Monday, July 30, 2012

The European Union Requires Respect for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights

Earlier this month the European Union issued a declaration requiring states that are seeking to join the Union to respect the rights of their lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) citizens. This declaration is an important step forward in increasing the acceptance of LGBT individuals in Europe and removing legal discrimination from the region. There are currently several states that are officially candidates for admission, including Iceland, Turkey, and Serbia. These states will now be required to remove all legal discrimination based on sexual orientation from their state frameworks in order to join the EU.

In their declaration, the EU Commission states that respect for LGBT rights was an “integral part of the criteria for admission.” This means that each candidate state will now be thoroughly assessed on their actions towards their LGBT citizens before they can enter the Union. Only those states that allow no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression will continue to be considered for entrance into the Union. Thus “accession of a country will not be possible if certain LGBT rights are not put into law and into practice.”

Since many countries want to join the EU for strong economic and political reasons, this declaration will hopefully push forward progress on LGBT acceptance around Europe. Several countries that wish to be considered for EU candidacy but allow extensive LGBT discrimination in their borders, such as Armenia, will be forced to change their legal systems and cultures of discrimination to respect the rights of their minorities. The EU commission has also pledged to “report annually on the progress made by [candidate] countries with regard to the situation of the LGBT community.” Therefore, many states will be required to reevaluate how they treat their LGBT citizens. Unless such states start respecting LGBT rights, their dreams to gain membership in the prestigious European Union will not become a reality.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Service Members’ Uniformed March in Gay Pride Parade Sparks Controversy

Last week, the Defense Department made headlines when it issued a one-time exception to a longstanding policy that bars active duty troops from wearing military uniforms in public, non-partisan parades. The exception was created to allow service members to march in uniform in the San Diego Pride Parade this past weekend.

More than 350 service members traveled from all over the country to partake in the Pride festivities. About half of the military marchers wore their uniforms while most of the others sported t-shirts displaying their branch of service. Navy Senior Chief Dwayne Beebe drove all the way from Pensacola to attend. Clad in his bright white Navy uniform, Beebe even proposed to his boyfriend, Jonathan Franqui, during the parade.

“It was amazing, really,” Beebe told USA Today. “This is one time. This is history.”

But not everyone is happy about the Defense Department’s decision. On Tuesday, Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, who serves on the Armed Services Committee, wrote a letter to U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta making anti-gay claims and demanding an explanation of the department’s decision. Despite such criticisms, however, the Pentagon has reiterated that the waiver it issued only applied to this year’s parade in San Diego. The Defense Department said it issued the waiver because organizers of the parade had encouraged military personnel to march in their uniforms, causing the event to garner national attention.

It is unclear whether the Pentagon will extend similar exceptions for other events. Although some members of Congress, such as Representative Susan Davis of California, support allowing troops to wear their uniforms at pride events to represent themselves individually, many others certainly do not.

Take Action: In the absence of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, claims like those made by Senator Inhofe cannot be taken lightly. They are clear attempts to uphold the stigma against and invisibility of gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members. Contact your elected officials today and tell them that you stand with the Defense Department in their decision to allow uniformed service members to march in the San Diego Pride Parade. Our service members deserve to be honored, not punished for their individuality. Take action now and show them how much you appreciate their dedication to the well-being of our nation.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Policy Matters: July 25, 2012

Front Page Headlines

Transgender Advocates Seek New Diagnostic Terms: For the first time in nearly two decades, the APA is overhauling its diagnostic manual and rewriting the categories typically used to diagnose transgender people. One of the most symbolic changes in the new manual thus far is the removal of Gender Identity Disorder and the introduction of “Gender Dysphoria,” a term that comes from the Greek word for emotional distress. [ABC].

Police Practices Fuel HIV Epidemic: A recent Human Rights Watch report reveals that police in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and San Francisco are “confiscating condoms from sex workers and transgender women, undermining health department campaigns to reduce HIV.” [Human Rights Watch].

California Democrats Urge DNC to Adopt Marriage Equality Platform: California Democrats are calling for their party to include marriage equality on its convention platform. Thirty of the 34 California delegates back the initiative, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. In a letter to the Democratic Party Platform Drafting Committee, the California congressional delegation asked the drafting committee to “assert support for the Respect for Marriage Act, the elimination of the Defense of Marriage Act and opposition to efforts to prevent or curtail the rights of same-sex couples.” [Los Angeles Times].  

