Monday, June 29, 2009

Southern (Carolina) Pride - Spartanburg's First

by ENC intern Hillary Waugh

With all of the recent media attention focusing on South Carolina’s governor, I wanted to take the opportunity to share some exciting, albeit less scandalous, news regarding our neighbors to the South. This past weekend, Spartanburg, South Carolina hosted their first Pride march. I attended the event to help conduct interviews of those present for a dissertation project (not my own) and was absolutely floored by the experience.

The march, held June 20, 2009, began at the Unitarian Universalist church, weaving through downtown, before returning to the church’s grounds for the festival, which included speakers, musicians, and vendors. Many folks I spoke with were amazed by the turnout, with an estimated 400 people participating in the march. Several participants mentioned being apprehensive to be a part of the march, saying that they were unsure about whether they would be met with violence on the part of protestors.

As far as I saw, the protestors, of whom there were an estimated 300, did not resort to physical acts to deter participants. Protestors were relegated to the sidewalks, where they held sometimes clever, often religiously-inspired signs condemning the march and LGBT individuals in general.

One of the things I found most interesting was that many of the people who organized and participated in the day’s events identify as straight allies. Throughout my conversations, a lot of them said that they did this to work toward social justice and civil rights for the LGBT community, and also because they were more able to do so without risking their livelihoods. It was an incredible show of support, and reminded me once again of the necessity for straight allies.

While the tension between participants and protestors was palpable, the day was celebratory and joyful in nature. The event itself successfully increased LGBT visibility and was a huge step for residents of South Carolina’s Upstate.

Many kudos to Upstate Pride, the group behind the march, as well as to the hundreds of LGBT and ally participants who made their presence known. Plans are already underway for next year’s march. I hope that this is just the first of many successful Pride events in Spartanburg, and that it helps to create a more inclusive climate for LGBT individuals in the region.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Equality in the News: June 20 - 26, 2009

As you have probably already heard, the School Violence Prevention Act PASSED on Tuesday by one vote in the House! This is, as you can probably guess, incredible news for young people in North Carolina and a victory for the LGBT community. This is the first LGBT-inclusive bill to be signed into NC state law and our state becomes the only one in the South to include gender identity in a protective law. What a profound accomplishment.

We must also mention that the Healthy Youth Act passed the Senate 25-21. Though not the original, stronger version, this bill is a great first step in equipping our young people with knowledge to make informed decisions when it comes to sex. More on that below.

We also wanted to say a quick 'thank you' to our talented volunteer and supporter, Daniel Wiggins, who designed the flashy new logo for each week's "In the News" installment.

Without further ado - here's the really good news:

