Friday, February 27, 2009

Equality in the News: Feb. 20 - Feb. 27, 2009

We picked an exciting week to start blogging about local media coverage. With the introduction of the Marriage Discrimination Amendment (have you taken action yet?), the HRC Gala dinner last Saturday and TransAction! Day, the state has been atwitter. Here's what they're saying about...

The Marriage Discrimination Amendment
  • First things first - if you missed the anti-LGBT press conference on Tuesday, WRAL still has it available for viewing on their website.
  • Of course, our friends at Q-Notes were well aware of the amendment's introduction and you can read their article here.
  • The Charlotte Observer covered it as well, and included an alarming quote from Gaston County Sen. Jim Forrester: "Moms and Dads are not interchangeable."
  • Gaston County's not all bad, of course, and their coverage featured a quote from our very own Ian Palmquist. In fact, it's a similar quote that was featured in the Burlington Times News' coverage.
  • We can't forget about our friends in Western, NC - and they were all over it as well, with this article from the Asheville Citizen Times.
  • News 14's coverage featured an interesting quote from Ana McKay, who attended the press conference in support of her gay son's rights.
  • Greensboro's News & Record opted to go a little more in depth about the timing of this bill's filing, and their blog had more to say.
  • We can always count on Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend to be on top of things, and be a supportive voice for our community and work, and she didn't let us down with her coverage.
  • Ruth Sheehan of the Raleigh News & Observer has a bit to say to the Bishops who attended the press conference.
Gay Ordinations for Presbyterians
TransAction! Day
  • An initiative of GLSEN, you can read more about this day and what's being said about it over at Pam's blog.
Human Rights Campaign's Gala in Charlotte
  • Kay Hagan, our newly elected Senator, spoke at the Gala and the Charlotte Observer consulted us for our thoughts. You can read that article here.

Phew! That about covers it for us this week. There will surely be a lot of hubbub next week too, when Marriage Discrimination Amendment supporters will gather to rally in Raleigh on March 3rd. Try not to think about that, though, and enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, February 26, 2009


As February comes to a close, I wanted to take a moment to note Black History Month. Any acknowledgment of minorities is particularly relevant to the LGBT community, simply because we're a minority group ourselves. What could be further marginalizing than to be a member of a minority group within a minority group?

February 7 was National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. It's organized by several national organizations working in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's goal is "to mobilize communities and address specific issues in regards to local epidemics and best practices that are science-based and will influence the course of HIV in Black communities across our country."

I'm embarrassed to admit that I hadn't even known this day existed until this year. The first person I ever knew who had HIV/AIDS was a young black man named Donnie who was a friend and co-worker of my Mom's when I was a young kid. He acted as a mentor and Big Brother (tm) to me starting when I was eight. He was a great guy who spent a ton of time teaching me stuff, taking me places, and just generally being around for me. He died of HIV-related illnesses before I was 13.

I also wanted to use this opportunity to highlight people of color within our state's community. Black History Month is notable for LBGT North Carolinians because North Carolina is home to several nationally renown gay leaders who are people of color. Here are two names that you'll probably recognize:

Mandy Carter is a self-described "out, southern, black, lesbian, social justice activist" who has been working in multi-issue and multi-racial grassroots organizing for over 40 years.

She is a former Executive Director and one of the six co-founders of the Durham-based Southerners On New Ground (SONG). SONG was founded at the 1993 NGLTF Creating Change Conference in Durham, and its purpose is to build progressive movements in the South by organizing in ways that connect race, class, culture, gender, and sexuality identity.

Mandy has been a member of the Democratic National Committee, and a member of both the DNC Gay and Lesbian Caucus and the DNC Black Caucus. She is involved with The National Black Justice Coalition.

Pam Spaulding is on the cutting edge of new media, being the editor and publisher of Pam's House Blend target. The Blend was honored as "Best LGBT Blog" in the 2005 and 2006 Weblog Awards.

Pam is also a board member of The Institute of Southern Studies, which publishes the award-winning investigative journalism publication Southern Exposure, and the blog Facing South.

