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.

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 www.straightforequality.org, 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 www.straightforequality.org, 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 www.straightforequality.org, 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.

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.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Obama Administration Requests SCOTUS to Rule on DOMA Cases


With five federal courts recently striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) under the constitution, it comes as no surprise that many are expecting the Supreme Court to eventually rule on the constitutionality of the legislation. This expectation was affirmed when the Obama Administration announced late Tuesday evening that it was asking the Supreme Court to hear two cases from gay couples challenging DOMA.

DOMA, which denies federal benefits to married gay couples, has been a hot topic in the LGBT equality movement since its passage back in 1996. Last year, the Obama Administration announced that section 3 of DOMA—which defines the word ‘marriage’ as a legal union between one man and one woman—was unconstitutional. Although it would continue to enforce the law, Obama’s Administration declared that it would no longer defend the law in the courtroom. In response to the administration’s announcement, the House of Representatives replaced the Department of Justice as the defenders of DOMA on behalf of the federal government.

But now, President Obama has taken his opposition to the law one step further. On Tuesday, the Justice Department asked the court to hear an appeal in its next term of lower court rulings which would strike down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act. Unfortunately, this process will be delayed. The earliest the justices might decide to hear the cases is in late September 2012. Since arguments probably wouldn’t occur until the winter, a decision would be returned no earlier than late June 2013. Federal agencies have been instructed by President Obama to continue to enforce the law’s ban on granting federal benefits to married gay couples until there is a final court ruling. This is why the administration wants high court review of the law as soon as possible.

Take Action: The Defense of Marriage Act has been denying faithful and committed same-sex couples the same rights that are given to their heterosexual counterparts. Take action now and click here to urge your members of Congress to stand with the Obama Administration in opposition of this unjust and unconstitutional law. With the Obama Administration’s leadership, the elimination of DOMA may just be within our reach.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Department of Health and Human Services Publishes "Objectives and Accomplishments of LGBT Coordinating Committee"


On Tuesday, June 19th, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published their Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Issues Coordinating Committee Report, which detailed their successes of the past year and goals for the coming one. In 2011 they were successful in advancing the health and wellness of the LGBT community in several fields. HHS has made concerted efforts to include sexual orientation and gender identity in their research and data collection and commissioned a report by the National Institute of Health (NIH) on the state of research and science regarding the health needs of LGBT people. Also, for the first time, a formal group was established to examine scientific literature on LGBT health. The NIH, along with several other organizations, has released funding opportunities focused on LGBT community health organizations.

In regards to LGBT children and families, the HHS worked to encourage welfare agencies, foster and adoptive parents, etc… to ensure that LGBT youth are protected and supported when in foster care. They also issued guidance that states should have the flexibility to extend protection of assets given to married individuals to same-sex domestic partners and that rights should be equal in terms of having a representative who can make medical decisions on behalf of a hospital patient.

HHS also made progress in increasing cultural competency throughout the health care industry. A large grant was given to more than 8,500 community health centers for training on improving the health of LGBT populations. The National Health Service Corps also provided an introduction to culturally competent care and a focus on strategies to ensure better service to the LGBT community. The Center for Abuse Treatment released a publication that informs administrators and clinicians about diagnosis and treatment approaches that ensures the development and enhancement of LGBT-sensitive programs.

The Family Violence Prevention and Services Program published funding opportunities worth $18 million for shelter services for homeless and runaway youth. All applicants for this funding were required to show their ability to adequately train staff on LGBT youth issues and prohibit any harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The HHS held workshops at the first ever White House Conference on LGBT Health and updated its health center program application to include LGBT in populations served. There were also ten grants that focus specifically on LGBT youth suicide prevention. HHS also created the first-ever training on supporting the resettlement of LGBT refugees.  

The Department of HHS has also laid out several objectives to continue this progress through 2012. They are working with NIH to identify gaps in LGBT biomedical research. Additionally, several grants are being offered to build the community health initiatives that have begun. Some will focus on increasing care and awareness of HIV status in transgender colored women, others on innovative ways to reduce obesity in lesbian and bisexual women and still more on assessing the impact that chronic disease prevention programs have on LGBT communities.

The Center for Disease Control is going to release data on sexual violence and intimate partner violence by sexual orientation, and the FDA is planning on launching an advertising campaign focused on youth, specifically LGBT youth, who have a high prevalence of tobacco use. There will also be continued efforts to ensure that primary care practitioners and behavioral health professionals are able to treat their LGBT clients in a culturally competent manner. In addition, guidelines are going to be further established to ensure that programs for runaway and homeless youth are inclusive of and non-discriminatory on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Take Action: It is vital that we share news of the important progress the Department of Health and Human Services has made. Say “Thank you!” to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelious for all of her hard work this past year, and encourage her to keep up the good work in advancing LGBT health initiatives, as well as the cultural competency of health providers. Send Secretary Sebelious a letter to express your appreciation and show your support for her groundbreaking progress!  

