Friday, March 30, 2012

STRAIGHT FOR EQUALITY IN THE WORKPLACE: KPMG LLP


As a part of next week’s Fourth Annual Straight for Equality Awards Gala in New York, PFLAG National has named KPMG LLP, the U.S. audit, tax and advisory services firm, the 2012 Straight for Equality in the Workplace honoree. The Straight for Equality in the Workplace Award acknowledges an organization with a demonstrated commitment to achieving equality for LGBT people in the workplace by educating and engaging straight allies in creating both policy and culture change.

“We’re honored to receive this recognition from PFLAG,” said KPMG Chairman and CEO John B. Veihmeyer.  “Diversity and inclusion are critical to our firm’s strategic priorities, and principles that speak to who we are as a firm, how we operate, and how we see our future.  Indeed, diversity and inclusion drive our culture, and are part of the foundation that makes KPMG one of the great places to work.  On behalf of all the people at KPMG, I am grateful to PFLAG National for recognizing our firm’s commitment to these issues.”

Veihmeyer—who will accept the Straight for Equality in the Workplace Award at the gala — was recently honored with the CEO Diversity Leadership Award from Diversity Best Practices. The organization also recognized Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, KPMG’s National Managing Partner, Diversity and Corporate Responsibility, with its 2011 Diversity Officers Leadership Award.


In its effort to move equality forward in the workplace, KPMG has created a roadmap to equality for its industry.  In 1993, KPMG added sexual orientation to its EEO Policy, and included gender identity in 2005. KPMG offers its U.S. employees and their domestic same-sex, and opposite sex, partners a variety of health and other benefits, including the recent announcement that it will immediately offer LGBT employees tax offsets for additional tax costs incurred when paying for same-sex domestic partners’ medical benefits.  The firm also offers a self-ID option in its hiring and annual firmwide employee work environment survey, and also hosts a mentorship program for its LGBT employees. The firm’s national LGBT diversity network, pride@KPMG, provides professional development and other training programs, and Pride Month is celebrated in all KPMG offices, firmwide, each June.

KPMG has earned a perfect score of 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index for eight years running. KPMG was also named one of Work Life Matters magazine’s “Top Companies for LGBT Equality 2011” in October, and has been ranked for the fourth consecutive year on DiversityInc’s “Top 50 Companies for Diversity.” KPMG also made three of DiversityInc’s specialty lists in 2011: The firm is currently ranked No. 1 among the Top 10 Companies for LGBT Employees, No. 2 among the Top 10 Companies for People with Disabilities, and No. 6 among the Top 10 Companies for Global Diversity.

“We’re proud to honor KPMG for their persistent commitment to ensuring that their LGBT employees and their families are treated equitably at work,” said Jody M. Huckaby, executive director of PFLAG National. “At KPMG, they’ve made it clear that exceeding the basics is part of how they do business – from leading their industry in policies, to leading all organizations in efforts like grossing up benefits, to seriously addressing the need for culture change at work, KPMG is a great example of an employer committed to equality at work for all.”


