Friday, February 15, 2013

President Obama Awards Jeanne Manford Presidential Citizens Medal



This morning at the White House, President Obama awarded the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal to PFLAG founder Jeanne Manford. Mrs. Manford’s daughter, Suzanne Swan, accepted the award on behalf of her mother, who passed away last month, at the age of 92.

“When Jeanne Manford learned that her son Morty had been badly beaten up at a gay rights demonstration, nobody would have faulted her for bringing him home, holding him close, and just focusing on her child,” said President Obama.  “But instead...she took to the streets with a simple message: No matter who her son was, no matter who he loved, she loved him.”

The President personally selected Mrs. Manford as one of the 18 recipients of the medal, which is the second-highest civilian award in our country, and recognizes individuals “whose service has had a sustained impact on others’ lives and provided inspiration for others to serve.” 

Today’s ceremony marks only the second time an individual has been honored for advancing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights.

President Obama presents posthumous award to
 Suzanne Swan on behalf of her mother,
Jeanne Manford
Upon the presentation of the medal to Suzanne, the President’s military aid announced,

“For insisting that equality knows no bounds of sexual orientation or gender identity, the United States honors Jeanne Manford.”

This is an extraordinary and unprecedented honor for Jeanne Manford, her family, and PFLAG members and supporters everywhere. The message is powerful: the voices of parents, family members, friends, and straight allies, united with the voice of LGBT people, is critical to the advancement of acceptance and equality.

And that love always wins.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

PFLAG National To Honor NFL’s Ayanbadejo and Kluwe, Author John Irving with Straight for Equality Awards at Fifth Annual Gala

Brendon Ayanbadejo
Washington, DC—PFLAG National—the nation's largest grassroots-based non-profit for families, friends, and straight allies of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people—will honor NFL players Brendon Ayanbadejo of the Superbowl Championship-winning Baltimore Ravens and Chris Kluwe of the Minnesota Vikings (Straight for Equality in Sports), and award-winning author John Irving (Straight for Equality in Literature) at the fifth annual Straight for Equality Awards Gala.  The evening will be hosted by comedian/writer/producer Lizz Winstead, co-creator of THE DAILY SHOW and co-founder of AIR AMERICA radio. Additional honorees will be named in coming weeks. 
“While the last year has been a turning point in moving equality forward for GLBT people, these three men have been at the forefront of their respective fields for years, paving the way for others to speak out,” said PFLAG National Executive Director Jody M. Huckaby. “To have not one but two NFL players speaking out in such an impassioned way—not to mention using the Superbowl as a platform to move this conversation forward—is a major milestone in major league sports in this country. And Mr. Irving has been writing about the lives of GLBT people for years…long before his own son came out to him.”

Straight for Equality—a national outreach and education project created by PFLAG National— focuses on the next generation of straight allies joining together with GLBT people in the effort to achieve equality for all. 

Straight for Equality Awards are presented to individuals who are transforming the way that GLBT people are understood and treated, using their talents and platforms in their respective fields to empower others to become engaged and outspoken allies for GLBT equality.

John Irving
Of accepting the award, Literature honoree Irving said, “When I wrote THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP (1978), I thought I was done with the subject of intolerance of our sexual differences; I believed that acceptance of sexual minorities was right around the corner, and that sexual intolerance would soon fade away.  But with IN ONE PERSON (2012), I was once more making a plea for sexual tolerance; the hero of this novel is a bisexual man—the people he heroizes are two transgender women.  How lucky I am to have a gay son.  When he was nineteen, my son Everett was the ideal first reader for IN ONE PERSON—someone I love, someone I’m proud of, and someone who’s proud of me.  And I’m very proud to be receiving a Straight for Equality Award, very honored to be in the company of the other honorees.”

Chris Kluwe
Sports honoree Kluwe echoeds Irving’s sentiments stating, “I'm greatly honored to be accepting the Straight for Equality in Sports Award. But at the same time the feeling is bittersweet, because all I did is what anyone else would do – the right thing. Hopefully one day we will no longer need to have award ceremonies for acting like a human being, because treating each other with empathy and respect will be the accepted norm.”

The Fifth Annual Straight for Equality Awards Gala will be held on Thursday, April 4th in New York City at the Marriott Marquis Times Square. Tickets are available by visiting www.straightforequality.org/2013gala.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Jeanne Manford to Receive Nation's Second Highest Honor, The 2012 Presidential Citizen's Medal


The Mother of the Straight Ally Movement Inspired
Parents, Families, Friends and Straight Allies of LGBT People Everywhere

Today we honor our founder, Jeanne Manford, who will be posthumously awarded the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal by President Obama at a White House ceremony on Friday, February 15th. Mrs. Manford passed away on January 8th of this year, at the age of 92.