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

SLDN and OutServe Combine Forces in Effort to Improve Lives of LGBT Service Members


Just yesterday, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) and OutServe announced their plan to merge the two organizations by October 2012. The organizations, both of which advocate for LGBT service members in the U.S. military, will form a single organization with a new name and newly configured board of directors in order to streamline their equality efforts.

SLDN is a non-profit legal services and policy organization that advocates for LGBT military equality. OutServe, the association of actively-serving LGBT military personnel, began as an underground network of LGBT service members connected through Facebook. The two organizations have worked closely together, and both were essential in the fight to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” In fact, OutServe hosted the first-ever conference of active duty LGBT service members shortly after the repeal of the controversial policy.



SLDN Board of Directors Co-Chairman Mike Magee discussed his organization’s collaboration with OutServe in a news release that announced the merger: “Since repeal [of DADT], we’ve worked even more closely together and in doing so, it has become more and more clear that our shared mission—representing actively serving military and veterans, as well as fighting to achieve full LGBT equality in the military—is better accomplished by uniting the two organizations and working together as one on behalf of the brave men and women of our armed forces.”

This comes down to mission first, just as it always is in the military.  Both of these organizations recognize that they are stronger and more effective together. It is a great day for both organizations and for the LGBT service members and veterans around the world, who need a strong, unified voice speaking for them,agreed Josh Seefried, Co-Founder and Co-Director of OutServe.

This groundbreaking merger sets an interesting precedent for how other organizations may join forces in the future as our movement continues to evolve. We look forward to this unity and the progress it will bring for our men and women in uniform. Equality in the military is a necessity if we are to achieve full equality for LGBT people and their families.

Take Action: SLDN’s and OutServe’s work now center around winning broader rights and benefits for same-sex couples of the military. On June 27th, Representative Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced the Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act. This bill, HR 6046, would provide full military and veteran benefits to married same-sex couples by redefining “spouse” in terms of military benefits in such a way that would adhere to the state law where the couple got married. HR 6046 would end discrimination and promote equality for LGBT service members and their families. It is essential that you click here to tell your members of Congress that you support this legislation and the progress it will mean for the American military. The brave LGBT service members of the U.S. military risk their lives every day to fight for our country. Let’s show them how much we appreciate their efforts and speak out on their behalf. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Update on Jacksonville, Florida’s Proposed Anti-Discrimination Ordinance


The proposed anti-discrimination ordinance in Jacksonville, Florida, Human Rights Ordinance 296, stalled in City Council last week and will not be reviewed again until at least July 16th. Human Rights Ordinance 296 would alter the wording of an existing Jacksonville anti-discrimination policy to include LGBT people. In its original form, the ordinance would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, employment, and access to private business.

The bill has been a topic of heated debate since it was introduced in May. Those opposed to the ordinance, such as Attorney Roger Gannum and Senate candidate Aaron Bean, claim that it will violate the liberty of businesses and religious leaders, and open up companies to a flood of lawsuits. Despite this claim, the Jacksonville Civic Council, composed of 55 corporations and 41,000 employees in the city, expressed overwhelming support for the provision and said that it will create a “business-friendly” environment in Jacksonville. Similarly, 25 religious leaders in Jacksonville wrote a letter to Mayor Alvin Brown urging him to support Human Rights Ordinance 296.

On June 12th, City Council President Stephen Joost, expressed interest in having the bill voted on before the end of his term on June 30th. However, last week the two City Council committees reviewing the bill, the Rules Committee and the Community Development, Public Health and Safety Committee, failed to make a decision about the ordinance, thus postponing action on the bill until the committee reconvenes in mid-July. “It got put at the end of the agenda today, it was at the end of the agenda two weeks ago. It gets what time is left and that’s probably not fair,” said Rules Committee vice chair John Crescembeni. The ordinance cannot be voted on by City Council until both committees pass it.

There will be new City Council members the next time the bill is under review. Three Rules Committee members are leaving the committee, including the chair, Bill Bishop. Replacing Bishop is Clay Yarborough, an open opponent of the anti-discrimination ordinance. Yarborough claims that he has received 1,600 emails from people in favor of protections for LGBT anti-discrimination, and 3,200 from those against it.

Councilman Warren Jones, the bill’s sponsor, recently offered a provision to the bill that would remove “gender identity or expression” from the proposed ordinance. This revision was introduced to encourage support for the bill by limiting its scope to only prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. Nonetheless, it does not seem like this alteration will help the progression of the bill due to the lack of support within the City Council for any part of the ordinance.

Take Action: If you live in Jacksonville, it is imperative that you express your support for Human Rights Ordinance 296 by clicking here. Tell your representatives that you are against LGBT workplace discrimination, and help prevent City Council from continuing to stall or alter this critical bill.