“Understanding and Addressing Bullying” Course Offers Valuable Education


Our guest blogger today is Dr. Karyl Ketchum, an Assistant Professor of Women and Gender Studies at California State Fullerton. After experiencing how anti-LGBT bullying and discrimination affected her daughter’s high school she decided to take a stand; through her efforts and those of her University peers, Dr. Ketchum has developed an online course which seeks to educate teachers, staff, students, and the entire community about school bullying. Here is her story:
On January 23, 2009, three senior male athletes at Corona del Mar High School in Newport Beach California posted a video on the public Facebook “wall” of a fourth senior male athlete.  In this video they laughingly and graphically discussed shooting my daughter in the head and raping her in the back of a truck.  They also used homophobic language throughout the recording—“outing” a student they presumed to be gay, and directing homophobic slurs toward other students.  Shortly thereafter, the school’s principal cancelled the up-coming school production of the musical “RENT!” because, as retold by the theatre teacher, “she did not want homosexuals portrayed on the school campus.”  My daughter was also one of the cast members in this production.   These events—and the stories we subsequently heard from LGBTQ students about the years of torment they had endured at Corona del Mar High School—launched our family into an emotional odyssey that culminated in an ACLU lawsuit instated on behalf of our daughter, the female students at the school, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students who attended Corona del Mar High.  The lawsuit was settled out of court and all our requests were met. The district agreed to implement anti-bias training for teachers, staff and students. 
There were at least two things I took away from this experience.  One: While there are excellent laws here in California that very clearly require schools to protect students from such forms of harassment, these laws do not include penalties or incentives.  This means that when schools violate these laws, a student’s only recourse is to file a lawsuit.  And, two: Teachers and school officials are at a sincere loss when it comes to addressing bullying.  This is particularly true when the harassment includes a focus on gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation and/or perceived sexual orientation.  As a professor in the Women and Gender Studies Program at Cal State Fullerton, I began to talk with colleagues about how we might address this lack of information. The answer came in the form of a new and exciting first-of-its-kind online course. 
Through the help and support of many people across the Cal State Fullerton campus—including the invaluable assistance of PFLAG South Orange County's Vice President, Michelle Rouse, who is also a student here at CSUF—"Understanding and Addressing Bullying” will be offered online beginning July 14, 2012 through the CSUF College of Extended Education. This course has been designed specifically to give teachers, administrators, staff and school board members the ability to recognize and to effectively address the dynamics of student bullying with a focus on bullying as it relates to gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation and/or perceived sexual orientation.  The course provides information about the unique circumstances of LGBTQ students; the relationship between homophobia and misogyny; the reach and effects of cyber bullying; and the importance of understanding schools as social systems, among other themes. It also offers information on state and federal anti-bullying laws, precedent-setting legal decisions, and success stories of schools that have re-set their campus cultures by addressing the underlying dynamics of school bullying.  Importantly, the course includes a final unit entitled “What To Do When Things Go Wrong: Responding to Students and Campuses in Crisis.” The five-week course is organized through a series of multi-media learning modules developed and team-taught by experts in the fields of Education, Psychology, Health, Public Policy, Gender Studies and the Law.  It also includes recorded interviews with students who have experienced bullying, former bullies, teachers, parents and school administrators—several of whom are also PFLAG members. You can learn more about the course and register for it on the Cal State Fullerton College of Extended Education’s website here: http://extension.fullerton.edu/bullying/ 
As PFLAG members are well aware, when we have young people dying from suicide who have disturbing incidences of anti-LGBTQ bullying in their pasts, , something has gone terribly wrong.  It is our hope that this course will give educators the tools they need to transform their campuses, moving well beyond “tolerance,” to creating school cultures that celebrate all forms of difference among students. We hope you will help us get the word out about this important course. Please do not hesitate to contact me directly if I might answer any questions or offer an additional information on the program. 
Thanks for all you do through PFLAG. 
Karyl E. Ketchum, Ph.D.
Asst. Professor, Women & Gender Studies
California State University, Fullerton
Office: Humanities 212D
Phone: (657) 278-2480
Email: kketchum@fullerton.edu

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Straight for Equality in Entertainment: Audra McDonald and Will Swenson


As a part of next week’s Fourth Annual Straight for Equality Awards Gala in New York, Broadway stars Audra McDonald (The Gershwin' Porgy and Bess, Private Practice) and Will Swenson (Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Hair) will receive the 2012 Straight for Equality in Entertainment Award. Speaking on behalf of the couple, McDonald said, “Will and I are thrilled and honored to be recognized by PFLAG National.”

