Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Au Revoir, Our Intern ... To Trans Equality and Beyond!

By Stephen Wiseman, ENC intern

When I came to Equality North Carolina last summer, I never imagined what an incredible experience I would have over the next year.

On my first visit to Raleigh, I met with Ian Palmquist and Josh Wynne and discussed ideas around better involving transgender individuals in the organization through community outreach and policy work. I was quickly welcomed with warm arms into the organization and was able to spend time at the legislature with Ian, Josh, Nicole, and others to learn the inner workings of the state legislative process.

After working with the organization for about a month, Ian and I found a way for me to stay on over the next year and complete my second year field placement through the UNC School of Social Work with ENC. What happened over the next year proved to be one of the greatest learning experiences of my life. I feel so privileged to have worked with a state LGBT organization that has such a strong commitment to advocate for all individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. Through my work with ENC I learned invaluable skills and made connections with individuals that will certainly influence all of my future endeavors.

Perhaps the best part of my experience with ENC is the lasting friendships I made. Ian, Josh, Rebecca, Shawn, Kay, Nicole, Seth, Wes, Greer, and many members of the board have opened my eyes to new learning and I am thankful to know each of them. I also feel incredibly lucky to have met so many remarkable members of the transgender community in North Carolina. I am inspired daily by each of their lives and will continue to work to achieve equality and justice for transgender and gender nonconforming individuals with their stories in mind.

I am excited to embark on the next step of my journey as I move to New York to accept a Vaid Fellowship with the Policy Institute of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. I am tremendously thankful to have worked for such a fine organization. I hope to return to North Carolina in the future and once again work to advocate for LGBT equality and justice. Until that time, I know that all who work for and with Equality North Carolina will continue to achieve extraordinary feats every day.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Miss North Carolina, Now Miss USA, Stands Up for Equal Rights

You may have already heard about the brouhaha over the gay marriage question at the 2009 Miss USA pageant last week. Miss California chose to be asked a question by one of the judges – noted celebri-gay Perez Hilton – and it was about same-sex marriage.

To recap, Hilton's question was, “Vermont recently became the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Do you think every state should follow suit. Why or why not?”

Miss California answered “Well, I think it’s great that Americans are able to choose one or the other. We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. And you know what, in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that’s how I was raised and that’s how I think it should be – between a man and a woman. Thank you very much.”

Long story short, she lost to Miss North Carolina, Kristen Dalton. This question and her answer were credited with her defeat, and she was called a homophobe, among many other things, and has since presented herself as a victim of intolerance towards Christians.

No doubt 50 years ago, we would've had a Miss KKKalifornia stumble over a similar question about interracial marriage and affirm a personal believe against miscegenation. Bigotry is bigotry is bigotry.

Anyway, folks may not have heard how Miss North Carolina, the winner of the 2009 Miss USA contest, responded when asked about the controversy on The Today Show.

She said, “The beautiful thing about America is that we have the right to choose, we have the right to choose what partner we want to love, commit and spend the rest of our lives with. I think that all couples should be able to be recognized legally, and they should be able to enter into a union. Whether or not it should be defined as marriage, I don't know, I'll leave that up to the politicians.”

Whereas Miss California gave a bad answer in a poor way – as we all know, in the vast majority of places in America, gay couples do not have the choice or option of getting married – Miss North Carolina gave not only a thoughtful answer but a deft one. Sure, it wasn't the perfect answer (which would have unquestioningly supported full marriage equality by that name), but I was thrilled to have Miss North Carolina, under the imprimatur of Miss USA, assert the importance of equal rights for all couples.

I've never cared much for these pageants, but I'm definitely now a fan of Ms. Dalton.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Equality in the News: April 19 - 24, 2009

Wes here with this week's news roundup. Nationally, things have been very exciting with justice for transgender hate crime victim Angie Zapata, Connecticut makes same-sex marriage official, and the federal hate crimes bill passing a major hurdle all this week! Plus our colleagues in Iowa, Maine and New York launched great videos to support their marriage equality campaigns. And now, the rumblings around our neck of the woods...