Alabama Bishop Won’t Allow Blessing of Same-Sex Unions: Bishop Kee Sloan, who leads the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama, voted in favor of blessing same-sex unions at the national level, but is now refusing to allow priests in his diocese to perform such blessings. “Theology is an ongoing revelation,” Sloan said when asked about his decision. [Gadsden Times].

Law Pushes Married Lesbian Couple Out of U.S.: Francesca Martin and Gudrun Scheffler have been together for 12 years. The couple got married in Connecticut in 2009 and is among the 36,000 same-sex couples nationwide that face expulsion because of DOMA. Scheffler is from Germany and may be forced to leave the U.S. in September when her work visa expires. [New Haven Independent].

Military Marchers Wear Uniforms in Pride Parade: On July 21st, more than 350 Servicemembers wore their uniforms in San Diego’s LGBT Pride Parade. This is the first time the Defense Department gave an exception to a policy that bars military troops from wearing uniforms in public, non-partisan parades. [Military Times].

Boston Mayor is Blocking Chik-fil-A’s Expansion: After Chik-fil-A’s president expressed his views against marriage equality, Mayor Thomas M. Menino is vowing to block Chik-fil-A from bringing its chain to Boston. “You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population. We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion,” said Mayor Menino. [Boston Herald].

Letters Against the Boy Scouts’ Exclusion of LGBT People: Letters from the public express the hurt and disappointment felt by many Americans after the Boy Scouts voted to uphold their discriminatory policy against gay members and LGBT leaders. [New York Times].

Difficulties of Coming Out in Workplace without Anti-Discrimination Policies: LGBT individuals discuss their struggles in coming out in their workplace. Without a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, many workers fear they could lose their job because of who they are. [Houma Courier].

Rep. King Tries to Ban Same-Sex Marriages on Military Bases: “Rep. Steven King (R-IA) introduced an amendment [on July 19th] that would ban same-sex marriage on any military facility and prohibit military chaplain from performing gay marriage ceremonies.” Opponents of the amendment, such as Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA), say that rather than implementing this discriminatory amendment, legislators should examine the effects of DOMA on service members and their families. [Politico].

Policy Watch:

Minnesota Marriage Equality Supporters Ahead in Fundraising: Minnesotans United for All Families, an advocacy group that opposes a proposed state constitutional amendment banning marriage equality, has raised nearly $5.4 million for its campaign. Minnesota for Marriage, those in favor of the amendment and against marriage equality have raised almost $1.5 million. Political scientist Larry Jacobs estimates that about 20% of Minnesotan voters have not made up their mind of how they will vote on the amendment. [Associated Press].

Strategist Central Figure Against Marriage Equality: Frank Schubert, an anti-equality activist who led the 2008 campaign to repeal marriage equality in California, is currently heading campaigns against marriage equality in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington – four states with a voter referendum on marriage equality this November. Schubert also led campaigns to ban same-sex marriage in 31 states since 1998, and successfully strategized to overturn marriage equality in Maine and North Carolina. However, as public opinion shifts in favor of marriage equality, it waits to be seen if Schubert’s winning streak is over. [Associated Press].

Group Spent $160K to Bring Marriage Equality to a Referendum: The Maryland Marriage Alliance spent over $160,000 on collecting signatures to force a vote on Maryland’s new marriage equality law. The Maryland State Board of Elections approved more than 109,000 signatures, about twice as many as were needed to bring the law to a referendum. [Herald-Mail].

LGBT Bar Target of Drive-By Shooting, Possible Hate Crime: An Indianapolis bar that serves LGBT people was the victim of a possible drive-by shooting. The bar’s owner believes that the bar’s blown out window is likely a hate crime. No bullet was found and no one was injured. A police report characterized the incident as “vandalism.” [Indianapolis Star].

Jacksonville City Council President Urges Council to Vote on LGBT Human Rights Ordinance: Jacksonville City Council President Bill Bishop expressed that he wants city council to vote on Human Rights Ordinance 296, which would add protections for LGBT people to the city’s existing anti-discrimination policy, before the council’s budget hearings in August. However, council members didn’t vote on the provision last week, which means the earliest the council could vote is August 14th, unless Bishop puts committee members onto the council floor for a vote. [Florida Times-Union].