The Blend received credentials to cover the 2008 Democratic National Convention as part of the general press pool.

Pam works at Duke and lives in Durham, NC with her wife, Kate, (legally married in Vancouver in 2004) and their two dogs.

Mandy and Pam have both been amazing activists nationally and locally, and both have been great assets to Equality NC.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Blog Changes

We've decided to move our blog over here to Blogspot to take advantage of some cool features they offer. We'll be moving our archive of old posts over here, but it's a cumbersome process, so bear with us as they are moved. Until then you can still look at our old posts here.

We've also enabled comments, so please, weigh in and let us know what you think!

We're also moving to a new schedule, with posts a least every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Starting this Friday we'll be launching a new weekly feature rounding up news coverage of our issues and Equality NC from papers, television, radio and blogs around the state.

Monday, February 23, 2009

NC Public Supports Compromise Sex Ed Bill

I was encouraged this morning to see a new poll that confirms what we already believed: most people want the option for their kids to get comprehensive sex education in school. The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling, shows that 69% of North Carolina voters support the Health Youth Act, which would require to schools to offer both abstinence-only and abstinence-based comprehensive sex education and let parents decide. Even majorities of conservative and Republican voters support the bill.

You can read more about the poll here.

This proves yet again that a very small minority has been forcing their values on the majority with inaccurate and incomplete abstinence-only sex education.

You know, I'm actually disappointed by the Healthy Youth Act--it doesn't go nearly as far as I think it should in an ideal world.

I believe all young people should get complete and accurate comprehensive sex education that encourages abstinence but also teaches contraception and disease prevention strategies. Since a majority of young people do start having sex before the graduate, this seems like a no-brainer. I'd like to see these horrible, medically inaccurate and often homophobic abstinence-only curricula sent to the dump.

Yet, despite most parents wanting comprehensive sex education (as previous studies have shown), it's become clear that there just aren't enough legislators with the will to end the abstinence-only debacle. That makes the Healthy Youth Act a worthy compromise.

While it doesn't get proven, real sex ed to every student, it will get it to a whole lot more than have it now. New Hanover County--hardly a bastion of liberalism--has tried a similar two-track system and found that the vast majority of parents choose comprehensive when given a choice.

If a small minority of parents prefer a curriculum that lies to young people and denies them accurate information, they could still choose that for their (unfortunate) kids under the Healthy Youth Act. But it's high time we stopped letting them hijack our schools and risk the lives of everyone else's children.

-Ian Palmquist

Preaching Hate

Right-wing evangelical groups called on church leaders across North Carolina to denounce marriage equality from their pulpits this past Sunday. Don't they have better things to do like help parishioners who have lost their jobs or make sure food pantries are stocked? I don't get it.

What I really don't get is why gay marriage is such a visceral threat to them. Where is the evidence anywhere that gay marriage harms anyone? And why are social conservatives who don't believe that government should interfere in private life so willing to compromise their own principles? Not to mention that during this time of economic meltdown, they're more than willing to make North Carolina spend upwards of $3 million to implement a marriage amendment. Just think of what we could do with $3 million to help people right now!

This doesn't even count the estimated $2-3 million we'd be forced to raise trying to fight off an amendment. The fact is, we could raise $5 million and it still wouldn't be enough ($43 million wasn't enough in California). The fact is, you can't vote on people's inalienable human rights. You can't legislate hate and you certainly shouldn't preach it.

I just find it absolutely chilling that I might drive by a church this Sunday where all God's children are equal except those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

-Kay Flaminio

Monday, February 16, 2009

Equality NC at HK on J: Historic Thousands on Jones Street

Staff, interns, and volunteers represented Equality North Carolina at the HKonJ march and rally in Raleigh on February 14, 2009. We worked collectively to get hundreds of postcards signed in support of the School Violence Prevention Act and marched with other progressive organizations from around the state in support of the 14-point people's agenda.

The people's agenda supports better schools and health care, equal justice, affordable housing, worker fairness, voting rights, environmental justice, and more.

As single-identity groups continue to define the majority of advocacy groups, it is important for progressive groups to come together and advocate through broad based coalitions like HKonJ.