Both members of the couple, who became engaged on New Year’s Eve 2012, are long-time outspoken straight allies.  Ms. McDonald, a four-time Tony and two-time Grammy award winner, has long been a strong voice in the cause for marriage equality for LGBT people. Days before the groundbreaking decision to legalize same-sex marriage in New York, McDonald joined pro-marriage-equality marchers, performed at the marriage rally, and lobbied New York state senators at New York’s state capitol building in Albany and, in July 2011, she sang at the New York City Hall wedding reception for City Hall employee John Feinblatt and Commissioner for Consumer Affairs Jonathan Mintz. Officiated by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the wedding was one of the first same-sex civil marriage ceremonies to be performed in the state of New York.

Tony Award-nominee Will Swenson has also been an outspoken advocate for marriage equality, and sits on the advisory board, along with McDonald, of the marriage equality advocacy organization Broadway Impact. Swenson, who was raised in the Mormon faith, narrated “Bring them in from the Plains,” a 10-minute video prepared by the Foundation for Reconciliation to help raise awareness about the issue of gay suicides in the LDS community. He is set to direct a film adaptation of Carol Lynn Pearson's play, Facing East, which follows a Mormon couple struggling with their faith after their gay son dies by suicide.

“We couldn’t be more excited to honor Audra and Will,” said Jody Huckaby, Executive Director of PFLAG National. “Their work together, and separately, speaks volumes about what it means to be a straight ally, and goes right to the heart of the mission of Straight for Equality. That they are also a loving, straight couple, raising children in the spirit of equality for all, goes a long way in supporting PFLAG’s 40-year mission of support, education, and advocacy by and for parents, families, friends, and allies of GLBT people.”

Stay tuned this week for more about the 2012 Straight for Equality Awards Gala award winners, Workplace honoree KPMG LLP.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Americans Celebrate New Hampshire’s Second Marriage Victory


Many feared that New Hampshire would become the first in history to take marriage rights away from its LGBT citizens. And yet, it’s been almost a week since New Hampshire legislators voted to keep marriage equality on the books, and thousands of people around the country are spreading the word in celebration—especially the nearly 2,000 couples who were married under New Hampshire’s marriage equality law which passed in 2009. 

Had the marriage equality law been repealed, the new law would have reinstated the state’s previous civil union law for same-sex partners. The repeal sought to create three types of committed New Hampshire couples: heterosexual married couples, same-sex couples who married before the repeal, and couples in civil unions who married after the repeal. Thankfully, this will not be the case!

Though Republican legislators held a 189 seat advantage over House Democrats, the final vote was 116-211 against the repeal. The same held true in the Senate, where the final vote was 133-202. One Republican representative provided insight for this incredible, and welcomed, outcome: “The Legislature has given certain rights to members of our community,” said State Rep. David Welch (R-Kingston), “and now we’re being asked to take them away.” It was something he couldn’t agree with, even though he opposed same-sex marriage in the past. “I am so proud of my fellow Republicans who understood that freedom and liberty means freedom for all of us, including the freedom to marry,” added New Hampshire Republicans for Freedom and Equality chair Sean Owen.

We thank the legislators of New Hampshire who understand that equality is not a right which can be revoked. Hopefully we will see more states come to this understanding as we continue fighting for marriage equality across the country this year.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Straight for Equality in Faith Communities: Jay Bakker


Next Monday PFLAG National will honor four outstanding straight allies during the Fourth Annual Straight for Equality Awards Gala in New York. The evening is dedicated to elevating the voices and accomplishments of straight allies who are achieving equality for all. Receiving the award for Straight for Equality In Faith Communities is Pastor Jay Bakker!

Pastor Bakker has been an outspoken straight ally for a number of years, taking a very public stand on issues such as the importance of providing welcoming communities of faith for LGBT people, and marriage equality. In his book, Fall to Grace: A Revolution of God, Self and Society, Bakker talks about his own family’s “fall from grace,” and how it colored his personal understanding of the need for God to be available to all people. His self-described “spiritual evolution” to becoming an LGBT-affirming minister was one he played out in the public eye, much to the benefit of others who have wrestled with LGBT acceptance and how it fits into their beliefs. "It's an honor to be awarded for the work I love,” said Pastor Bakker.
 