School Violence Prevention Act
  • First things first, please take a look at this awesome inside scoop on how the bill got passed, written by our Executive Director and legislative rockstar, Ian Palmquist.
  • News14, our state's 24-hour news channel, has an article and video on the bill's success, featuring Ian Palmquist and a great ally, Linda Griffin, who's son will be more protected as a result of the bill's passage.
  • After the first vote, the News & Observer ran a front page banner headline Tuesday: "House votes to protect gay kids." The article's failure to make clear the bill protects against all bullying wasn't too helpful as we fought to keep votes for the final vote Tuesday.
  • As we've seen through the process of trying to get this bill passed, personal stories are of utmost importance in convincing weary legislators of the need for this legislation. Check out the Charlotte Observer's take on our victory, and be sure to read on about Mark James, a student who felt the effects of bullying.
  • Greensboro's News & Record mentions how we join only 11 other states with similar protections for making all students safer.
  • The Hickory Daily Record was quick to provide an editorial of support of the SVPA after it passed - better late than never!
  • Coverage was all over the state - from Western, NC, at, who noted the bullying bill's success to Eastern NC, where the Rocky Mount Telegram shares news of the win (and a bit about the Healthy Youth Act).
  • Our friends at Q-Notes, who graciously helped us spread the word and gain support when the bill was in trouble, has great coverage of the bill and the debate at Monday and Tuesday's votes. They also discuss what's going on with the Healthy Youth Act.
  • The Human Rights Campaign's Back Story Blog congratulated us on the landmark victory this week.
  • GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, applauded our efforts on their official website. GLSEN is the leading national organization advocating for safe schools for LGBT students.
  • Awesome blog Feministing mentions our victory with a personal story.
  • 365Gay, an LGBT-blog, also picked up the story and dished just a little bit on the right-wing effort to get harsh, violent punishments incorporated in the bill.
  • OutImpact of Wilmington has an awesome article which includes a list of how the Representatives voted. See if your legislator supports protecting all students!
  • The work continues - though this is a huge victory, it's also a chance for the misinformed to spread misconceptions and lies. Take, for example, the Beaufort Observer's online edition, which posted an article (editorial?) on the bullying bill. Keep those letters to the editor coming - especially to combat false "reporting" like this!
  • We can't forget to mention Pam's House Blend and her coverage of the SVPA. She has brought so much attention and awareness about this bill, and we must thank her for her advocacy and support!
  • Last week, before the bill was passed, there were ridiculous attempts of connecting being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender to being a pedophile, incestuous, or any other number of sexual disorders. As we all know, this fundamentally isn't true and it's outrageous that our lawmakers can make such false claims. Check out the Progressive Pulse's awesome categorical debunking of every one of those falsehoods.
  • Last, and certainly not least, we urge you to read IndyWeek's transcript of the eloquent speech in support of the School Violence Prevention Act from Wake County Rep. Darren Jackson.
On a personal note - I attended the second reading and vote and watched the debate, and it was absolutely stunning to see the strong advocates in support of this bill in action - advocates like Rep. Haire, Rep. Cotham, Rep. Adams (my very own), Rep. Parmon, and of course, Rep. Glazier (and on the Senate side - Sen. Julia Boseman). Their words inspired me and made me feel like LGBT people indeed have thoughtful supporters in Raleigh. I've sent my legislators a thank you for their support - you can look yours up too and either thank them, or press them for real answers as to why they didn't support this important bill.

Healthy Youth Act
Other news...
  • Just wanted to mention briefly that Equality NC received 3 awards from Q-Notes' reader-decided "QList" - best of the Carolinas awards. Find out what we won. Congratulations to Ian, and Board Members Addison Ore and Mike Nelson for their awards, as well!
Phew! I knew it was going to be a busy week when victory was declared on Tuesday - and I wouldn't have had it any other way. Enjoy your weekend!

On a personal note - It has been an honor working with the small, dedicated and powerful staff of Equality NC to get this bill passed. It's also been an eye-opening journey as I traveled across the state, gathering and listening to stories of people who have felt the affects of bullying. I know that this victory will be seen for years to come in the halls of schools in North Carolina - all of which just got a little bit safer. Congratulations, Equality NC!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Charlotte Area -- Take Action! Don't Be Left 'Speechless'

I recently spoke with one of ENC's supporters - a straight ally, yay, you rock! - about the recent airing of a misleading, antigay infomercial that was shown in the Charlotte TV market a couple of days ago.

"Speechless: Silencing the Christians," was produced by the American Family Association (one of those groups who give Christians a bad, bad, bad name) and it's chock full of venom and lies against LGBT folk.

You can see the whole awful, inflammatory, defamatory video over on Pam's House Blend.

glaadBLOG also caught this and has some great information on it.

If you live in an area served by WJZY, the CW affiliate for the Charlotte area, then I urge you to contact them to complain about the show. (Obviously it's better if you've seen some of it!) It was broadcast this past Saturday night from 9-10 pm.

WJZY-TV (The CW)- Charlotte, North Carolina

Joe Heaton, Programming Manager
(704) 944-3340

Will Davis
Vice President and General Manager
(704) 944-3305

The company's standard line is "It's a paid airtime slot, and groups with a different viewpoint are welcome to produce their own video and buy airtime." (Of course, if this video talked about Jews, or Muslims, or African-Americans the same way it talks about gay folks, I daresay the TV station wouldn't be quite as sanguine about it. The fact that it's a screed against a segment of their viewers should be enough.)