Backlash Against Jennifer Carroll After Her Anti-LGBT Remarks: Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks, Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition, criticized Florida’s Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll’s recent prejudiced and stereotypical comments about single, lesbian, and bisexual black women. The criticism referred to Carroll’s statements when she attempted to defend herself and deny accusations of being involved in a sexual encounter with a female subordinate. Carroll commented that based on her appearance and long-standing marriage, she could not have engaged in such extramarital relations. [Huffington Post].

Idaho Bar Stops Carrying Brands that Endorse LGBT Equality: Waha Bar and Grill in Northern Idaho has stopped carrying Miller Coors or Pepsico products because the companies support the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, an LGBT business advocacy organization. [KLEW].

Question from the Field:

Dear Policy Matters,

It has been frustrating to see well-known national organizations and companies express anti-equality views. When organizations like Boy Scouts of America and Chik-fil-A support anti-LGBT policies and views, it discourages me and my friends, but most importantly, it sends a message to LGBT youth that they are different and do not deserve the same rights as others. What can we do to counter these negative views to uplift all LGBT people and secure equal rights for all?

Thank you,
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Dear Deborah,

Thanks for writing to Policy Matters! It is so important to discuss ways to empower LGBT youth in the face of prejudice and discrimination. These anti-equality views upset us as well and inspire us to unite to move equality forward.

By calling out these companies, we are taking the first step in standing up against injustice. We can also counter prejudice by endorsing businesses, individuals, and policies which promote equality.

When Boy Scouts upheld its anti-LGBT policy, many parents around the country wrote Op-Eds announcing their decision to remove their child from the organization, and some articles even told the story of Boy Scouts Alumni who returned their Boy Scout badges after hearing its prejudiced decision. Refusing to participate in an organization which embraces discrimination is a huge step LGBT individuals and allies can take. Soon after Chik-fil-A confirmed its anti-LGBT views, Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston vowed to block the food chain from opening in the city of the Freedom Trail. Similarly, the Jim Henson Company, creator of the Muppets, announced its decision to end its partnership with Chik-fil-A. Lisa Henson, CEO of the Jim Henson Company, even designated the payment received from Chik-fil-A to GLAAD. These groups not only support LGBT equality, but openly disassociate from corporations which do not.

It has also been great to see California Democrats urge the Democratic National Convention to include marriage equality in the party’s platform. Many other Democratic organizations have taken this stance, including state parties in Wisconsin, Texas and Pennsylvania, a group of former Democratic National Committee Chairs, and many national and local advocacy groups. This support comes after President Obama’s endorsement of marriage equality in May.

While we celebrate these strides towards equality, we must continue to look forward and work towards acceptance. One way to eliminate discrimination is through inclusive policies, such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), federal legislation which would protect LGBT people from discrimination in the workplace. Through this bill, Congress could send a message to all organizations throughout the nation that discrimination will not be tolerated. Please click here to contact your local representative and express your support for ENDA.

There are also steps you could take in your community. PFLAG’s Straight for Equality campaign offers trainings to promote awareness, inclusion, and acceptance in your workplace. Straight for Equality also has a component for faith communities which aims to move the way we understand our beliefs and our relationships with LGBT people to a place where people can understand that you can be a person of faith, loyal to your religion’s teachings, and someone who supports your LGBT friends and family.

By denouncing anti-equality views, supporting progressive organizations, advocating for inclusive legislation, and building communities of acceptance, we are fostering a society which celebrates human diversity and embraces equality for all. Through these efforts, we can let LGBT youth know that they deserve equal rights and respect. It is through the efforts of committed citizens and PFLAG members like yourself which has brought equality this far, and will continue to move it forward.

Thanks for the great question!

Policy Matters

P.S. – Click here to join our PFLAG action e-list to stay informed of when your involvement can make a huge difference!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

More News on the Faith Front: Former Mormon Bishop Discusses his Journey to Becoming a Straight Ally

Last year, as a sitting Mormon bishop, Kevin Kloosterman came out as an LGBT ally. As a result of the controversy that such a public statement created, Bishop Kloosterman decided to write an op-ed that appeared in The Advocate earlier this month. In this personal account, Bishop Kloosterman describes how he “made [his] journey from an adversary to fence sitter and finally to becoming an ally and advocate.”

As we would probably expect, such a journey was not easy. Yet Bishop Kloosterman writes about how his interactions with LGBT individuals, both on a personal and “virtual” level, helped him emerge as such an outspoken advocate for LGBT equality. Most notably of such interactions were his viewings of the popular television series, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, which he began watching a year or two ago.