  • Our friend Sarah Preston of the ACLU has a great post up over at NC Policy Watch about the need to pass the Healthy Youth Act and the School Violence Prevention act.
  • The Raleigh News & Observer's Under the Dome blog has an interesting article on a bill concerned with gender neutrality in state laws. What are the implications of this with marriage? Find out here.
  • CNN has a moving account of Jaheem Herrera's mother speaking out after bullying drove him to suicide. Will the NC legislature act to address bullying before a child dies in our state?
  • Commissioners in Hoke County unanimously passed a resolution in support of the Marriage Discrimination Amendment this week. The Fayetteville Observer has the story.
  • You probably heard that one of our very own, Kristen Dalton, is now Miss USA, but more than likely, you heard more about Miss California's ...interesting response to Perez Hilton's question on her views of same-sex marriage. We're going to avoid the whole judgment mess that's going on with those two right now, but you might be proud to hear what Kristen Dalton thinks about same-sex unions.
  • Another Letter to the Editor mentioning our radical homosexual agenda, this time out of Spring Hope, NC in the Spring Hope Enterprise. You can read that here. If you're from the area, perhaps you could write a letter of your own that refutes the myths that pervade that letter!
  • Q-Notes has an article about Ted Haggard coming to town on Sunday, April 26. If that's your sort of thing, you can check that out here.
That about does it for this week. If you happen to find an interesting article regarding Equality's work here in North Carolina, feel free to send me a tip. Stay cool this weekend! See you next Friday!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Seeking Equality for Binational Gay Couples

In this week of oddly varied commemorations (10th anniversary of the Columbine shooting, Earth Day, Holocaust Remembrance Day), here's a blog about a piece of federal legislation related to - but not 0f - marriage equality.

Earlier this year the Uniting American Families Act was reintroduced. The UAFA seeks to eliminate discrimination in the immigration laws by permitting permanent partners of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents to obtain legal permanent resident status in the same manner as spouses of citizens and permanent residents.

The UAFA will provide gay people the same opportunity as straight married folks to sponsor their partner. This legislation would create requirements (just like those for opposite-sex couples) for providing proof of the relationship, like affidavits from friends and family or evidence of financial support. As with current immigration laws for married couples, UAFA would impose harsh penalties for fraud, including up to five years in prison and as much as $250,000 in fines.

The United States lags behind 20 countries that recognize same-sex couples for immigration purposes: Andorra, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. It's sad to see our great country, which used to be on the forefront of equality and freedom, continue to lag behind.

For more information and to support this bill, go to the Immigration Equality site.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Blowing Out Bullying

Teasing and blowouts may be acceptable in a hair salon, but never in our schools. Kyle Britt, a Greensboro hair stylist, knows this. Which is why he decided to organize "All Tangled Up," a hair show/fashion show to benefit Equality NC in Greensboro last Thursday at the fabulous Studio B event space downtown.

To be quite honest, we weren't sure how exactly a this show could tie in to what we're trying to accomplish this year in session. It didn't take long for us to realize that we're just conditioning these students to think that bullying is okay if we don't try to pass legislation like the School Violence Prevention Act (HB#548 / SB#526) now. Some of these kids come home from school and want to curl up and dye. It's hard for these kids to just relax in class and learn, and it's inevitable that some are walking away from these bullying experiences with permanent damage. Just last week, I heard about a boy named Bobby being pinned down on the playground for wearing ugly sneakers. Kyle agreed that it was a good idea to help cut bullying rates by supporting the SVPA, which enumerates commonly targeted individuals, based on things such as real or perceived sexual orientation, class, physical appearance, disability, or color.

Having been to the show, I quickly realized that the idea was just so crazy it worked. This was an excellent opportunity for us to reach a group of people who had never heard or heard very little about us. We brought along the postcards from our postcard campaign, and we're happy to report that Kyle was able to raise money on our behalf. We can't thank him enough for the opportunity to build more support for this important bill. If you're in or around Greensboro and looking for a new 'do, may we suggest giving Kyle a visit? He's at Studio 207 off Lewis Street downtown.

One thing that I've especially loved about working with Equality these past few months is all the wonderful folks I've met from across the state. "All Tangled Up" was no different. We brought along some temporary tattoos with our logo (as modeled by Aimee and some friends in the picture), which people seem to love. We were also able to get a great number of postcards signed from folks in Davidson, Rockingham, Guilford, Forsyth, Alamance and Stokes counties. Mostly, it's just great to meet new people who are inquisitive and enthusiastic about the work that we're doing.

This is a great example of one more way you can help build a state of equality. Kyle took an unconventional idea and made it work for him (and us!) within the realm of what he was able to achieve. The best part of all is that he was able to raise awareness and funds for something that's important to him. We're very open to your ideas for fundraising and awareness-raising, and Kay can be a great resource if you think of any.

