Friday, August 31, 2012

LGBT and Latino Coalition Forms in Maryland

LGBT and Latino activists have formed a coalition in Maryland in support of two state ballot initiatives: one that would enact marriage equality, and one that would legalize a state version of the Dream Act, making undocumented immigrants eligible for in-state tuition at public colleges and universities in Maryland. Casa de Maryland, Equality Maryland and Latino GLBT History Project have united to promote these groundbreaking initiatives.

“Marriage equality is from our viewpoint a civil rights issue, very similar to immigration reform,” said Gustavo Torres, Casa’s executive director. Though some may consider this to be an unexpected partnership because of perceived negative feelings towards LGBT equality among some conservative Latinos, Torres pointed out that over 60 percent of Latino Catholics support same-sex marriage.


Supporters of marriage equality and the Dream Act are hoping that voters will see the interrelatedness of the issues. Councilwoman Nancy Navarro of Montgomery County District 4, whose brother is gay, stated that the coalition represents “a family values issue.”

Take Action: In addition to Maryland, marriage equality initiatives will be on the ballot this November in Maine, Minnesota, and Washington. If you live in any of these states, it is imperative that you click here, type in your zip code, and send a message to your elected officials letting them know why you support marriage equality.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Recognizing Leadership: Congratulations Jean -Marie!


PFLAG National is proud to partner with many of the corporations leading the way when it comes to diversity, inclusion, and creating GLBT friendly environments for our friends and family. These companies know that workplaces that celebrate diversity are able to recruit and retain top-level talent, are typically more productive, and that an inclusive workplace culture ultimately improves the bottom line. The Straight for Equality project has allowed PFLAG to work with more than 60 companies, organizations, and government agencies over the past five years as they move equality forward for not only their employees but also their customers.

This year we are so excited to announce that Jean-Marie Navetta, Director of Equality and Diversity Partnerships here at PFLAG National, has just been announced as finalist for The Trailblazer Award, which will be presented at this year’s Out and Equal Workplace Summit. The ‘Outie’ Awards are meant to honor individuals and organizations that demonstrate true leadership, innovation, and success in promoting workplace equality. This year she faces some really tough competition and we wish her the best of luck.
Jean-Marie was nominated because of her dedication to the mission of PFLAG and the Straight for Equality project, amongst other things. Since the launch of the Straight for equality project, Jean-Marie has played in integral part in writing each of its staple publications as well as supplemental materials, has helped to develop the Straight for Equality Gala which will celebrate its 5th anniversary this year, and has developed and provided a series of trainings that are designed to invite, educate, and engage straight allies in the movement for equality.

The Out and Equal Workplace Advocates Annual Summit is a one of a kind event for anyone interested in promoting equality in the workplace. It provides an opportunity to showcase those companies working day in and day out to not only change policies but to also create real culture change that not only accepts but celebrates our loved ones. Each year it brings together human resources professionals, diversity and inclusion practitioners, employee resource group members and leaders, and others for multiple days of events, workshops, and networking opportunities. If you are interested in learning more or in registering to attend this year’s summit in Baltimore, MD please check out the summit website: http://outandequal.org/summit-2012

Let us take this opportunity to congratulate Jean-Marie for this honor and to thank her for all that she has given to our organization. We’re keeping our fingers crossed!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

PFLAG Then & Now...40 Years of Family and Ally Voices

August is Back-To-School month, and we're taking a 40th Anniversary look at the history of safe schools work, from support to education to advocacy!

When PFLAG was founded, 40 years ago, its focus was to help parents, families, friends, and allies show support and love for their lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) loved ones. As the organization has grown over the years, it’s been able to expand its mission to include community education and advocacy work, ensuring that all individuals enjoy support, safety, and equal rights in their communities. In recent years, disparities in equality and the need for an accepting community has become more and more apparent in our nation’s schools. According to the GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey, nine out of ten LGBT students experience bullying, harassment, and discrimination in school; actions which can often have severe consequences on these students’ mental health and well being.
                 