In the op-ed, Bishop Kloosterman discusses the drastic impact the show has had on him: “For me it was much more than watching five gay men help get straight guys’ act together in grooming, home decor, fashion, culture, and cuisine. It began to create a bond for me to these men. They had a certain synergy that kept me wanting to watch more. I liked them as people. I saw them as individuals expressing their God-given talents and trying to make people’s lives and the world a little bit better.”

As his first exposure to the LGBT community, Queer Eye broke down many of the stereotypes and preconceptions Bishop Kloosterman held of LGBT individuals. It was then that he realized that his traditional marriage was not under attack by a so-called “gay agenda” as many of his fellow Mormons would insist. Rather, he found that the “Fab 5” were “good men [who] had no desire to hurt [him], [his] marriage, or [his] family.”

This discovery prompted Bishop Kloosterman to fly to Utah to urge straight members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saint to reach out to LGBT individuals both in and out of the church. Yet his advocacy work did not stop there. Last year, he presented at the Mormon StoriesCircling the Wagons” conference, which aims to create a space where LGBT individuals and their families and allies can gather to acknowledge, explore, and honor shared experiences.

Kevin Kloosterman serves as a reminder of the great potential of those within faith communities to facilitate change. Few issues strike more deeply than whom we love and how we honor our families. These issues hold a great deal of weight in faith communities in particular and have been the source of misunderstanding and judgment in such communities all across the globe. Although LGBT Mormons are still extremely divided over how to address same-sex attraction and understand the difficult choices they face, people like Kevin Kloosterman have played an integral role in creating a dialogue that have made these issues a part of the church’s public discussion.

Take Action: Want to learn more about how you can do the same? Well be not afraid. Help is on the way! It’s the new Straight For Equality publication—be not afraid: help is on the way! Straight for Equality in Faith Communities—that will have everyone talking! Download your free copy here. Still have concerns? We’ll do our best to help. Browse our website at, check us out on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter. The path to change is already being laid with bricks of hope and empowerment. It’s true that path is paved with many trials and tribulations. But together we can, in Bishop Kloosterman’s words, help others realize that “we truly should treat one another as God intended—as neighbors and friends.” One brick at a time.

Friday, July 20, 2012

All Students Count Coalition Webinar: Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) Advocacy

On July 31st, the All Students Count Coalition is hosting a free webinar to inform youth and allies about efforts to promote health, safety, and academic success for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (LGBTQ), and gender nonconforming students. The webinar will discuss how and why students and allies – including parents and educators – should engage in local Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) advocacy to make the survey more inclusive of LGBTQ students.

The YRBS, a component of the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, was developed by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to monitor “health-risk behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death, disability, and social problems among youth and adults.” These surveys are conducted in schools nation-wide to assess nutrition, bullying, violence, skipping school, drug and alcohol abuse, and sexual activity among the country’s youth. However, only some school districts currently use surveys that ask approved optional questions about sexual orientation and behavior, and gender identity and gender expression. Surveys that do not include LGBTQ and gender nonconforming questions neglect these students and prevent the CDC from being able to address their most pressing needs.

As part of our mission to promote the health and well-being of LGBT persons, we at PFLAG strongly support this webinar and hope it will lead to a more inclusive YRBS that better reflects our youth and adequately addresses the needs of all students. With a stronger and more inclusive survey, the CDC can promote school programs and policies that foster safe, affirming environments that will support students’ learning and success.

Take Action: The webinar will provide insight about ways to advocate for a more inclusive YRBS in your school district. It is critical that you speak up for a more inclusive YRBS in your state to support all LGBTQ and gender non-conforming students. Please click here to learn more about this free webinar and to sign up to join the conversation.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

New CAP Infographic Highlights Americans’ Increasing Support for Marriage Equality

Last week, the Center for American Progress’s LGBT Progress project analyzed the changing trends in Americans’ support of marriage equality. The result: an infographic showing that marriage equality is now a mainstream American value.

The researchers used an assortment of polls to visually map out Americans’ increasing support for the freedom to marry over the last couple of years. According to a Gallup poll referenced in the infographic, the percentage of Americans who believe marriage equality should be recognized by the law has increased dramatically from approximately 28% of the general population in 1996 to approximately 54% of the general population in 2011. An ABC News/Washington Post poll reinforces this trend by showing that the strength of support for marriage equality outstrips the strength of opposition. Today, 39% of Americans strongly support marriage equality while only 32% strongly oppose it.