Thanks to Allen Broach, a committed supporter of Equality NC and owner of the beautiful Studio B for providing the space for what was such an entertaining and enjoyable event. And of course, thanks again to Kyle, and the over 200 attendees of "All Tangled Up" who rallied for Equality (and great hair!)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Equality in the News: April 11 - 18, 2009

Yesterday, we observed the Day of Silence, which is why this week's roundup wasn't posted. The Day of Silence is a youth movement that symbolizes the silence that so many LGBT students feel in schools. Bullying is just one way to silence LGBT youth. If you haven't already, please check out the Bullying Blog or share your story and help raise awareness for the School Violence Prevention Act.

Now, what you're really here for: your news roundup for the week, just one day later.
  • Pamela Jones, a wonderful supporter of ours, wrote an excellent blog on various issues, including the Day of Silence and being a member of Equality NC's Trans Task Force. Be sure to check it out!
  • A surprising perspective is featured at Opposing Views about evangelicals, the Day of Silence, and school safety in general. Check it out here.
  • WRAL of Raleigh has an article detailing the outcome of the Healthy Youth Act, which was voted on in the House this week. Hint: Good news! Check that out here.
  • The Isaac Hunter's Tavern blog over at WUNC Public Radio also wrote about the success of the Healthy Youth Act in the House. Be sure to click that link, you can listen to audio clips from the debate on the floor if you didn't get to check out our live Twitter updates.
  • For Pam's take on the Healthy Youth Act's activity in the House this week, check out this. Fans of HBO's Big Love will appreciate Rep. Paul Stam's prophecies about what's in store for our state.
  • Although the Healthy Youth Act found support in the House, the Senate will still be tricky. Especially with the opposition stepping up their game with some classic Letters to the Editor like this one in the Mitchell News-Journal out of Mitchell County. We suggest giving your Senator a call or e-mail on Monday to voice your support for healthy youth.
  • There are some positive responses to Pam Spaulding's (of Pam's House Blend) article on the Day of Action for the Durham News here.
  • Horrible news out of Fayetteville this week. To read more about the possible hate crime that took place, Q-Notes has the story. This unfortunately connects us, as a state, to the national attention being brought to gender expression and hate crimes with the trial for victim Angie Zapata of Colorado. Pam's House Blend is in Colorado covering the trial, which you can read more about here. Our thoughts are with the victim's family and friends as they cope with such a profound tragedy.
  • Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church will be protesting on Monday at Duke University. Wilmington's excellent queer blog, Be Yr Own Queero has more information about counter protests, if that's something you'd be interested in.
  • The national coverage on bullying is a result of some recent unfortunate circumstances, but it's great to see journalists responsibly tackling the issue on a larger stage. Debra Chasnoff, the talented filmmaker who Equality NC sponsored at several showings of her films in Greensboro recently (films that tackle gender issues and bullying within schools) wrote an excellent column about bullying-related suicides at The Huffington Post. Also, Anderson Cooper 360 had the feature below on their show this week:

That about does it for this week's roundup. We're expecting a busy week next week, with Healthy Youth in the Senate and developments on some of the stories that broke this week. Enjoy this beautiful Spring weather, and we'll see you next time!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Blog of Silence

Day of Silence

Please understand my reasons for not speaking today. I am participating in the Day of Silence (DOS), a national youth movement bringing attention to the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies. My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by anti-LGBT bullying, name-calling and harassment. I believe that ending the silence is the fi rst step toward building awareness and making a commitment to address these injustices. Think about the voices you are not hearing today.

What are you going to do to end the Silence?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

HIV Lobby Day, and an Intern Farewell

By Greer Cook, ENC intern

Here I am on the eve of my last day of interning with Equality NC and I am feeling a mixture of sorrow and satisfaction as a write this. Sorrow because my internship will officially end in less than 24 hours and satisfaction from what I have learned working within communities across our state, thinking about the wonderful people I have worked with and met, and being able to say I was a part of Equality NC.

We traveled across the state to conduct town hall meetings, round table discussions, and workshops about the School Violence Prevention Act. I was part of two incredible Lobby Days for Equality NC and North Carolina AIDS Action Network (NCAAN).

On April 28, NCAAN held their HIV Lobby Day and people from around the state traveled to Raleigh to talk to their legislators about the Healthy Youth Act and the importance of maintaining funding for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program as well as HIV prevention programs.

We went to the House Committee on Education meeting where the Healthy Youth Act was debated by the bill supporters and the opposition. This was my first time to sit in on a committee meeting and I would imagine it was the first time for many of the others who were there for Lobby Day.