“When Jeanne Manford publicly stood up for her gay son in 1972, she had no idea that her actions would spark a movement that would change the lives of so many individuals and families,” said PFLAG National Executive Director Jody M. Huckaby.  “It started out as a simple act of love, but Jeanne’s legacy lives on, as straight allies continue to stand alongside their LGBT loved ones, united by their collective belief in a better—and more equal—tomorrow. Her voice has been joined by millions of others who have raised their voices and will continue to do so in support of acceptance, fairness, and equality.”

“I was able to share the news of this honor with my mom before she left us and I only wish the President could have seen the amazing smile that spread across her face,” said Suzanne Manford Swan, daughter of the late Jeanne Manford. “My family is deeply touched by this honor and to represent the PFLAG family values of love and acceptance.”

The Presidential Citizens Medal recognizes Americans who have “performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens.”  It is the second-highest civilian award in the U.S., second only to the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  Past honorees include well-known names like Muhammad Ali and Hank Aaron, and other heroes of the LGBT movement like Janice Langbehn for her efforts for all Americans to be treated equally when it comes to visiting their loved ones in the hospital. The medal will be presented at a ceremony at the White House on February 15, and accepted on her behalf by her daughter.

Civil Disobedience in the LGBT Movement

Today we hear from Jamie Henkel, Coordinator for Equality & Diversity Partnerships.

Jamie Henkel

Last month, we reflected on the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., how he has impacted us and the work that we do. Civil disobedience has become a big part of the fight for LGBT equality and we have a variety of examples that show some of the ways that that Dr. King’s vision remain alive and well in our struggle.

One of the most inspirational projects that I have seen in recent years has been the Campaign for Southern Equality WE DO Campaign.   Since 2011 approximately 70 couples have gone to request marriage licenses, knowing that they will be denied, in communities throughout the South.  These coordinated efforts help to raise awareness about LGBT issues and to stand up against unjust laws in their states.  This campaign has inspired action in towns with less than 500 residents and in large metropolitan areas. With the help of CSE, most requests are filmed and then posted to YouTube and other social media outlets. To date these videos have more than 1 million views. 

If you haven’t had the chance to see them you can find examples here. The WE DO Campaign has also received media coverage from local, national, and international news outlets. The couples involved are young and old. They represent diverse ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds. Some were born and raised in the south and some have only lived there for a few years. The one thing they have in common is that their relationships are not and can not be legally recognized by their state government.

Another project that comes to mind is the SoulForce Equality Ride. Since 2006, the Equality Ride has taken students on a cross country trip that takes them to universities, cultural institutions, and places of worship where they talk to leadership about LGBT issues. Inspired by the Freedom Rides of the 1960’s SoulForce has organized rides in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2012. All participants are trained in non-violence and political organizing & activism. Each participant selects a city and is then responsible for organizing the group’s time in that city. 

Most visits include meetings with local universities, a community service project, social events for students and/or LGBT organizations, and more. Each year has been unique and action-packed. In 2012 they clashed with the “Rick Bus” (a group of conservative women campaigning for Rick Santorum during the Republican primaries) in Atlanta. They were arrested trying to enter the campus of Colorado Christian University to participate in a Bible study group.  Just a few days later they caused controversy when they visited Focus on the Family headquarters in Colorado. They made big news when they met with LDS officials. You can read about this and all of their other adventures in the 2012 Equality Ride Report here.

By standing up to unjust laws, policies, and practices these activists bring attention to issues like marriage inequality, workplace discrimination, and anti-LGBT bullying & harassment. Additionally, they make the people around them think about the many other challenges faced by our families, friends, coworkers, and classmates every day. Their actions are brave. I am honored to be a part of the movement to which they have dedicated their time, passion, and hearts. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

PFLAG National Statement: Boy Scouts of America Delay Decision On National Policy Change on Inclusiveness



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 6, 2013
Liz Owen | lowen@pflag.org | (323) 404 - 3185


Boy Scouts of America Delay Decision On National Policy Change on Inclusiveness

WASHINGTON – PFLAG National—the nation's largest organization for families, friends and allies of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people– has issued from its Executive Director, Jody Huckaby, the following statement today regarding the Boy Scouts of America’s decision to delay their decision on changing their national policy on allowing gay members and scout leaders:

“To delay today’s decision leaves in place a scouting policy that sends the wrong message that discrimination is acceptable anywhere in our country. We invite national scout leaders to use this time to meet with PFLAG parents and their LGBT loved ones, who can speak both to the simplicity of the need for inclusiveness as well as the simultaneous complexity of the issue.

Ultimately, we know that the tides in this country are overwhelmingly shifting towards full equality, and that the BSA leadership will see in these young people and leaders, if they do not know them already, all of the same values and traits that every scout must embody: trustworthiness, loyalty, helpfulness, friendliness, courteousness, kindness, obedience, cheerfulness, thriftiness, bravery, cleanliness, and reverence. We believe this level of education by BSA leadership will result in agreement with PFLAG that all kids have access and opportunity to the Boy Scout experience.

