Thursday, October 25, 2012

Maine Marriage Equality Advocates Speak Out

On November 6th, voters in Maine, Maryland, and Washington will vote on marriage equality referendums in their respective states, and in Minnesota, voters have the opportunity to strike down a constitutional amendment that would ban marriage equality in their state. With the election fast approaching, marriage equality supporters are increasingly expressing their views on the upcoming referendums.

In Maine, a marriage equality bill was signed into law in 2009 by then-governor John Baldacci. However, voters repealed the law in a referendum, 53 to 47-percent, reports the New York Times. Three years later, proponents of marriage equality are voicing their support in broad numbers and sharing their reasons for supporting same-sex marriage.

The Boston Globe reports that in Maine, Portland City Council unanimously endorsed the same-sex marriage proposal on the state’s ballot, joining Bangor City Council. Councilor Nick Mavodenes introduced Portland’s resolution, which says that Question 1 allows same-sex couples to receive a marriage license while also protecting religious freedom.

Four volunteer firefighters, three straight and one gay, discuss their bond and how it has led them to support marriage equality. The Advocate reports that in a new 30-second ad for Mainers United for Marriage, a coalition working to pass Maine’s marriage-equality referendum, the men share their experiences. “When we clear a call, I get to go home to my wife,” said Eric Humphrey, a straight firefighter in the ad. “The guys I work with should be able to marry the person they love. We’re voting ‘Yes’ on 1.”

Harlan Gardner, a 90-year-old World War II veteran, also recently made a commercial explaining why he supports marriage equality, states the New York Times. The ad features Gardner with his granddaughter who is a lesbian, Katie Kurtz, and her partner of eight years, Alex. He shares how proud he is of his granddaughter and her partner, and how they and all LGBT individuals deserve the right to marry. “Marriage is too precious a thing not to share,” said Gardner.

An October 10th poll published on ThinkProgress, reports that 56.6-percent of Maine voters support marriage equality, compared to 39-percent who oppose the referendum. As Election Day nears, both sides of this issue are expected to put out more advertisements, hoping to swing the public in their favor.

This diverse support for marriage equality reflects that this is an issue that affects entire communities. We applaud those speaking out for marriage equality and hope their stories will persuade voters to support marriage equality this election season.

To watch the firefighters share their story in the Mainers United in Marriage ad, please click the Play button on the video below.

To watch Harlan Gardner tell his story, please click the Play button on the video below.

Take Action: Between now and November, PFLAG is joining with the United for Marriage coalition to mobilize, creating a simple process for individual PFLAGers and chapters to organize. With Election Day around the corner - and the proven effectiveness of the PFLAG voice to change hearts and minds - you can support the effort in these four states to get election results on the right side of history.

MAKE CALLS! The United for Marriage staff will connect you to a state campaign so you and your group can make phone calls from where you are through virtual phone banks.

TRAVEL!  United for Marriage will help you plan a Volunteer Vacation to one of the four states or a Drive for Marriage weekend road trip to a state near you. Volunteer vacationers travel to Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, or Washington, where they receive a full orientation and training, and then work with a dedicated team on the marriage equality campaign. United for Marriage will work with you and your group to find free housing, and will help you make your travel arrangements and are also working to match people with need with donated airline miles.

Do you live in one of the ballot measure states? You can help by offering to house Volunteer Vacationers! 

DONATE AIRLINE MILES! United for Marriage will help you, your fellow chapter members, and your community supporters donate frequent flyer miles so Volunteer Vacationers can fly to a ballot state for a week…or longer.

This is a pivotal moment in the movement to win the freedom to marry for all loving and committed couples…and our chance to send a strong message that all couples should be able to make a loving and legal commitment to each other and their children.   

Join other PFLAGers: take action now and help all our families win on Election Day.

Thank you for taking action today!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Department of Homeland Security Announces Same-Sex Couples Included in “Family Relationships"

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced in June 2011 that immigration cases that are classified as “low priority” for removal include those with family ties to a U.S. citizen. “In an effort to make clear the definition of the phrase ‘family relationships,’ I have directed [U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE)] to disseminate written guidance to the field that the interpretation of the phrase ‘family relationships’ includes long-term, same-sex partners,” Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano wrote in a memo issued at the end of September.

“This is a huge step forward,” said Rachel Tiven, director of legal advocacy group Immigration Equality. She estimates that there are approximately 36,000 bi-national same-sex couples affected by immigration discrimination in the U.S. “This is the first time the government has recognized in writing that the relationship between a gay American and a gay immigrant is a real and positive factor in an immigration case,” added Tiven.

DHS officials have long stated that same-sex partners will be considered family members under the prosecutorial discretion policy. Despite these promises, the policy was ambiguous and LGBT activists urged for a written statement. More than 80 Democrats wrote a letter to Secretary Napolitano on July 31st stating, “It would be beyond senseless to see LGBT persons with family ties here in the United States deported” because there was no written policy to guide immigration officers on the policy of same-sex relationships.