I witnessed Rep. Rick Glazier in action and it took every bit of willpower I had not to track him down and ask for an autograph following the meeting. Rep. Glazier is phenomenal. He is the voice of reason for social justice in our state. I also met new friends at the HIV Lobby Day, and it is so inspiring to be in the company of others who hold the same beliefs and seek the same dreams.

I never would have imagined that I would have accomplished all that I have since January. This could not have been done without Rebecca’s guidance and support. I am very proud to say that I have worked with Ian, Kay, and Shawn who are all so dedicated to what they do at Equality NC. And last but not least Seth, Stephen, and Wes, you are all stellar interns and greatness will follow you no matter where you go! I will miss all of you and cannot thank you enough for allowing me to be a part of Equality NC.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Dispatches from the Field: Fayetteville Edition!

And so the School Violence Prevention Act tour of the state continues! Last week, interns Greer and Wes and I (Rebecca) went to Fayetteville for our latest community meeting on the SVPA. Thanks to a tip from our friend Jessica Ackley over at Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina, we connected with Dr. Melissa Barlow over at the Institute for Community Justice at Fayetteville State University. A big thanks to Dr. Barlow for hosting us in the great Institute office, and for spreading the word about the meeting on campus!

Participants were a good blend of community members and FSU students—thanks in large part to professors in Social Work and Criminology who brought their classes. They kept us on our toes with questions about bullying victims’ rights and the types of punishment the bullies, themselves, may incur in public schools. We talked in much more detail about this than we had in previous meetings, thanks to participants’ insightful dialogue. This is one of the many things I love about traveling across the state to talk about the SVPA: the wide variety of experiences and points of view that people bring to the table. One participant remarked that bullying shows “a profound lack of mindfulness…[bullies] don’t have the skills to think about the harm they are doing.” It was a great reminder that the SVPA isn’t just about the kids who are being bullied, but the bullies, themselves—whom often we neglect to include. When kids learn that no peer should be “fair game” to torment at school, it’s a step toward empathy for others. It’s not just about protecting the target of harassment, but about challenging students to be better people. And that will make schools and communities safer for everyone.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Equality in the News: April 4 - April 9, 2009

Another exciting week for equality! Vermont overrides the veto, Washington D.C. recognizes same-sex marriages now, and strides in transgender equality are being made in New Hampshire and Washington state. Plus plenty going on right here in the Tar Heel State. I've conveniently gathered all the Equality-related news for you again this week, so let's get to it!
  • Turns out Samantha Korb, who graciously shared her bullying story with us, is also an excellent writer. You can read her article for The Carolinian (UNCG's Student Newspaper) on the School Violence Prevention Act here.
  • Very tragic news out of Massachusetts this week, as it was revealed that an 11-year old boy, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, committed suicide. His mother claims it was due to the torment of his classmates - which included anti-gay harassment. First this, now this?! It shouldn't take examples like these to get legislation like the School Violence Prevention Act passed. All kids deserve to feel safe in school. If you haven't yet, please e-mail us your story to help us raise awareness about the bullying that occurs in our state.
  • Jack McKinney, a pastor of the Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, has an article supporting the School Violence Prevention Act in the News & Observer. You can read that article here. Be sure to check out the comments and share your thoughts - there's a good one about the bill secretly trying to codify sexual orientation and normalize homosexuality. If only we were that good at lying.
  • The Durham News featured one of our favorites, Pam Spaulding, in an article written by her about the Day of Action. It's a great article that discusses the strange dynamics felt that day between our African-American supporters and members of the legislature's Black Caucus. You can stop by here to check it out.
  • For the polling geeks out there: a really nifty model was crafted by FiveThirtyEight, a political polling website with lots of really cool information and polls. This model uses recent marriage discrimination amendment votes and polling to predict when a majority in each state will have majority opposition to these amendments. Take a look and see when they predict North Carolina will jump on the bandwagon.
  • Speaking of marriage, 3 more counties passed resolutions in support of the Marriage Discrimination Amendment. Q-Notes has the story here.
  • The Healthy Youth Act, legislation to give parents the option between comprehensive and abstinence-only sex-education, sailed through committee again and goes to the House next week. We're supportive of this LGBT-inclusive legislation, and we'd love for you to call your Representative and remind them to vote for this effective policy. To find your elected official, click here.
That about does it for this week. We'll see you back here next Friday for another exciting news roundup! Equality NC wishes everyone a safe and wonderful holiday weekend. Enjoy yourselves!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Day of Action Empowered a New Advocate

Guest blog by Bill Britt.