While I looked out over the crowd on Saturday it was great to see other coalition partners that will be instrumental in helping us pass the School Violence Prevention Act. Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Arc of North Carolina were just a few of the groups in attendance that will once again be instrumental in advocating for the School Violence Prevention Act.

A friend of mine who works with the Disabled Young People's Collective came up to me at end of the march and said, "Hey Stephen, let's get together and talk about the ENC lobby day. You know the bullying bill helps us out too."

Even as we move within the world of identity politics, I hope we can remember to stop and have those conversations about how we can help each other out too.

-Stephen Wiseman

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New Intern Brings A Public Health Perspective to ENC's Work

Equality NC is please to have Greer Cook working with us this spring to pass the School Violence Prevention Act. Greer introduces herself in the post below.

Greer - This is your new Public Health Education intern, Greer. I am finishing up my Masters in Public Health at UNCG and I am very happy to be here at Equality North Carolina so that I can to put my newly acquired knowledge to practice.

Not only is Equality North Carolina a wonderful place to work, but their mission is akin to my visions of creating change and improving the health and well-being of GLBT populations.

I have focused my research on GLBT issues, specifically transgender HIV prevention programs and disclosure of HIV+ status among youth. I became actively involved with Equality NC last spring by advocating for the School Violence Prevention Act (SVPA), and I am back to spread the word again!

BullyingAs you all probably know, the SVPA will be reintroduced this spring and ENC is currently working on their second postcard campaign for the bill. In preparation for the 2009 legislative session, I have been researching bullying statistics to bring the most current information to the town hall meetings that are being held around the state.

Rebecca Mann, Community Organizer with Equality North Carolina is traveling around the state to educate communities about the SVPA this spring, and I will be there as well.

Additionally, we will be updating fact sheets about issues that directly affect you related to job discrimination, equal marriage/relationship recognition, and sexuality education just to name a few.

Being an ally is important to me because I have witnessed the negative effects that result from society’s failure to understand that identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender is an innate characteristic and not a “choice.” As an ally, I am deeply committed to securing your rights alongside Equality North Carolina by advocating for equality and justice.

-Greer Cook

Monday, February 9, 2009

Be Mine

Kid, partner, and I are on p. 32 of this week's issue of "The Independent," the Triangle area's local free weekly liberal tabloid.

Craig, Isaiah, and Shawn family pictureWe're being featured in a special Valentine's Day column called "The Gift of Love."

A few weeks ago, the paper invited folks to send in their love stories, along with a picture, saying they'd pick some to run the week before and after February 14.

(I'd hoped to include a link, but unfortunately I couldn't find this special column on their website. Hardcopies are distributed far and wide, though, and I have plenty of copies that I'd love to share. I did include the picture here.)

Now, I figured we had a good shot, beyond simply being a gay couple with kid trying to get into a progressive free newspaper. Craig and I actually met through the Indy's personal ads 15 years ago, back in the heyday of printed "Men Seeking Men" personals. I thought having that connection would be enough to make us a shoo-in.

Now, I'd love to say that I sent in our picture and blurb because I wanted to be sure a gay couple was showcased, to show that we're out there, just regular, ordinary folks.

I remember the first time I saw a gay couple with a child on television. It was stunning to me, as a young gay, to see this image of nuclear-family normality. When I was growing up, gays were often portrayed as unstable and wild. A single photo of a plain gay family did more for me to destroy that lie than my own reasoning brain could. Visibility does make a huge difference.

I'd love to say that I wanted the picture of my family to serve the same function for some other person.

I didn't, and that's not why I sent it in.

I'd love to say it was part of an elaborate Valentine's Day surprise for my partner, a token of enduring love and affection. It wasn't.

I did it because of the little guy in the picture, the one between me and Craig. The night the paper came out, at bedtime after I tucked him in, I said, "Oh, by the way, you'll never guess what I saw today." Then I flipped open the paper, showed him the picture, and read the entry to him.

His little hands flew to the side of his face, and he said "That's us! We're in the paper."

"That's right, Buddy. You're famous. I don't know how we got so lucky to get The Best Kid in the World (tm) in our lives, but now other people can see it to."