When you contact them, be polite but firm. Let them know that you object to their programming choice because it's hatemongering and that you are concerned that an out-of-state group is trying to foster an environment of hostility and fear in your community. Your opinion will be noted.

Then let them know you plan to share your POV and concerns with some of their advertisers.

And then do it.

And then write a letter to the editor of your local paper.

It's all about the benjamins. If you create any kind of stir around their ad revenues, they'll think twice before showing programs that attack a portion of their viewing populace.

Monday, June 22, 2009

If Heather has two mommies, what happens on Father's Day?

This exact question came up recently in the Triangle Families online discussion group. (This is a Yahoo group for gay parents and their kids and allies around the NC Triangle area.) One women's kid's teacher asked which mother should get the Father's Day gift they made in class.

Now, it sounds like the teacher was well intentioned and was sincerely trying to understand the best way to handle things and be respectful of the child and family. Unfortunately, it also sounds like the teacher went about it in the worst way possible, i.e., along the lines of "which of you is the husband?"

If you're a gay parent, you've been in this situation, in one way or another. This is yet another way that our difference makes life just a bit harder for us.

The thing that I thought was most interesting about the online and offline discussions that took place around this issue, though, was the variety of ways different families handled this.

Now, basically everyone agreed that talking to the teacher - and laying the groundwork ahead of time whenever possible - is good. (It's always best to be open and matter-of-fact, and to invite questions, discussion, and communication.)

As it turns out, some lesbian couples did, in fact, have one partner get Father's Day presents and the other get Mother's Day gifts. Ditto for gay male couples. Some gay male couples asked for two gifts on Father's Day and nothing on Mother's Day. (Some asked that Mother's Day gifts go to a grandmother or an aunt or the teacher.)

This discussion also brought up the variety of families, gay and straight, that exist. In addition to the usual (to us!) two-mom or two-dad families, you also have the single parent, the time-sharing parents and their respective spouse/partner, the multiple step-parents, the foster parents and bio-parents, the former foster parents, the bio-mom who's still involved after the open adoption, etc.

This isn't just an issue for LGBT families - this is an issue for any family that's different from the mainstream. The more awareness we have about the diversity of all families, the better.

[For the record, for our Father's Day, Kid gave us each a little rock with google eyes made up to look like each of us, i.e., Craig's had yarn for hair and mine was bald. Awww! It was sooo cute and touching! He's my heart! Also, I continue to love his grade-school teachers for their thoughtfulness. And on Mother's Day he made something for Grams.

That's how we handle it, but each family is different. Regardless, we'd all be better off with more asking and more telling. Awareness=education=acceptance.]

Friday, June 19, 2009

Equality in the News: June 12 - June 19, 2009

It's been a tumultuous week for Equality! Nationally, President Obama has come under fire for the questionable brief regarding a federal lawsuit challenging the Defense of Marriage Act. Interestingly, he signed a memorandum this week extending some partner benefits for federal employees. A good start, but we need more.