When the first small group of parents met back in March 1973, there was rarely any acknowledgement of LGBT students in their educational settings. Homophobia, transphobia  and discrimination were rampant, and it took an unthinkable amount of courage to come out while still in school. In response to this environment of hate, parents, families and allies began working to ensure that students would not have to hide their true identities in order to enjoy a safe learning environment. Through their efforts and the unique family and ally voice of the PFLAG community, progress was made in ensuring the safety of students and acknowledging the need to protect LGBT equality in schools.
                 
PFLAG worked within school systems to erase bullying, harassment, and discrimination. As a result of the work of PFLAG and other like-minded organizations, the culture of bullying in schools slowly began to change.  The first official Gay-Straight Student Alliances were formed in Massachusetts in the late 1980s, and several progressive school systems developed programs, like Project 10 in Los Angeles, CA, to ensure that all of their students, LGBT or not, were getting the education they deserved. In 2000 PFLAG launched their safe schools campaign, now called Cultivating Respect: Safe Schools for All, which succeeded in securing a safer learning environment for many students and raised national attention and awareness to the issue. This campaign includes training for community members and school staff on combating the prevalence of bullying, harassment, and discrimination in their schools. It also provides models to help schools create their own anti-bullying programs and community resources to advocate for the safety of all students. In addition to the safe schools campaign, just last month PFLAG was involved in the historic creation of an anti-bullying caucus (a group of Congress Members united around an issue) in the House of Representatives. PFLAGers have also been deeply involved in advocating for national legislation, like the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act, which will help school districts create policies to adequately address bullying,harassment, and discrimination in their hallways and classrooms. 
                 
Although PFLAGers have been working tirelessly to provide safe and harassment free schools for all members of the PFLAG family, we unfortunately still have a long way to go. There are still far too many students that experience bullying, harassment, discrimination and isolation on a daily basis. This treatment affects their academic performance, social behavior, mental health, and well being. PFLAGers are working within school systems and communities all over the country to provide support for students who are the victims of severe and pervasive bullying. They’re also working to change policies to provide full protection for students and ensure that discrimination is eradicated from the learning environment. There are two pieces of federal legislation—the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act—which require schools to put an end to bullying, harassment, and discrimination towards any and all students. The SSIA requires public schools to implement comprehensive anti-bullying policies in their schools, specifically enumerating sexual orientation and gender identity in their plans. The SNDA would federally prohibit any public school from discriminating, including allowing harassment or bullying against, LGBT students or students who are perceived to be LGBT. 

Take Action: It’s essential to keep working at all levels of government to ensure that each and every student has the safe, healthy and non-discriminatory learning environment that this nation’s  children deserve. Want to ensure that all students have the safe learning environment they deserve? Contact your elected officials and urge them to support legislation, like the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act. You can also contact your local PFLAG chapter to find out about their efforts to provide support to students and advocate for change in your local school system.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Department of Education Hosts Third Annual Anti-Bullying Summit