He was happy and smiling and overwhelmed. "I love you, Pa."

And that's why I did it. It was a gesture of love for my son.

I hope it does those other things, too, but that joy from my kid is all I really wanted. Love comes in many forms, and that's what Valentine's Day is about.

-Shawn Long

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Meet Our New Communications Fellow

Our new Communications Fellow, Wes Nemenz, is on board and ready to take Equality NC's communications to a new level! He introduces himself in the post below.

Greetings from Equality NC! This is your new Communications fellow, Wes. Before I spill the beans on all of the exciting plans we have coming up, I wanted to take a minute to introduce myself and let everyone know a bit about me. I graduated from UNCG last May with a degree in (drumroll please....) Communication Studies! While I was there, I put a lot of focus into media studies and public relations. I was lucky enough to benefit from the instruction and guidance of some wonderful professors there who really inspired me to use my new skills to more effectively create change in the world. I feel so lucky to be involved in such a powerful organization working to create real change in our state. Now, onto the good stuff...

As some of you may have already noticed, we're working hard on creating a stronger presence on Facebook, and one that works with what we're trying to do. If you haven't become a Fan of us yet, click here and add us! The fan page is just another way for us to open our line of communication with you, but in the future, we hope it becomes a nice little hub for people to use, share, and interact regarding all things equality. In addition to Facebook, we're also updating our MySpace page and we've created a YouTube account. What's exciting about YouTube is that it allows us to share important multimedia and videos with you and with others all over the world in a visual way that many in our movement are just starting to catch on to.

Last but not least, you'll be noticing some changes on the website very soon. We realize that there are some minor functionality issues, and we should have a much cleaner, more effective website coming your way in the next few months.

Everyone has been so kind around the office here, and it's been so eye-opening to see how hard everyone is working on behalf of you. It's a world I almost never knew existed, and I'm so glad to be a part of it. I look forward to meeting you all at some point or another. I'll be traveling around to some of the Town Hall meetings with my video camera looking for your stories on bullying, so come ready to share! Until then... Here's to broadening our communication in 2009!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Family Bowling

Last week, kid, partner, and I joined a bunch of other gay parents and their kids for a bowling outing in North Raleigh.

We had about 23 people attend. I organized the event through the Triangle Families Yahoo group and the Gay Dads subgroup.

It was mostly gay dads and their children, but there were a couple of lesbians (sans partners) and their kids.

The kids all got to bowl on one lane with bumpers, while the adults split into groups and took two lanes. Eventually we split the kids into two groups, too.

Children in general are agents of chaos, but when you add in the noise and activity of bowling, you get a sense of what true madness is. Still and all, it was a fun time, and despite the occasional hurling of a ball across lanes or climbing on top of the electronic scoring podium, everyone survived unharmed.

Three things of note:

  • I was referred to when I was setting up the meeting, and I discovered that there are several gay groups in the Triangle area that are listed there. I posted this bowling event to the Raleigh/Cary Gay Parents Meetup group and got several new folks to respond.
  • At least half of the people who came were totally new-to-me, and three sets of new folks were gay dad couples with kids. All three of the couples had had children through previous marriages (to women!), but had then come out and were now in a gay relationship and time-sharing the kids with their previous spouses. "How novel," I thought, "these nouveau gays having kids the old-fashioned way!"
  • When I called the bowling alley, Buffalo Lanes North, near Triangle Town Center, I asked about space for a group of gay parents and their kids. The two people I spoke with, one young women and one guy, were helpful and friendly. They were completely blase about the fact that we were gay parents with kids. Similarly, the folks I dealt with in person at the bowling alley were also the picture of respect and helpfulness. No one blinked an eye at gay families being out and having fun.

In addition to bowling, there was also much talking and soclializing (including comments on bowling's fashionable footwear), as well as mass consumption of soda, fries, and pizza, and lots of video game and air hockey playing.

As a kid, I never would've imagined there being an outing like this. It was one small meeting for a group of gay parents, but it was indicative of a great leap forward for all family (and "family") kind.