On the local level, we've seen a lot of action with the School Violence Prevention Act and the Healthy Youth Act. Though it passed committee this week, the SVPA has come under fire from a legislator who is actively persuading other legislators to vote 'no' based on misinformation. As we've seen with the legislature - anything can and will happen, and it's up to us to keep the pressure on our representatives to vote for this important bill. E-mails are great, but personal phone calls are even better if you can - and you can look up who your legislator is and how to contact them here. Here's your weekly news roundup:
  • To find out more about the School Violence Prevention Act's roller coaster ride this week, check out Q-Notes story on the events.
  • The Fayetteville Observer has the story on how the bullying bill passed it's committee hearing, preparing it for the first of two votes by the House of Representatives on Monday, June 22.
  • A big reason why we've seen votes in jeopardy this week are because of Rep. Paul Stam's irresponsible and untrue statements at the committee hearing about sexual orientation in the DSM-IV. BlueNC has a must-read about the blatant lies and how damaging they've been to the support for this bill - which, let us remind you, is supported by a strong majority of North Carolinians across party lines.
  • Charlotte's Creative Loafing blog covers the even morereprehensible comments made by Rep. Paul Stam about same-sex parenting at the committee hearing. Seems like he's modeling his leadership style after the late, not-so-great Jesse Helms.
  • OutImpact in Wilmington calls its readers to action for the School Violence Prevention Act and includes great talking points for talking to your legislators or friends about the bill.
  • Raleigh's News & Observer wrote about the SVPA's progress and included an anecdote of a mother who removed her child with autism from school because educators blamed him for bullying he received. This bill is meant to protect all students!
  • The Fayetteville Observer has the goods on the Healthy Youth Act action for this week. It will be voted on! Keep your calls and e-mails of support coming, folks!
  • Speaking of allies, the Daily Tar Heel has the story about how some of our supporters organized Boomtown Live, a concert event held to benefit Equality NC. Thank you!
As we're seeing on a national level (and state level), keeping the pressure on our elected officials with impassioned voices of reason is the way to equality. It can get frustrating at times, but we urge you to keep the incredible work towards progress alive by having your voices heard until there's no need. Imagine it - a state of equality, a country where we're all treated equally. It's within our reach - just keep at it!

We look forward to giving you some great news (cross your fingers!) about the School Violence Prevention Act after its vote next week - keep the phone calls and e-mails coming! And enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Calling for Equality

Guest post from Equality NC Intern Hillary Waugh.

Today, Equality NC Fellow, Seth, and I spent the afternoon making phone calls. Admittedly, I am not the biggest fan of speaking on the telephone, especially with so many other forms of technology available. However, today’s calls were important, since we were speaking with individuals associated with Equality North Carolina.

The School Violence Prevention Act (SVPA) has faced a good amount of trouble within the House of Representatives, with several representatives potentially changing their “yes” vote on the bill to a “no.” The vote count on this legislation has been close from the start, so any changes can be damaging. Since these vote changes are relatively last minute, we wanted to make sure as many supporters of the bill in these districts are aware that their representatives’ votes are on the fence.

The vote on the SVPA has been pushed back to next week, and we were tasked with getting in contact with as many people in these districts as possible. While Equality NC has been sending email messages and action letters, sometimes an even more personal form of contact can make a big impact.

Although I was initially apprehensive about cold calling those from our mailing list, I was extremely pleased with the responses we received. Everyone we spoke with either had already taken action by emailing and/or calling their representatives, or was willing to do so. Many also said they would pass the word on to their families and friends living in the area to make sure their support is heard here in Raleigh.

Nearly all of these individuals thanked us for the work we were doing, which was extremely inspiring. I thanked them in return, since showing their support of the SVPA to their representatives can do much more than any of the phone calls that Seth and I made. I am reminded that while we are doing worthwhile work here, others across the state that are inspired to take action on behalf of Equality NC do the greatest work by responding to emails and action requests, calling your legislators, and talking about issues that are important to LGBT North Carolinians.

So if you received a phone call from either Seth or myself, or have taken any action on behalf of Equality NC, thank you so much for all that you do in creating equality for all.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Boomtown Raises Local Awareness

by ENC intern Graham Hunter

Last Friday, Chapel Hill students came together to show their support for LGBT rights in the first ever Boomtown showcase. The rock and hip-hop concert, organized by college students Alison Bryan and Jonathan Gedney, was designed to spread awareness of important social issues (this year’s theme being LGBT rights) as well as promote local musical talent. Ticket sales from the concert were donated to Equality NC and Lambda Legal.

Approximately sixty individuals came out for the event, which stayed strong into the night despite some ominous lightning and hints of rain.