The New York Times reports that thousands of deportation cases have been closed under prosecutorial discretion. Though this allows immigrants to remain in the U.S., this does not allow them to gain any legal status.

Due to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), same-sex immigrant spouses cannot apply for green cards, permanent resident visas, and they can face deportation. DOMA prohibits U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) from legally recognizing same-sex marriages, even for couples married in states that have legalized same-sex marriage, reports the Huffington Post.

Reason TV recently told the story of U.S. Navy veteran Hope Hall and her partner Nathalie Gaulthier. Gaulthier, an immigrant from Canada, has lived and worked in the U.S. for 17 years, currently running an internationally renowned circus arts school in Los Angeles. Though she runs a successful business, pays taxes to the U.S. government, and has been in a committed relationship for six years, Gaulthier has consistently been denied a green card. She is currently awaiting renewal of her O-1 visa.

“I could just lie to the government and marry a man,” said Gaulthier. “But I don’t want to lie. I want to be honest.”

 “The new guidelines will put in writing a commitment the [Obama] Administration has expressed over the past year,” said Tiven. “Now, the courts and Congress should act to make relief permanent, and provide access to green cards for all LGBT families.” Immigration Equality is now preparing to challenge DOMA in front of the Supreme Court, reports the Huffington Post.

Take Action: It is imperative that we have policies that protect all families. Please click here to contact your elected officials and tell them why you support immigration reform that protects same-sex couples.

To watch Reason TV’s video about Hall and Gaulthier, please click the play button on the video below.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Coming Out As A Straight updated guide!

With National Coming Out Day just two days away, PFLAG National and the HRC Foundation have teamed up to release a comprehensive update of Coming Out as a Straight Supporter.

The resource is intended to be a welcoming guide for straight supporters to build bridges of understanding when someone they know comes out to them. The guide answers initial questions, and shares facts, strategies, and ways to show your support of LGBT equality.

Read and download the guide here. You can also find a variety of other materials for straight allies via PFLAG National's Straight for Equality project.

Click here to learn more!

Monday, October 1, 2012

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

During the month of October we will reflect on the history – and celebrate the accomplishments – of straight allies. When PFLAG founder Jeanne Manford marched with her gay son Morty in 1972 in the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade (a precursor to the Pride Parade) in New York City, she signaled the power family and friends could have for moving equality forward. Carrying a sign that read “Parents of Gays Unite in Support of our Children,” Jeanne sparked the Straight Ally movement and propelled individuals to stand up for their LGBT loved ones. Jeanne truly was the Mother of the Straight Ally movement.

This all came at a time when it was unheard of for straight people to speak up for LGBT equality and openly support their LGBT loved ones. “I didn’t think anything of it, but I guess it was the first time a mother ever stood up publicly and said, ‘Yes, I have a homosexual child,’” reflected Jeanne. From this monumental day and public display of support, PFLAG emerged, offering the first much-needed forum for parents, families, and friends to get and offer support, providing them the education and resources and resources they needed to come out as allies.

For four decades, PFLAG has led the way in helping family and friends of LGBT people stand up for equality. In 2007, PFLAG launched Straight for Equality and took the next step to help a new group of allies – not the family members that PFLAG is known for working with – start coming out as supportive of their gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender friends, acquaintances, and coworkers. Straight for Equality expands the organization’s efforts to include more people in the equality movement than ever before. This national project is designed for straight people who want to participate in the equality movement but are not sure how to start, emphasizing that there are many ways to be an ally; all a person has to do is want to speak up and learn more.

 Straight for Equality offers resources, including workplace, healthcare and faith community trainings, to facilitate an open and honest dialogue about the importance of being an ally, what it means to be an ally, and simple steps anyone can take to advocate for and support equality in their community. This campaign emphasizes that straight allies can set an example for others and help to make sure the next generation is not burdened with the same problems we face today.

As with all civil rights issues, allies are critical to the progress of equality. Allies add power in numbers, offering greater support for LGBT individuals and increasing awareness about issues LGBT people face. Allies are additional voices to stand up against intolerance and express the need for basic rights, including that to love. They also offer a unique perspective to the importance of equality. By advocating for policy changes or new laws that will not directly benefit them, allies convey the message that they are standing up for equality because it is the right thing to do. Straight for Equality works to empower the ally voice and advanced the message of equality far and wide.

We thank Jeanne Manford for igniting the Straight Ally movement, and we celebrate the progress that has been made over the last forty years, including the fantastic work that PFLAG families, friends, and allies continuously do to change hearts and minds and look forward to equality continuing to move forward.

Take Action: To learn more about the history of PFLAG, click here. For more information about the Straight for Equality project, click here and take PFLAG’s Straight for Equality pledge by clicking here.