On March 25th, I had the privilege to attend ENC’s Day of Action. So many times we become angered over issues we care about, yet instead of doing anything, we bury our heads in the sand and never allow ourselves to be heard. On this day I made the decision to be heard on two issues important to me: passing the school violence prevention act and opposing the marriage discrimination constitutional amendment.

My story is different from the majority of gay men, and the reasons these issues are important come from my unique perspective. I am a divorced father of two beautiful children who wants to see protection from bullying provided for all kids: To include those who are gay, targeted as being gay, or to those whose parents are gay.

I also oppose marriage discrimination. After being in a heterosexual marriage for more than eleven years, I know the legal and personal rights afforded to a married couple. However, now that I am being true to myself and rebuilding a new life with my male partner, it is disturbing to realize we have none of those same rights and protections I enjoyed with my female partner. We have none of the same rights because we are of the same gender.

ENC’s Day of Action gave me the courage and the platform to remove my head from the sand. Meetings with my legislators allowed a great learning experience filling me with a variety of emotions, some of joy, some of hope, and some of great disappointment.

The joy and hope came with learning that even though certain legislators do not agree with, or understand one being gay, they do not and would not discriminate on the basis of sexuality. My disappointment arose from those legislators who have clearly chosen to govern based on personal opinions, misunderstandings, misinterpretations and insecurities.

It was empowering to use my voice and encouraging to see the unconditional love and support provided in so many forms. The most meaningful forms being parents in support of their gay children and by members of the clergy in support of all.

My voice united with so many more. Some of our words fell upon deaf ears, but we made it personal. We put our faces with our issues. We made it human and we made it real.

Monday, April 6, 2009

GLSEN Report on Kids -- with Gay Parents! -- in Schools

The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has recently released the first comprehensive study on LGBT families' experiences in K-12 education. It's an amazing report, especially if you're one of the estimated 7 million LGBT parents with a school-age kid.

The name of the report is Involved, Invisible, Ignored: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Parents and Their Children in Our Nation’s K-12 Schools.

(ENC has a bunch of free copies available, and you can also get a free PDF of it online.)

There's a lot of fascinating data, but here are some highlights:
  • LGBT parents are much more likely to be involved in their kids education than parents in general.
  • More than half of the LGBT parents felt excluded in one way or another from their school community.
  • A quarter of the students experienced harassment because their parents are LGBT.
  • A fifth of the students had been discouraged by school personnel from talking about their family, and more than a quarter of them had heard school personnel make anyigay comments.
  • Most interestingly - and cogent - of all: The schools that had the most inclusive environment and lowest levels of harassment? The ones with an anti-bullying policy that explicitly prohibited bullying based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.
If you haven't seen this report, it's worth taking a look. More importantly, if you haven't signed on to our efforts to pass the School Violence Protection Act, either by filling out a postcard or talking to your legislators or talking to your family, please do so. (You can contact us to get copies of the postcards, as well as get talking points and guidance on visiting your state legislators.) And check out our antibullying blog.

Family and school are two of the most basic components of our children's lives. The key to stopping prejudice is education, but we cannot have that if we allow the roots of bigotry to survive in the schools themselves.

And it's especially important when we're talking about our children.

Friday, April 3, 2009

ENC in the News: March 28 - April 3, 2009

Slow news week on the state front, even though exciting things are happening in Vermont and Iowa! Here's the roundup for this week:
  • The Washington Blade, while covering national marriage equality news, mentioned the Marriage Discrimination Amendment and it's status, including a quote from our Executive Director, Ian Palmquist. Scroll down a bit on this page to read more.
  • Speaking of marriage, as I'm sure many of you have heard that Iowa's Supreme Court voted unanimously to allow same-sex marriage. To a few, it's the end of modern civilization. To us, it's just an example of liberty and justice prevailing for all. To read a summary of the court's decision (including the court's compelling counterpoints to common opposition arguments), the Towleroad blog has that here.
  • The Independent Weekly out of the Triangle area mentioned the School Violence Prevention Act and the insulting counter-bill introduced by Rep. Paul Stam (which leaves out the enumerated categories). Though the article was written on April 1st, unfortunately Paul Stam's homophobic response to the SVPA is not a prank.
  • Our friends at Q Notes wrote about the Day of Action, which you can read here.
  • The Healthy Youth Act, which was voted out of committee yesterday, was featured in an article about "misleading bill titles," in the Charlotte Observer. Apparently, they don't see how protecting kids from disease and unintended pregnancy promotes health? You can read that article (and offer your two cents) here.
  • Don't forget next Tuesday, April 7, is HIV/AIDS Advocacy Day at the State Legislature. For more information, or to register, click here.
  • This weekend is the Unity Conference at UNC-Chapel Hill, and if you're interested in some of the events, you can find more information here.
That about does it for this week's roundup. We'll be keeping our eyes and ears peeled for any new developments with our current legislation for next week. If you have friends of family in Vermont, please urge them to call Governor Douglass at 800-649-6825 and urge him not to veto their marriage equality bill.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Eric's Story