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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 straight ally organization. Made up of parents, families, friends, and straight allies uniting with LGBT people, PFLAG is committed to advancing equality and acceptance through its mission of support, education and advocacy. Now in its 40th year, PFLAG has more than 350 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 www.pflag.org. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Tell the Boy Scouts That The Time For Discrimination Is OVER!

We need PFLAG members and supporters to weigh in and point out the obvious to the Boy Scouts of America: all kids who want to participate in Boy Scouts should be able to.

Show strong values and strong leadership by letting ALL kids become scouts!
Inclusive Scouting Shows
TRUE Character and Leadership!
Earlier this week, the BSA shared that they were considering a policy change. What seemed like a sea change made barely a ripple in the waters of equality for young LGBT youth, however, as the current “No Gays” national policy would instead be a “Gays, But Only If You Want Them In Your Troop” policy. 

Of course, it didn’t take long for the people who hate our kids simply for being who they are to weigh in. The Family Research Council says that “…homosexual activists will not be satisfied until religion and morality are bygones of the Scouting era…” while Americans for Truth About Homosexuality says “…parents do NOT want sexually-confused (openly ‘gay”) boys spreading the message of “out and proud” homosexuality in their son’s troop.” And American Family Association’s Buster Wilson attempted to disguise his two cents as genuine concern, wondering, “…what could happen when you place a gay kid in a group of straight kids in a closed environment such as Scouting: is there not an increased worry of bullying and rejection?” Buster, if you’re that concerned, how about sending a message to the bullies that their behavior won’t be tolerated?

It is easy to dismiss the absurdity of these statements, but we must counter them and have the PFLAG voice heard!

If this policy change goes forward, there will be Boy Scout troops all over the country whose leaders will adopt inclusive nondiscrimination measurements, living up to the BSA values of loyalty, helpfulness, friendliness, courteousness, and kindness; we commend those leaders.

Sadly, however, there will also be troop that will decide to keep this discriminatory and hurtful policy in place…which means that countless boys—not to mention gay parents—will not have the opportunity to participate in the scouts. These kids and their parents will be told once again that they are still not welcome – but this time it will be worse, because rather than that decision coming down from a faceless, nameless Board of Directors, it will come from the people in their own communities: their schools, their churches, their sports clubs; yes, this will be a community affirmation that who they are is not good enough. And not welcome.

So contact the Boy Scouts of America now and tell them that our kids uphold the same values that every scout pledges to uphold – don’t exclude children from a valuable experience because of who they are; it goes against everything scouting is supposed to stand for.

Make your voice heard! Because here at PFLAG, we look out for all kids, not just our own!

Contact The Boy Scouts of America:

By Phone: (972) 580-2000

A Look Back: Full History...Full Inclusion

Today we kick off Black History/African American History Month with a look back at a blog entry from Robby Gregg, PFLAG National's Associate Director of Equality & Diversity Partnerships.

As a child I can remember looking forward to Black History now simultaneously called African American History Month.  It was a time of conversations, or reports about famous black people and their contributions to humankind.   I am reminded of the programs that would go on and the attention that was given to sharing the struggles and success of a group of people that although black, were always  Americans.

I have spent a good part of my adult life studying inclusion. As Dr. Maya Angelou suggests in her poem,Human Family, “we are more alike my friend, than we are unlike.”   How then have we come to differentiate American history with  respect to race? In the work that I do as a diversity practitioner, we sometimes suggest that the goal is to work ourselves out of a job.  With that suggestion comes the realization that we would no longer need to accentuate our differences and seek to understand similarities because they would have all been integrated.

I think the same thing might be said about our need for a period of time dedicated to the discovery, conversation, and sometimes lively debate around those individuals whom, for one reason or another, have not been included in our history records of note.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to move beyond what we think we know and be willing to move into an area of the unknown and sometimes mysterious?

I recently attended a pre-opening reception for the National Museum of African American History and Culture slated for construction on the Mall in Washington, D.C. in 2012.  At the reception, there was an exhibit called, Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello…A Paradox of Liberty. The exhibit showcased the paradox of the American Revolution and the fight for liberty in an era of pervasive slavery.  The work examines the dilemma of slavery in the United States as well as the lives of the enslaved.  It’s serves as a reminder of the duality that exists in our lives. In fact, Jefferson was a man who believed that liberty and equality were human rights, yet he was actually a slave owner himself.  

This year I invite you to have the courage to share a story, or experience that brings the importance of understanding our black or brown brothers and sisters as we all try to be better stewards of the promise of liberty and equality for all. Remember, in the words of Dr. Angelou, “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”  Until the time that we have so integrated  African American or Black History into our collective history/herstory – just like the diversity work I do – we will continue to acknowledge difference until full inclusion is the standard of the day.