In addition to fund-raising, the event provided a wonderful opportunity to spread the good word about Equality NC and its efforts with the School Violence Prevention Act. Many of the people that we met had never heard of Equality NC but were very supportive to our cause. A few individuals were shocked that North Carolina did not already have such anti-bullying legislation on the books, which only goes to show the greater need for visibility and information. At the end of the night, we had a few more postcards to add to our already expansive number and hopefully a few more allies.

The Boomtown showcase was a venue by the youth, for the youth. The most rewarding part of the night was to see youth actively confronting social problems and working toward greater understanding and equality. The notion of “change” (like its conservative cousin, “maverick”) may be a hackneyed phrase by now, but I have to believe that its frequent use only highlights its necessity.

As the struggle for LGBT rights extends into the coming years, today’s youth must be willing to take up the mantle of their forebearers. The fight for tomorrow’s change starts today. Boomtown showed that a growing number of youth are becoming more involved in LGBT issues and are willing to fight for that change.

Wilmington Pride is a Day at the Beach!

by ENC intern Brittany Cox
(picture from left to right; Nikki B., Billy M., Brittany C., Suzanne W., Corey K.

Hello Readers! My name is Brittany Cox and I am an intern for Equality North Carolina. On Saturday June 13, I made the trek from Buies Creek to Wilmington to captain the Equality NC table at Wilmington Pride.

My main objective while at Wilmington Pride was to advocate for the School Violence Prevention Act by getting people to sign postcards which would be subsequently sent to their district representative. This is crucial at this time because the bill is headed to the House floor very soon!

Arriving at 9 am my friends, Suzanne and Corey, and I set up the tent. Jessica Probst, our volunteer, was promptly on time and did an amazing job getting people to sign the postcards. By herself, within 2 hours, Jessica managed to get approximately 50 cards signed! We were all very impressed with her effort and enthusiasm for the cause, and want to thank her for all of her hard work!

We managed to get approximately 100 cards signed, and we met some great people.

I was briefly featured on a Pride broadcast. I also met Matt Comer, Editor of Q-Notes, an LBGT newspaper, who kindly took our picture. Thanks to Matt for letting us use this picture on the blog!

Next to Pride was a farmers market. Periodically some of these people would stroll into the festival. Many of them merely walked around and took in the sights, whereas others walked a few steps in, realized where they were, and proceeded to leave. My friends and I got a good chuckle out of this.

All in all the day was beautiful, colorful and exciting! We spread the word about the School Violence Prevention Act and had an amazing time!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Equality in the News: June 6 - June 12, 2009

This week's Equality in the News is brought to you by one of our fabulous new interns, Harmony! Don't be fooled by the "Posted by: Wes" at the bottom, because it was all her, and she did a great job! :) Let's get right to it...

So what is happening?

In the legislature …
  • News 14 Carolina questions the changes made to the Healthy Youth Act in committee last Wednesday. Watch or read their report.
  • Our friend Sean Kosofsky of NARAL Pro-Choice NC posted about the Senate gutting the Healthy Youth Act over at the Progressive Pulse.
  • The Fayetteville Observer did a great editorial in support of passing the School Violence Prevention Act.
  • A correspondent of The Durham News writes that “Bullying laws must cover gays,” connecting the “School Violence Prevention Act” to personal experiences to defend the enumeration.
  • Q-Notes has the story of how North Carolina’s only openly lesbian Senator, Julia Boseman, was also the only legislator to vote against a resolution in which “The General Assembly of North Carolina expresses its appreciation for the life and public service of Jesse Alexander Helms, Jr., and honors his memory,” although many members of the Black legislative caucus were purposefully absent during the voting.
  • Our video to raise awareness about the School Violence Prevention Act, which encourages you to take action now has been featured on Pam's House Blend and The Independent Weekly blog. Check it out, if you haven't already!

