member of the National Board of PFLAG. I remember, repeat, and write almost every week those words of Martin Luther King in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Black History Month for me this year will be a time of seeking to convey the belief that although Black History is a history that remembers the particulars of the African American journey, past and present, a journey of trials and triumphs, it is a human journey that cannot be disconnected from the journeys of trial and triumph of persons who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. Nor can those journeys be disconnected from the journeys of Black persons.

If I chose a popular song that might serve as the theme song for this year's Black History Observance, it would be the song sung so well by Sister Sledge, "We Are Family." If we truly believed that despite our differences of race, gender, sexual orientation, and other differences, we are family, none of us would be denied full family rights by other members of the family.

Family Reunion Celebrations are an important activity of many black families all over the nation. This Black History Month, I invite you to my celebration because my history is your history. Will you invite me to your celebration because you believe your history is mine?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Possible Executive Order has Power to Protect Millions of Federal Workers

This week the William’s Institute at the UCLA School of Law released a study called The Impact of Extending Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity non-Discrimination Requirements to Federal Contractors. The study describes the major advantages a presidential executive order would have on LGBT workers’ rights in America.

Currently, federal contractors employ roughly 26 million Americans, which represent 22 percent of the entire workforce. Moreover, even though the majority of the largest federal contractors already have similar non-discrimination requirement in place, the Williams Institute Study found that this executive order would extend protections to 16.5 million employees who currently do not have them. At a time when the unemployment rate hovers around 8.3% and we are still waiting for the economy to fully recover such protections for a group of Americans who have disproportionately experienced employment discrimination are literally life-saving.

The U.S. Congress holds the ultimate power in permanently ending LGBT employment discrimination by passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 1397/S. 811). However, similar to the passage of workplace non-discrimination laws in 16 states and over 150 municipalities, this executive order would represent an historic interim step. The executive order is an option President Obama can, and should, exercise to extend these urgently needed protections for LGBT employees.

A federal mandate would “extend [health] coverage to an additional 14-15 million workers.” M.V. Lee Badgett—the study’s author—refutes the fear of heavy costs if same-sex partners are added to employee’s health insurance plans: “Given the small number of employees who would take advantage of domestic partnership benefits across the tens of thousands of federal contractors, the ultimate burden on business for providing these benefits would be minimal.”

The current executive order on federal contractor non-discrimination mandates that any federal contractor doing more than $10,000 in work per year is protected against discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Our friends at the Center for American Progress and the Williams Institute co-authored a 12-page memo which includes the results of this new study. The memo was given to Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), the lead sponsor for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 1397/S.811), and sources have confirmed that he has read the document. We urge the President to issue this executive order without delay to ensure that federal contractors receiving federal funds do not discriminate against LGBT employees. 

PFLAG Executive Director Jody Huckaby and Safe Schools Coordinator Mekina Lucas to Participate in 2012 CESCaL Conference

The Center for Excellence in School Counseling and Leadership (CESCaL) is hosting their third annual “National Educator Conference Focused on LGBTQIA Youth” in San Diego, California. The weekend-long event begins on February 17th and concludes on the 19th.

This year the theme is “From Surviving to Thriving,” a phrase which builds upon the conference’s over-all title, “Solutions to a Crisis: Supporting Students—Saving Lives.” Sponsored by many advocacy and ally organizations, including PFLAG National, the conference aims to empower educators with knowledge of laws, rights, and resources pertaining to LGBTQIA students and families; help educators become advocates and allies for LGBTQIA youth; and teach skills for creating safe, welcoming, inclusive school environments for all students. The conference will contain several sessions each day for attendees, two plenary assemblies, nightly events, and numerous speakers and presenters.

PFLAG National’s Executive Director Jody Huckaby will be the first speaker during the Sunday Plenary in the main ballroom. “PFLAG National is honored to be a sponsor of this year’s conference,” said Mr. Huckaby. “Through our Cultivating Respect program, our hundreds of chapters across the country work to provide educators with the resources they need to provide safer learning environments for all students. So much can be accomplished when national organizations combine their efforts with regional affiliates and local groups, and we are proud to be a part of this work.”

Mekina Lucas, PFLAG National’s Safe Schools Coordinator and Diversity Outreach Coordinator, will be presenting “Building Safer Schools for Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Elementary School Students” on Saturday, and “Powerful Partnerships: Community Engagement Strategies to Foster Safe School Climates for LGBTQ Students” on Sunday. The PFLAG National Safe School table will be assisted by members of PFLAG San Diego.

For more information about the conference, follow the event at @CESCaLSDSU or like the Facebook page titled “Center for Excellence in School Counseling and Leadership.” To register for the conference, please visit CESCaL’s online registration page

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Finds California’s Proposition 8 Unconstitutional

Today the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down California’s voter-passed Proposition 8, which, passed in 2008, banned same-sex marriage. In today’s 2-to-1 decision, the Court upheld the August 2010 ruling by Judge Walker that Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution.  

Writing for the majority, Judge Reinhardt stated:
“Although the Constitution permits communities to enact most laws they believe to be desirable, it requires that there be at least a legitimate reason for the passage of a law that treats different classes of people differently…Proposition 8 served no purpose, and had no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California”
You can read the 128 page decision in its entirety here.

"We are overjoyed by the ruling in California as a victory for all families" said Jody M. Huckaby, Executive Director of PFLAG National. "Our members and supporters are parents, family members, and friends of LGBT people--and LGBT people themselves--who believe that equality for all relationships is not a political issue but about love and acceptance. All families matter and should be recognized and respected; today’s ruling brings us one step closer to that reality."