“Our decision to honor Pastor Jay Bakker this year was a simple one,” said Jody Huckaby, PFLAG National’s Executive Director. “We’ve seen faith communities all over the country taking up this dialogue about what it means to support LGBT people, to welcome them, include them, and uplift them. In the Christian community, Pastor Bakker is a leader in these discussions, and we are proud to recognize the incredible work he has been doing—around the country and around the world—to move equality forward in communities of faith.”

Stay tuned this week for more about the 2012 Straight for Equality Awards Gala award winners, including Entertainment honorees Audra McDonald and Will Swenson, and Workplace honoree KPMG LLP.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

PFLAG Participates in White House LGBT Conference on Safe Schools and Communities

On Wednesday, the White House partnered with the Departments of Justice and Education for a discussion with hundreds of community leaders, LGBT advocates, educators, allies and members of the public on efforts to ensure safety and security for LGBT people. The event was hosted at the University of Texas at Arlington. PFLAG National along with over a dozen of members from the local Dallas-Fort Worth and Denton Chapters had the opportunity to participate and share strategies on how to successfully engage communities to build safer environments for LGBT individuals.

Key note speakers for the conference included Valerie Jarrett, who was introduced by Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns; the councilman shared his personal story of enduring bullying at the age of 13. He said that sharing this same story before his peers in October of 2010 has “changed [his] life in ways [he] couldn’t imagine, and it changed [his] life for the better.” Jarrett acknowledged Burns’ courage and called him “a leader in the fight against bullying.” She also acknowledged seasoned LGBT advocates like Judy Shepard and Tammy Aaberg, stating that they “inspire President Obama, who motivate him, and who make him determined that his administration will do everything possible to fight for safe schools and communities for” all.

Attorney General Eric Holder also gave remarks for the conference stating the current administration has “created a record we can all be proud of” in terms of protecting LGBT rights and “a sense of momentum that today we stand poised to build upon.” He affirmed that “no one, no one, deserves to be bullied, harassed or victimized because of who they are, how they worship, or who they love.” He underscored that equal opportunity and equal justice are enshrined in our nation’s founding doctrines and expressing his commitment to honor these principles.

Later in the afternoon, PFLAG National Director of Policy Rhodes Perry had the opportunity to present with the Department of Education and the Department of Justice, talking about how community coalitions and individual members can leverage existing federal protections, especially in school districts that lack explicit anti-bullying protections for LGBT students. Perry promoted PFLAG National's Claim Your Rights Campaign, designed to help any school community member access federal protections when someone who is bullied, harassed or discriminated against because of sex-stereotyping (i.e. not conforming to gender norms), or because of sexual harassment, to find solutions when school districts fail to take action.

The day ended with closing remarks from Judy Shepard, who stated to LGBT community members, “you are who you are. You love who you love. That’s just the way it is.” She also underscored the importance of parents, family members, friends and allies with no connection to the LGBT community to come out every time they hear homophobic or transphobic language by stating their support for equality, encouraging the room that everyone has “to come out over and over and over again.”

For more coverage about this conference, please visit http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/03/20/watch-live-white-house-lgbt-conference-safe-schools-communities-0.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Anti-LGBT Language Averted in Washington State’s Referendum 74

In Washington, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Thomas McPhee overruled Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna’s attempt to insert bias language into the title of Referendum 74, which attempts to turn over the state’s newly gained marriage equality law.

McKenna’s draft was filled with the phrase “redefine marriage,” a phrase which has long been attributed to anti-LGBT equality organization National Organization for Marriage. The new language, crafted by McPhee, now says the measure will “allow same-sex couples to marry.”

"It was fascinating  to watch the care and attention that goes into this process,” says Kathy Reim, Pacific Northwest Regional Director, “We came away with an appreciation for the fairness and focus on the part of Judge McPhee. The legal team and Paul Lawrence are the real heroes of the day. We know firsthand the long hours, through the night and on weekends, they worked on behalf of our families. Anne Levinson provided the leadership. Now it is time for us to step up to support the efforts of the Washington United for Marriage campaign.  We are ready."