Around the state …
  • The Winston-Salem Journal tells about the small but passionate group protesting the ruling on Prop 8 last Saturday, not on Sunset Boulevard, but in our own downtown Greensboro.
  • “After election time, we noticed a lot of people talking, wanting change and not having a good way to channel that energy into something,” says 19-year-old Alison Bryan to The Daily Tar Heel. A Chapel Hill native, Bryan co-organized this evening’s concert, Boomtown Live, both to promote civil rights and to resuscitate the declining Chapel Hill music scene. Some proceeds from the concert will support our own Equality – thanks Alison and Jonathon!
  • The Carolina Peacemaker explores the experiences of, and resources for, LGBT individuals in Guilford County, NC. Check out this interesting read!
In the nation …

Don’t ask about the state of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” and Obama, don’t tell us to wait. Fox News reported back in January that the Obama administration planned to repeal the discriminatory policy, but this week the Supreme Court denied the appeal by discharged officer, James Pietrangelo II, against it. No comment from the White House. President Obama may have named June “LGBT Pride month,” but if the nation is really proud of its LGBT members – and their service to their country – then it’s time it took a stand.
  • The Associated Press reports that a Quinnipiac University poll shows that a majority of Americans support the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, yet the Supreme Court shut down former Army Capt. James Pietrangelo II’s appeal this week. No word from Capitol Hill...
  • The Star-Ledger brings us an interesting editorial “Revisting the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy” which provides a good counter to the “bad for morale” argument...
  • Por los que hablan español: Qué.es nos diga que “La máxima instancia judicial estadounidense decidió no aceptar la apelación planteada por el ex capitán del Ejército James Pietrangelo II, contrario a la política de "no preguntes, no lo digas" que sigue el Pentágono respecto a los homosexuales.” Obama, ¿dónde estás?

That does it for this week's roundup!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Free Stuff from COLAGE

COLAGE (Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere) is a great group - they're a national assemblage of kids and adults with LGBT parents - and they have some great resources online.

Their Youth Leadership and Action Program has the best of the bunch, including some nice posters to help raise awareness of gay families. Their Respect All Families materials are excellent - you can browse and download the materials or request posters here.

Given our recent work on antibullying legislation, these are particularly timely and relevant for us.

COLAGE says the purpose of these posters is "to promote visibility of families like ours, to counter the lack of positive images of youth with LGBT families, to fight the homophobia we have faced in our schools and communities, and to counter the isolation and prejudice that we and others with queer parents often face. We made the posters to make it known that families like ours exist and flourish, and we want to tell kids who have queer parents: you are not alone. There are others like you."

Be sure to check out their PDF version of the Respect All Families Action Guide.

The main COLAGE site also has a great set of resources, including:
  • reading lists for various-aged children of gay parents
  • materials for gay parents
  • a list of famous kids with LGBT parents
  • resources for trans parents, including a legal guide and a guide for their kids
  • information on making schools safe for diverse families
Finally, they have some nice information on visibility and research, as well as links to gay-positive summer and family camps.

If you're gay and have kids, if you have LGBT parents, or if you know someone who fits either of those categories - i.e., this is good for EVERYONE - take a look at what they're offering.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Happy LGBT Pride Month!

June is the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Inn riots in New York City, one of the seminal events in gay history and the fight for civil rights.

It's also LGBT Pride Month. This isn't just something we, the gay community came up with. This is national. This is official.

President Barack Obama issued this proclamation at the start of the month.

Now, I've heard a lot of grumbling recently about how the president said he was a Friend Of Gays and would fight for our rights, but hasn't done so since we helped get him elected. I've heard some people say this proclamation is just another empty gesture.

I have to disagree.

It wasn't so long ago, i.e., before the most recent election, that the president of the country refused to issue such a proclamation, saying it was political and divisive. (Note the terribly irony of that!)