Perhaps most interesting about the infographic is the section that discusses opinions on marriage equality in states with November ballot initiatives. The WBUR public radio poll used in the section shows that the majority of Americans in the states of Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington support marriage equality. This increases the likelihood that marriage equality will become a reality in these states come November. In fact, support for marriage equality is leading in polls by as many as 21 percentage points in the state of Washington, a huge victory for LGBT activists nationwide.

Take Action: As exciting as the news displayed in the infographic may be, we still have some work to do. A CNN poll used in the study shows that only 34% of Americans 64 years of age and older support marriage equality. Although this number is up from 24% in 2009, we can make it higher. Since nearly 64% of PFLAG’s membership is age 56 and over and nearly 28% age 66 and over, according to PFLAG’s 2011 Chapter Needs Assessment Survey, it is clear that many of us can relate to this demographic. Begin conversations with your friends, family members, and neighbors about the importance of securing equal rights for all committed couples, especially if you live in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, or Washington. Then, click here to join our PFLAG action e-list. As the infographic shows, 2012 is a year of changing hearts and minds. By speaking out to those in your community, you can truly make a difference!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

More News on the Faith Front: San Francisco Congregation Helps Foster a More Inclusive Faith Community

Nearly 20 years ago, the First United Lutheran Church, a San Francisco-based congregation, ordained openly gay pastor Jeff Johnson. Even though the Lutheran Church disapproved of such an action, First United stood by its decision, ultimately leading to the congregation’s suspension in 1990 and formal expulsion from the church in 1995. This came in the same year as the expulsion of another San Francisco congregation for its support of two lesbian pastors.

But on Sunday, the church’s 17-year-long schism came to an end when First United voted to rejoin the Lutheran Church. The decision came approximately three years after the Lutheran Church voted to accept gay and lesbian pastors as members of the clergy. According to the San Francisco Examiner, this prompted the church to send a letter of apology to both First United and St. Francis, the other congregation that had been expelled.

Although St. Francis accepted the invitation to rejoin the Lutheran Church, First United was more cautious. Opinion within the congregation was quite divided, with some eager to rejoin and some still needing time for their wounds to heal. But after years of discussion, the congregation finally arrived at a decision. First United voted unanimously for the reunion.

The two congregations will now join a larger group of 200 Lutheran churches throughout Northern California, known as the Sierra Pacific Synod. The synod’s bishop, Rev. Mark W. Holmerud recently commented on the contributions of First United and St. Francis to the greater Lutheran community:

“There’s been an acknowledgment that these two congregations were forward-thinking and committed to their ministry,” Holmerud noted. “They took a stand, paid the consequences, […] and we’re all better for it.”

Take Action: The experiences of First United and St. Francis prove that you can be a person of faith, loyal to your religion’s teachings, and someone who supports their LGBT friends and family. Want to learn how? Well be not afraid. Help is on the way! It’s the new Straight For Equality in Faith Communities publication—be not afraid: help is on the way! Straight for Equality in Faith Communities—that will have everyone talking! Download your free copy here. Still have concerns? We’ll do our best to help. Browse our website at, check out us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter. Creating change is not always easy. But with a network of supportive PFLAGers by your side, everything is possible!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

California Rapper Makes a Statement with Unprecedented Pro-LGBT Music Video

Just two weeks ago, R&B singer Frank Ocean came out on his blog, taking the hip hop community by storm. But now, California-based rapper Murs is shaking things up even more. His newly released music video, “Animal Style,” addresses the homophobia that still pervades American schools. In the video, Murs plays Roderick, a closeted 17-year-old who refuses to openly display his affection for his boyfriend, Jonathan.

The video features scenes of the two young men cuddling, holding hands, and even sharing a quick kiss, interspersed with clips of Murs rapping while sporting a “Legalize Gay” t-shirt, which calls for the repeal of Proposition 8 in California. All of this occurs before Roderick’s situation turns for the worst, in a way eerily reflective of the experiences of many LGBT youth who face bullying and peer pressure at school.

Murs described his reasons for producing the video on his YouTube page:

“The first [reason] was to be an advocate for people close to me who are out, and those who have yet to come out...I wanted to challenge the listener to ask themselves: Is the love shared by two people of the same gender, really that different than the love I have for my partner of the opposite sex?”