Monday, March 12, 2012

New Study on Gender Non-Conforming Children and Abuse


A startling new study reveals that children whose “activity choices, interests, and pretend play don’t conform to expected gender roles” have higher rates of abuse and future trauma. The study was published online this February and asked 9,000 young adults between the age of 17 and 27 to recall their childhood experiences, including their favorite toys, games, characters in popular media they admired, and whether or not they took on traditional male/female roles in pretend play.

Children who were not “extremely typical in their gender expression” faced “harmful discrimination and intolerance that has a lasting impact,” said lead researcher Andrea Roberts from the Department of Society, Human Development, at the Harvard School of Public Health. Here are their key findings: 
  • Gender non-conforming children were more likely to be sexually, physically, and psychologically abused as well as experience post-traumatic stress disorder by early adulthood.
  • Even more tragic—the abuse was mostly performed by parents or other adult figures in the children’s homes.
  • Girls who were gender non-conforming were at a 60% higher risk for sexual abuse than conforming girls.
  • The risk was nearly three times greater for gender non-conforming boys compared to conforming boys.
  • For both girls and boys, the rate of PTSD was almost twice as high for gender non-conforming children than conforming children.

Roberts says that more research is needed to determine why the risk of abuse is so high for non-conforming children, and what contributes to this abuse. Roberts suggests that one factor may be adults who “may have the idea, ‘If I force him not to be that way, he won’t be like that as an adult.’” She continued by saying, “Parents need to be aware that discrimination against gender non-conformity affects one in ten kids, affects kids at a very young age, and has lasting impacts on health.”

Friday, March 9, 2012

Anoka-Hennepin District Issues Decree, Promises to Improve School Climate

On March 5th Anoka-Hennepin School District voted 5-1 in favor of entering into a consent decree with six student plaintiffs and the federal government. The decree resolves a federal civil rights investigation and lawsuit filed last summer by six former and current students, who asserted that the school district had not adequately responded to harassment allegations based on perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. “All students deserve a safe learning environment,” said Superintendent Dennis Carlson, “and the District is looking forward to continuing to broaden and strengthen its commitment to provide anti-harassment and anti-bullying programs."

The decree includes monetary compensation for the six students as well as a five-year partnership between Anoka-Hennepin School District, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Under the terms of the consent decree, the district must:

  • Retain an Equality Consultant who will review existing policies and procedures.
  • Develop and implement a plan for preventing and addressing sexually-based discrimination cases in the future for middle and high schools.
  • Enhance training for staff and students on the topic.
  • Retain a mental health consultant to address needs of students.
  • Work with consultant to identify "hot spots" where harassment is most problematic.

The full list of requirements can be read on the district’s announcement.

“The parties believe this agreement provides a roadmap for others to follow as they address the difficult societal problem of bullying and harassment related to sexual orientation,” the school district’s announcement read, “Anoka-Hennepin takes seriously its responsibility in pioneering training, practices, and procedures to ensure a safe learning environment for all students.”

"This partnership will strengthen the support that the district provides to all students, including students who are gay or perceived to be gay," says school board chairman Tom Heidemann. "At the end of the day, the board would rather focus our limited resources on educating kids and keeping them safe… [the agreement] likely saved the district millions of dollars and many years of ongoing litigation."

"If it were not for [the student's] courage and determination to tell their stories and stand up and say, 'Enough, I deserve better; we all deserve better,' we would not be on the precipice of not only creating change in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, but also proving a model for change nationally," said Michael McGee, father of plaintiff Damien McGee-Backes.

Plaintiff Dylon Frei, a freshman at Anoka High School, said he hadn't been bullied in about a month and a half so far: "That has never happened before. I see change coming, and I'm really glad about it."