On Monday, August 6th and Tuesday, August 7th, the Department of Education held its third annual Bullying Prevention Summit. This summit brings together lawmakers, agency officials, advocates, parents, and students to focus on coordinating and increasing anti-bullying efforts around the nation. The severe problem that bullying creates for our nation’s youth was summed up by Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. In her address, she stressed that, “Bullying is not just a harmless rite of passage, or an inevitable part of growing up. It’s a systemic situation that threatens the health and well-being of our young people.  It’s destructive to our communities and devastating to our future.” She also spoke about the need for more research so that bullying in schools can be better understood, and the many consequences it creates more effectively addressed.
This sentiment was echoed around the summit as participants discussed the steps necessary to end bullying and harassment in America’s schools.
The summit included panel discussions on several different elements of anti-bullying campaigns. These included understanding children who bully, supporting suicide prevention strategies, increasing federal resources for building skills in bullying prevention, and creating a kinder and braver world for our youth. There were also several discussions about current anti-bullying efforts, including that of Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way” campaign, and how they can be improved upon to ensure safety for every single student.
The importance of ensuring that every student has the safe and supportive learning environment they deserve was underlined by several of the high-caliber individuals that attended. In addition to HHS Secretary Sebelious, the First Lady of Maryland Katie O’Malley attended, and spoke about several model bullying prevention initiatives that Maryland has adopted, and Representative Mike Honda, the founder of the Congressional Anti-Bullying Caucus, spoke about the need for federal legislation–such as the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA)and the Safe Schools Improvement Act(SSIA)—to require anti-bullying and harassment policies in all of America’s public schools. The SNDA would prohibit all public schools from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender expression in any manner. The SSIA would require school systems to implement anti-bullying policies that ensure the protection of all their students. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan delivered the closing keynote address, applauding the efforts of the many involved to ensure that all students have the safe and healthy school environments they need to promote their academic performance, mental health, and well-being, but also addressing the battle ahead stating, “We have a long way to go and need the help of our federal partners, education leaders, schools, communities, and legislators to assist in [anti-bullying] efforts.”
The summit also included a reveal of the Ad Council and the Free to Be Foundation’s new ad campaign that will soon be launched on Cartoon Network. These ads are aimed at students and their parents, encouraging parents to talk to their children about not being silent bystanders if their peers are being bullied. The ads begin airing in October, and will attempt to counter negative messages that students receive in hostile school learning environments. 
Take Action: It’s essential to keep working at all levels of government to ensure that each and every student has the safe, healthy, and non-discriminatory learning environment that all children deserve. Want to ensure that all students have a safe learning environment? Contact your elected officials and urge them to support legislation, like the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act. You can also contact your local PFLAG chapter to find out about more about PFLAG’s Cultivating Respect: Safe Schools For All program.


Friday, August 3, 2012

PFLAG NATIONAL RESPONDS TO CHICK-FIL-A CONTROVERSY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 3, 2012

Contact: Liz Owen | lowen@pflag.org> | (202) 467-8180 ext. 214

PFLAG NATIONAL RESPONDS TO CHICK-FIL-A CONTROVERSY

WASHINGTON, DC—PFLAG National (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays)—the nation's original family and ally organization, and the largest grassroots-based non-profit for families, friends, and allies of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people—issued the following statement today regarding the recent Chick-fil-A controversy:

“While we find his beliefs and actions to be deeply damaging, PFLAG National supports Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy’s right to freely express those beliefs, religious or otherwise. And no matter how destructive the action, or how much we disagree with it, we support his right to funnel profits from his company into that company’s charitable arm (WinShape) which subsequently donates dollars—over five million of them and counting—to groups that openly work to deny basic rights to our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) loved ones.

But let’s be clear: It is also the right of millions of LGBT people and their families, friends, and allies to use this same right to free speech to protest that position, and to educate the public as to just where the revenue from Mr. Cathy’s business is going.

Dan Cathy may say that his company has never discriminated against an LGBT person, but WinShape’s massive financial contributions to organizations that advocate for the passage of laws that would make such discrimination legal (or in some cases, keep discrimination legal) say otherwise. WinShape has funded numerous organizations that oppose efforts to protect LGBT youth from bullying in schools, support “ex-gay” groups, and bankroll efforts to allow international laws enabling the execution of LGBT people to stand. Educating people as to this reality isn’t about crushing freedom of religion— it is about exercising the right to free speech…just as Mr. Cathy has done.

For many years, anti-equality activists have used boycotts and protests against corporations to voice their opposition to LGBT-inclusive practices. Ironically, when Americans who support equality use this same strategy, it is called discrimination. As this issue continues to be discussed, PFLAG members everywhere will continue to exercise their right to free speech and dialogue, sharing the truth about this situation: Chicken, speech, religion…these are simply a distraction from the real issue: a well-funded campaign against equality for all people.

On behalf of the hundreds of thousands of families, allies, and LGBT people represented by PFLAG, PFLAG National President David M. Horowitz welcomes the opportunity to open a dialogue with Mr. Cathy about these issues.”

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Founded in 1972 with the simple act of a mother publicly supporting her gay son, PFLAG is the original family and ally organization. Made up of parents, families, friends, and straight allies uniting with LGBT people, PFLAG is committed to advancing equality through its mission of support, education and advocacy. Now in its 40th anniversary year, PFLAG has more than 368 chapters and 200,000 supporters crossing multiple generations of American families in major urban centers, small cities, and rural areas in all 50 states. To learn more, please visit http://www.pflag.org.