I'm thrilled to have a president that will talk about issues that affect the LGBT community. Look at what this proclamation says:

"My Administration has partnered with the LGBT community to advance a wide range of initiatives. At the international level, I have joined efforts at the United Nations to decriminalize homosexuality around the world. Here at home, I continue to support measures to bring the full spectrum of equal rights to LGBT Americans. These measures include enhancing hate crimes laws, supporting civil unions and Federal rights for LGBT couples, outlawing discrimination in the workplace, ensuring adoption rights, and ending the existing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in a way that strengthens our Armed Forces and our national security. We must also commit ourselves to fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic by both reducing the number of HIV infections and providing care and support services to people living with HIV/AIDS across the United States."

That's an amazing affirmation.

(My sole complaint is that the m-word (marriage) is nowhere in there. Now that 12% of the country has legalized marriage equality, it's clear that the fairness train has left the station. Our country's executive needs to come on board sometime soon, and the sooner the better!)

I'm happy to have this. Sure, it is just a gesture, but gestures mean something. Look at what he says:

"During LGBT Pride Month, I call upon the LGBT community, the Congress, and the American people to work together to promote equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity."

He calls for people working together for equal rights. He includes sexual orientation AND gender identity.

I'm willing to take him at his word.

"I call upon the people of the United States to turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists."

So say we all - happy Pride month!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Equality in the News: May 23 - June 5, 2009

Since we last updated you on the equality-related happenings around our state, the United States gained another state that recognizes same-sex marriage: New Hampshire! In addition to this, the Nevada legislature, in an exciting move, went rogue and overrode the governor's veto of a domestic partnership bill for state employees. We congratulate these outstanding strides by NH and NV's state legislatures for protecting the rights of their constituents.

June has officially been proclaimed as LGBT Pride Month by President Obama. Many of you may know that Obama's action/inaction on LGBT issues has been a growing dialogue within our community and beyond - whether or not you feel he's doing enough or has fallen short on promises, it's still exciting to have a President who has a good track record of acknowledging our issues.

Without further ado, here's what's happening in your neck of the woods:

  • Q-Notes mentions our upcoming PAC Reception at the RBC Plaza in Raleigh on June 9. You can always check out our website to RSVP, or stop by Q-Notes for the general information.
  • News 14, NC's 24-hour news outlet covers the debate on the School Violence Prevention Act as it went through committee last week. Unfortunately, most of that debate focused on wording, and not about the children who are directly affected by intense bullying on a daily basis.
  • Raleigh's News & Observer briefly mentions the Healthy Youth Act & SVPA in an article that mostly focuses on the education budget crisis we're currently experiencing. They fail to mention that both of these bills would cost very, very little (if anything) if enacted. (Unlike the Marriage Discrimination Amendment ballot initiative, which would cost our state upwards of $2 million.)
  • The good news is that the SVPA has proceeded through the first of two committees, and is heading to the House for a vote very soon. The Greenville Reflector has the story.
  • If you've been keeping up with the Healthy Youth Act (we know it's difficult!), you may know it's been battled tirelessly. News 14 has that story. If you haven't already, we urge you to take action to help us get this bill passed the way it was intended.
  • Heard any good rumors about that former Raleigh mayor? The News & Observer has, specifically the one about how he's gay, and how he considers that to be "vicious" enough to file a libel suit against a Wilmington DJ for spreading it. Our very own Ian Palmquist is on the scene to counter this sad form of homophobia.
  • Props to our friends in Asheville for starting a wonderful awareness-raising campaign on HIV/AIDS. The Asheville Citizen-Times has the story on the campaign, called "I Need You to Know." It was started by the Western NC Aids Project.
  • Coming up next weekend is both Boone's and Wilmington's PRIDE Festivals. Equality was on the scene last weekend at Triad Pride. Thanks to all the volunteers who helped us out and to all of those who stopped by to learn more about our work.
  • We launched a video this week to raise awareness about the School Violence Prevention Act before it heads to the House for the final vote. The video is below, and we encourage you to share it on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, your web page, or with the folks in your address book. The video features real quotes from true stories of bullying gathered from around the state. Help us make this viral campaign a success and take action, if you haven't already. The link for sharing is:

Thanks for checking in with us this week! We'll see you next time.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Support Binational Gay Couples TODAY!