He continues by saying, “I just felt it was crucial for some of us in the hip hop community to speak up on the issues of teen suicide, bullying, and the overall anti-homosexual sentiment that exist within hip hop culture. I felt so strongly about these issues and this song that I had to do a video that would command some attention, even if it makes some viewers uncomfortable.”

And command some attention it has. The music video has already attracted over 200,000 views on YouTube and over 1,700 “likes.” Combine this with the Huffington Post Gay Voices vertical article posted about the video just yesterday and it becomes clear that Murs is certainly creating a dialogue surrounding hip hop’s perception of same-sex love, homophobia, and the dangers of social pressure for LGBT youth.

Take Action: Check out our recent Facebook post about Murs’ new music video and click LIKE so you can help spread the word. As more music artists step out of the closet in support of LGBT equality, the hip hop community continues to struggle with its homophobia. Yet with the support of artists like Murs, our children may just be able to find rappers and R&B singers they can look up to after all.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Taiwanese Lesbian Couple Will Tie the Knot in Nation’s First Buddhist Same-Sex Union

August 11th will be a game changer for the LGBT community of Taiwan. On this day, for the first time in the nation’s history, a same-sex couple will hold a traditional Buddhist wedding.

Fish Huang, 30, never pictured herself getting married. That is until she saw a film that highlighted the challenges faced by gay partners who are denied spousal benefits. It was then that she decided that she and her partner of seven years needed to help bring about change in Taiwan. In a recent telephone interview with the Taipei Times, Fish Huang elaborated on this point: “We are not only doing it for ourselves, but also for other gays and lesbians.”

Although same-sex couples have been wed in Taiwan in the past, same-sex marriages are not legally recognized by the Taiwanese government. Huang’s celebration will be monumental, however, due to the religious undertones of the ceremony, which will even be hosted by a Buddhist master. The master, Shih Chao-hwei, who also works as a professor at Hsuan Chuang University, informed the Taipei Times in a phone interview that Buddhism does not forbid homosexuality. In fact, according to Chao-hwei, “Buddhism on the whole is more tolerant toward homosexuality because there is no concrete rule banning the practice in Buddhist scriptures.”

On their wedding day, the two brides will both wear white dresses. In traditional Buddhist fashion, the ceremony will include a series of blessings and prayers by monks and nuns alike as well as lectures by Buddhist monks on the meaning of marriage.

Take Action: Want to learn more about LGBT issues and faith? Well be not afraid. Help is on the way! It’s the new Straight For Equality in Faith Communities publication—be not afraid: help is on the way! Straight for Equality in Faith Communities—that will have everyone talking! Download your free copy here. In a world where people look for definitive answers, finding resolution between what our religion teaches us and our support (and even love) for LGBT people often leaves us frustrated, hurt, and unwilling to even talk about the topic. But that’s why PFLAG and its Straight For Equality project are here: to help you know that you’re not alone in asking questions, to offer ways to think about the issues, and even to find some support for you along the way. Still have concerns? We’ll do our best to help. Browse our website at, check out us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes you just need some guidance to help you find it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Policy Matters 7/11/2012

Front Page Headlines

U.S. Ban on Gay Blood Donors Examined: A ban instated in the 1980s which prohibits gay men from donating blood is being re-examined by the Department of Health and Human Services. “This is a matter of life and death and we are turning away over 50,000 healthy men who want to donate blood,” reported Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL), who led a coalition of 64 legislators to encourage HHS to consider ending the ban. HHS promised to conduct studies to determine if the gay male population poses a threat, if any at all, to the nation’s blood supply. [CNN].

Marriage Equality Debate in Minnesota Gaining Attention: On November 6, Minnesota voters will decide whether they want the state Constitution to define marriage as being between a man and a woman. Though the definition is already in state law, it will become much more difficult to overturn if the definition is included as a constitutional amendment. While the debate has not been at the forefront of most Minnesotans’ attention, the issue is rising as both sides have raised millions of dollars and plan to spend much of it on TV commercials advocating for their respective causes. [Inforum].

U.S. Supreme Court Faced with Marriage Equality Appeal: The Republican-led Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group filed a petition to the Supreme Court on June 29th, asking it to say that a law defining marriage as a union between a man and a women is consistent with the fifth amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which calls for equal protection under the law. The petition is the first on gay marriage to come before the high court. The nine justices are currently on vacation and will reconvene in late September, and could decide any point thereafter whether they want to take up the case. [Agence France-Press].