The Democratic Party Approves Language Endorsing Marriage Equality


Ever since President Obama came out in support of marriage equality in May, there has been a lot of pressure on the Democratic Party to do the same. Well now it seems that party officials may just be giving into that pressure.

Over the weekend at a meeting in Minneapolis, the Democratic Party platform drafting committee approved the first step in amending their party platform’s stance on same-sex marriage. In two weeks, at a meeting scheduled in Detroit, the entire platform committee will then vote on whether to incorporate language that endorses same-sex marriage into their party platform. After that, if the initiative is approved as is expected, it will be voted on by a convention of delegates in Charlotte for final passage in early September.

In a recent article of the Washington Blade, openly gay Rep. Barney Frank, who sits on the committee, discussed the decision to endorse marriage equality:

“I was part of a unanimous decision to include it,” said Frank (D-MA). “There was a unanimous decision in the drafting committee to include it in the platform, which I supported, but everybody was for it.”

Although the language used in the amendment may be altered slightly once the entire platform committee votes on it, party officials do not expect that the amendment will face much difficulty in getting approved. In fact, the vote over the weekend even reiterated the Democratic Party’s opposition to the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which denies federal recognition of same-sex marriages, and support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would prohibit workplace discrimination based on perceived or actual sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

Despite the growing cultural acceptance of marriage equality, the issue remains a difficult one for some Democrats and Republicans alike. Even so, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) made headlines earlier this month when she came out as the first GOP member of Congress to support same-sex marriage.

R. Clarke Cooper, Executive Director of National Log Cabin Republicans, spoke with the Washington Blade about Ros-Lehtinen’s support of marriage equality:

“Marriage is a fundamental right of all Americans,” Cooper said. “It is time that our law respected all marriages. There is much work to be done to make that dream a reality, but with Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen’s leadership, the freedom to marry for all Americans is on the horizon.”

Take Action: Just as President Obama’s announcement in May helped the Democratic Party come out in support of marriage equality, many LGBT advocates are hoping that Rep. Ros-Lehtinen’s announcement will help her fellow Republican members of Congress do the same. Contact your elected officials and tell them that you stand behind bipartisan congressional efforts to support marriage equality. As these monumental decisions have shown, marriage equality is not a partisan issue. It is a human issue. Take action today and help spread the word!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

U.S. District Judge Strikes Down Constitutionality of DOMA


In Hartford, Connecticut on Tuesday, the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) faced yet another challenge. United States District Judge Vanessa L. Bryant issued a 104-page decision declaring that the provision in DOMA that defines marriage as between a man and a woman, thus denying tax, health, and other benefits to married gay couples, violates Americans’ Fifth Amendment right to equal protection.

The case, Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management, involves six married same-sex couples and a widower who sued after being denied federal benefits, even though they were legally wed under state law. The plaintiffs are from the states of Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

Pointing out that “many courts have concluded that homosexuals have suffered a long and significant history of purposeful discrimination,” Judge Bryant wrote that the provision “obligates the federal government to single out a certain category of marriages as excluded from federal recognition, thereby resulting in an inconsistent distribution of federal marital benefits.”

Judge Bryant now joins several other federal judges nationwide who have issued similar decisions striking down the constitutionality of DOMA. In late May, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston also ruled DOMA unconstitutional. Then in early July, the Obama administration made history when it asked the U.S. Supreme Court to settle the legal fights over DOMA as quickly as possible.

Plaintiff Joanne Pederson summed up the feeling of excitement in the courtroom after Judge Bryant made her decision: “I’m thrilled that the court ruled that our marriage commitment should be respected by the federal government just as it is in our home state of Connecticut.”

Take Action: The Defense of Marriage Act has been denying faithful and committed same-sex couples like Joanne Pedersen and her wife 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 Judge Bryant and the Obama Administration in opposition of this unjust and unconstitutional law. All married couples are equal. And they should be treated so by the federal government.