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Governor O’Malley Signs Marriage Equality into Law

Last week Governor Martin O’Malley (D) signed the Civil Marriage Protection Act into law. “The way forward is always found through greater respect for the equal rights of all,” said the governor before he signed the bill, “If there is a thread that unites all of our work here together, it is the thread of human dignity. …Lets sign the bill." After Gov. O’Malley signed the bill, everyone was invited to a public reception at the governor’s mansion. Though the bill doesn’t go into effect until 2013, it truly is a historic moment for many Maryland families and their LGBT loved ones.

Currently there are seven states and the District of Columbia where same-sex couples can marry, with several other states working hard toward achieving the same goal. New Jersey is working to over-ride the governor’s veto on the proposed marriage law, and Washington and New Hampshire are working to keep the right to marry for same-sex couples in place. In 2008, the California State Supreme Court legalized marriage equality, allowing 18,000 same-sex couples to legally wed. Unfortunately, voters petitioned to place the freedom to marry for same-sex couples on the ballot, and the law was repealed, resulting in myriad lawsuits. In February, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Proposition 8 in California – which eliminated the right to same-sex marriage – was unconstitutional.

Maryland may face a similar reality if opponents are successful in placing a measure on the ballot that could potentially eliminate the state’s newly gained marriage equality. The state’s voters are divided on the issue. According to a January 2012 poll by the Washington Post, 50% of Maryland voters supported civil marriage for same-sex couples, while 44% were opposed. Since the governor has signed the bill, opponents will now need to collect 56,000 signatures to place the measure on the ballot, according to the MD State Board of Elections. A third of these signatures would need to be submitted by May 31 with the rest of the necessary signatures being submitted by June 30. If all the signatures are collected it will be up to the people of Maryland to decide whether same-sex couples will be able to marry.

Take Action: If you live in Maryland, please be sure to encourage those in your communities to decline to sign this petition. The opposition needs 56,000 signatures to put the marriage law on the public ballot.
It is time that Maryland State makes marriage equality the law in our state – liberty and justice for all – no exceptions.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

PFLAG National Statement on the "R" Rating for BULLY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 7, 2012
Liz Owen | lowen@pflag.org | (202) 467-8180 x214

WASHINGTON, DC— Jody M. Huckaby, Executive Director of PFLAG National (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays)—the nation's original ally organization, and the largest grassroots-based non-profit for families, friends, and allies of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people—has issued the following statement regarding the MPAA decision to issue an "R" rating to the new documentary BULLY:
 
"We are surprised and saddened by the “R” rating the MPAA has given to the film BULLY. Our members—over 200,000 parents, families, friends, and allies to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community and LGBT people themselves—overwhelmingly support the need for this film to be seen by a wide array of audiences, in small towns and large cities, and by people of all ages. It is ironic that a movie about judgment and bullying is being judged and similarly bullied due to the use of one word, with what seems to be complete disregard for the contents of the film itself. We hope that the MPAA will consider joining PFLAG National and other supporters of the film BULLY here in the 21st century, where the use of an expletive pales in comparison to the need for creating a safe school environment for all of our nation’s youth."

Friday, March 2, 2012

PFLAG National Statement on New HRC President Chad Griffin

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 2, 2012
Liz Owen | lowen@pflag.org | (202) 467-8180 x214

WASHINGTON, DC— Jody M. Huckaby, Executive Director of PFLAG National (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays)—the nation's original ally organization, and the largest grassroots-based non-profit for families, friends, and allies of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people—has issued the following statement regarding the hiring of Chad Griffin as HRC’s new President:

“On behalf of the members of PFLAG—parents, families, friends, straight allies, and LGBT people—I want to congratulate the Board of Directors and Chad Griffin on his appointment to lead HRC.  Chad has demonstrated, through his leadership at the American Foundation for Equal Rights, his commitment to the importance of diversity in pursuit of equality for our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender loved ones, an issue which is neither partisan nor exclusive.  We look forward to working with Chad in his new capacity as President of HRC.”