House Democrats File Brief Against Defense of Marriage Act: On July 10th, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and at least 130 congressional members filed an amicus brief opposing DOMA. “The filing is in Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management, a case before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that the Justice Department wants fast-tracked to the U.S. Supreme Court.” Oral arguments are set for September 10th. As the Justice Department has refused to defend DOMA, House Republicans have hired attorneys to defend the law. [Wisconsin Gazette].

Congressman Frank Continues to Break Barriers for LGBT People: U.S. Representative Barney Frank (MA-D) married his longtime partner, James Ready, on July 7th, becoming the first sitting Congressperson to enter into a same-sex marriage. Frank and Ready, who have been involved since 2007, join more than 18,000 other same-sex couples who have been married in Massachusetts since 2004. Frank, a former Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, was an architect of the reforms in the Dodd-Frank Act following the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market. He was first elected to Congress in 1980 and plans to retire at the end of the current term. [MSNBC].

Celebrities Coming Out: Last week, talk-show host and CNN anchor Anderson Cooper came out in an email to his friend and fellow news anchor, Andrew Sullivan, who is also gay. Hip-hop artist Frank Ocean also revealed his bisexual orientation last week in a Tumblr blog post. The current trend of celebrities “casually” coming out is said to demonstrate shifting views towards acceptance of LGBT equality. [Agence France-Presse].

Technology Becoming More LGBT-Friendly: Last week Facebook updated its marriage icons to include men marrying men and women marrying women. The social networking site has developed a taskforce with LGBT groups, including PFLAG National, to address issues sensitive to them. Apple recently updated its system to include text-message “emojis” of same-sex couples, and last summer Google displayed a rainbow feature to its search engine. These and other online sites are becoming more inclusive of the LGBT community. [CNN].

Policy Watch

New Massachusetts Anti-Discrimination Law Protects Gender Identity: The Massachusetts Transgender Equal Rights Act, which bars discrimination in employment, housing, education, and lending, came into effect July 1st. This law makes Massachusetts the 16th state to enact a law protecting the rights of transgender residents. [The Boston Globe].

La Raza Expects Marriage Equality Discussion: The National Board of La Raza, the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S., unanimously endorsed marriage equality last month. Ron Estrada, vice president of marketing for the National Council of La Raza, said that LGBT equality has been “positively received” among La Raza members, but that he expects more discussion on marriage equality and other issues that affect the LGBT community. [National Public Radio].

Denver Changes Policy Regarding Transgender Inmates: The Denver Sheriff’s Department recently implemented a new policy that would subject the placement of transgender inmates within Denver jails to the decision of a review board to determine the most appropriate gender segregated housing facility meeting the best interests of the inmate’s safety and security. Prior to this change, the most likely housing for transgender inmates was solitary confinement, lock down for 23 hours a day. Denver is one of only a few cities to enact such a policy. [KUSA].

Presbyterian Church Rejects Redefinition of Marriage: The Presbyterian General Assembly voted 338-308 on July 6th to reject redefining marriage in the church constitution from “a civil contract between a woman and a man” to a “covenant between two people.” Other mainline Protestant churches have approved gay ordination or have permitted individual congregations to celebrate same-sex unions in recent years. [Associated Press].

Episcopal Church Makes Strides for LGBT Equality: On July 9th, the Episcopal General convention authorized a provisional rite for same-sex unions and approved anti-discrimination language for transgender ordination. The House of Bishops voted 111-41 with three abstentions in favor of the amendments. The New York-based Episcopal Church, which has 1.96 million members, consecrated Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican world, in 2003. [Washington Post].

NY Court Rejects Arguments Against Marriage Equality Law: The Appellate Division of State Supreme Court in Rochester, New York ruled unanimously on Friday that the State Senate did not violate New York’s Open Meeting Law last year as it considered whether to legalize same-sex marriage. The court refused to nullify the marriages performed under the law. The lawsuit was brought by the conservative group New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms. [New York Times].