Today in Congress there'll be debate on the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), which would allow American citizens to sponsor their same-sex partners for residency in the United States.

Now, it's easy to think "That doesn't affect me," but the truth is that it does, even if you don't know it. You may have friends who are part of a binational couple, and you are basically guaranteed to have friends of friends in this situation.

I have a couple of friends who live in Durham, Tim and Ed, that are from different countries. Ed's from here, but Tim's from Canada. They've been together for almost 10 years, and they've had to - and still have to! - jump through hoops just for Tim to stay here and work so they can be together.

Straight couples can get married and sponsor their spouse for immigration, but gay couples are totally out of luck (still/again - same old story!). The unfairness and inconsistency of it is maddening!

(Now, part of me thinks, "Hey, they can go to Canada and get married in a civilized manner. And Canada has socialized medicine and hockey. And you get called a Canuck - how cool is that!" Of course, after a little thought I realize, "But Canada is really cold.")

The USA is their home. As a former trailblazer of freedom and equality, our country should have been taking the lead on this, not playing catch up. It's too late for that, which makes it all the more important to do something now so we don't fall further behind.

Every step we can take forward for someone else also takes us, as a community, forward. Even an issue like this, which doesn't affect most of us directly, will affect our friends and people we know, as well as help shape a culture of acceptance and fairness.

The trip to the top of the mountain is made of little steps, one after another, and this is an important one for take. It all adds up.

Check out Immigration Equality for more information on this issue and how you can help.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Happy 4th Annual Blogging for LGBT Families!

Today is the 4th Annual Blogging for LGBT Families Day. Now, most people don't know about this. Heck, even most LGBT families don't know about this day of acknowledgment!

I found out about it from Mombian, a lesbian mom's blog.

This particular day is of special significance to me and my gay family. The start of June is also when we'll be celebrating our second Kid-iversary, marking the second anniversary of Kid coming into our family, as well as me and Craig's 15th anniversary together.

Of course, Craig and I can't get married in NC, and Kid can't belong to both of us in NC. (Well, for that second one he sort of can, but second-parent adoption isn't clean and easy here like it is in some states.)

That's why days like this - and in fact any day for gay visibility or anything any LGBT person or ally does to simply be open and out - are so important. Things are a lot better than they used to be - I never knew there could be gay couples with kids when I was growing up - but we've still got a long way to go.

So, this one is for all of the gay parents and their kids out there. This is for all of our families of choice, whoever they are.

This is for my Craig and Kid, and Auntie Angela and Uncle A.R.

This is for Craig's parents (Grams and Paw Paw) and his sister, her husband, and their son and daughter, who from the beginning welcomed me as their in-law/uncle and Kid as their grandson/nephew/cousin. We just spent a week at the beach with them, and our gay family agenda included go-carts, movies (Wolverine, Hannah Montana, Night at the Museum, Star Trek (again)), kite flying, digging for buried treasure, building sand castles, playing video games, holding tiger cubs, jumping waves, playing billiards, wading in the ocean, and anything else that would tire the kids out.

This is for my bleeding-heart liberal family who always joked that the only thing that would make Craig better than just being gay would be if he were black and Jewish.

This is for all of the Pride celebrations and family groups that help showcase the amazing normality of our families.

This is for all people of goodwill who see the truth of our families with their hearts, despite the vitriol and prejudice that gets spread about us.

I will always remember and treasure the day Kid came home from kindergarten, talking about how he learned in class that some families have one dad, some have a dad and mom and stepdad, some have two dads, etc. His teacher in Wake Forest, within spitting distance of a virulently antigay religious school, went out of her way to teach him about the diversity of families that included him.

This is for education and information overcoming ignorance. This is for honesty dismissing falsehoods. This is for love and connection.

Happy Blogging for LGBT Families Day, All!