The following article can also be found on the Prevent School Violence NC Bullying Blog.

Horrible news out of Ohio, and yet another tragic example of why clearly defined bullying policies are absolutely necessary to protect children from violence. Eric Mohat, 17, was tormented so much that his parents believe it drove him to kill himself.


"...when one bully said publicly in class "Why don't you go home and shoot yourself, no one will miss you," he did.

Now his parents, William and Janis Mohat of Mentor, Ohio, have filed a lawsuit in federal court, saying that their son endured name-calling, teasing, constant pushing and shoving and hitting in front of school officials who should have protected him.

The lawsuit -- filed March 27, alleges that the quiet but likable boy, who was involved in theater and music, was called "gay," "fag," "queer" and "homo" and often in front of his teachers. Most of the harassment took place in math class and the teacher -- an athletic coach -- was accused of failing to protect the boy.

"When you lose a child like this it destroys you in ways you can't even describe," Eric Mohat's father told"

For the rest of the heartbreaking article, please click here.

Ohio is all-too-similar to North Carolina in that it has no statewide anti-bullying policy with enumerated categories. Our friends at Equality Ohio have this to say about their state policy and the similar struggle they've had with getting this legislation passed:

Ohio does not have a broad law to prevent school bullying. Ohio also does not have a law preventing discrimination in education based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

In 2006 the Ohio Legislature passed House Bill 276 that required the 723 school districts across Ohio to develop anti-bullying policies on their own. This bill was signed into law without the need for enumerated categories of protection. Equality Ohio and a coalition of organizations testified before the Ohio Senate Committee on Education to try to include these important protections.

Eric committed suicide in 2007. Just three months after his death, his high school adopted an anti-bullying policy with enumerated categories (including sexual orientation), which we found in their Parent/Teacher Handbook. If Ohio, or Eric's school district, had taken precautionary steps to protect him and millions of other students from this sort of targeted bullying, it is possible Eric might still be alive.

Shouldn't North Carolina adopt this kind of effective policy before another student kills himself or snaps and shoots classmates?

While our coalition is working very hard on getting this legislation passed, there are things you can do in the meantime - as parents, friends, educators, or administrators - to learn more about how to effectively help victims of bullying at

Our hearts go out to the Mohat family, and all victims of bullying, and we commend the Mohat family for using this tragedy to draw attention to this serious problem in our schools and to create more effective legislation regarding school anti-bullying policies.

We urge you to contact your legislators to make sure that they support the School Violence Prevention Act (House Bill #548 / Senate Bill #526). You can look up your legislators and email them here.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Welcome to Boone, indeed!

Guest blog by Kathy Staley

A week ago, I watched as Boone’s Town Council voted unanimously on three separate pro-LGBT resolutions: to add sexual orientation and gender identity to its personnel policy, to oppose the proposed referendum on a constitutional amendment limiting marriage, and to support the proposed bill to expand hate crime law to cover sexual orientation and gender identity.

LGBTQA supporters of the resolutions had filled the chambers. So many showed up that town mayor Loretta Clawson commented on the unusually high attendance. When each vote was cast without a single objection, the audience erupted in applause.

To have a unanimous vote was expected. Boone is such a progressive town and the council members that I’d spoken to were in complete agreement and believed that there would be community support. But seeing the vote for myself was so reaffirming, so elating, there aren’t words for how wonderful it was.

All it took was a couple of phone calls to one council member Liz Aycock for this to be acted on. She has long been an LGBT ally and only needed a single request for the expansion of the Equal Employment Opportunity statement to follow through on it.

It makes me wonder if we could have done this a few years ago and how many other towns would follow suit if residents contact the right council members. Hopefully, other North Carolina towns and cities will follow Boone’s example and add gender identity to their statements.