Question from the Field:

Dear Policy Matters,

It is refreshing to see news in the last few weeks that reports the growing public support of LGBT equality and policies that reflect this shift in public opinion. As a resident of Jacksonville, Florida, however, I have been a bit frustrated by my community’s hesitation towards equality. I feel very fortunate that my employer has anti-discrimination policies in place so that I may be completely comfortable at work without fear of being fired because of who I am. However, I have a friend who is fearful of her coworkers finding out that she is a lesbian because her workplace lacks an affirmative non-discrimination policy protecting an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity. She hears anti-LGBT jokes at work and feels extremely uncomfortable and unsafe. Do you have any suggestions to help make all businesses and work environments safer and more supportive atmospheres for all employees?

Thank you,

Dear Robert,

Thanks for writing to Policy Matters! We are glad to hear that your employer has an LGBT inclusive non-discrimination policy ensuring that all employees are valued and respected! It is very troubling that not all work places, including your friend’s, offers such protections that help foster more diverse and inclusive workplaces. Despite the absences of such protections at certain workplaces in Jacksonville, there are several ways you can help make your own work environment and that of your friend more welcoming for all.

Within the next week, the Jacksonville City Council will vote on Human Rights Ordinance 296, a provision that would update an existing Jacksonville anti-discrimination policy to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in housing, employment, public accommodations and credits. There has been much debate surrounding the bill and it has been stalled and altered several times. It is imperative that you express your support for the ordinance by clicking here and telling your council member that you are against LGBT workplace discrimination and expect them to support equality for all residents living in Jacksonville.

In addition to Human Rights Ordinance 296, the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would prohibit employment discrimination against LGBT people across the nation. ENDA has been introduced in every Congress since 1994 but has not yet been passed. Please read more about ENDA and click here to contact your Members of Congress to let them know why a federal anti-discrimination policy is critical.

While policies, at the local, state, and national levels, are very important, there are other ways to create a more welcoming work place where human diversity is celebrated and equality is ensured. You, your friend, and others in your community can request equality training where your coworkers and friends learn about the importance of LGBT equality and mutual respect. Such training can add to existing policies, or work to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace in the absence of such laws.

For example, Straight for Equality, a national outreach and education project of PFLAG National, is offered to workplaces to empower allies in supporting and advocating for LGBT employees. In addition to this training, there are supplemental Straight for Equality resources that invite allies to speak up and participate in supporting equality for all. Hosting a Straight for Equality training in your workplace would help open up dialogue about how everyone in the workplace can help foster a more supportive environment for LGBT employees.

Through supporting each other, educating our community, and advocating for progressive laws and policies, we can work together to create an environment that fosters full equality for all in the workplace. We would love for you to take advantage of these resources and share them with your friend. We look forward to progress in your community of Jacksonville and throughout the nation!

If you have not already done so, find a PFLAG chapter near you for further support and resources.

Thanks for the great question!

Policy Matters

P.S. – Click here to join our PFLAG action e-list to stay informed of when your involvement can make a huge difference!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Be Not Afraid – Help is on the Way! A Message from PFLAG’s National President, Rabbi David Horowitz

PFLAG National President
Rabbi David M. Horowitz
My experience with the civil rights movement of the 1960s (yes, I am that old), makes me realize that the civil rights legislation that ultimately became the law of the land for racial, ethnic, and religious minorities could not have passed without the support of the white majority.   More so, it required a real change in attitude on the part of a number of religious traditions and their support to make it a reality.  So too do I realize that the goal of equality, acceptance, and celebration of committed relationships shared in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community cannot become part of the fabric of our society without the supportive voices of straight allies and members of our religious institutions and faith communities.

It has long been clear to me, both as a PFLAG dad and as a clergy person, that I want that to happen and that, for my child and all of our LGBT loved ones, I need that to happen.   While some faith traditions and religious movements have adopted positions of inclusion, too many others still hold to doctrines that—at best—marginalize and—at worst—demonize our families.  PFLAG, because of its unique family and ally voice, united with the voices of LGBT people, is in a unique position to make that happen.

Therefore, it is with much happiness that I share the news of PFLAG’s newest publication aimed at helping make those changes. be not afraid – help is on the way: straight for equality in faith communities will enable our members and supporters to change the hearts and minds of their co-religionists one at a time, and thus change the world.  I have seen it work with my own eyes.  I have watched as the Straight for EqualityTM approach brought changes to one church, and it is time for us to replicate that success throughout the country, and perhaps the world. 

I invite you to embrace be not afraid…, the web-based resources, and the online training that are now available, and to become part of the voice that will make a change in our faith traditions.

It is already beginning to happen; we can and we will make a difference.