Friday, July 31, 2009

Equality in the News for July 25-31, 2009

In the State

Two 22-year-old gay men were brutally beaten after leaving a bar in downtown Wilmington on July 17th. They wonder if the attack was motivated by their sexual orientation. Star News Online also has the story, including commentary from the victims.

Q-notes reports that another man who was seemingly perceived to be gay by his attacker was beaten in Greensboro on July 4th.

Gay dance pioneer Merce Cunningham, considered "the world’s greatest choreographer” according to the New York Times, died ate age 90 last Sunday. Cunningham founded his influential dance company after a residence at the Black Mountain College in our own Asheville, N.C.

Wayne Bessen of the Falls Church News press relates the “God Has a Better Way” protest in Charlotte last weekend to a growing trend among the religious right to more actively oppose gay rights.

News 14 attempts to give both sides of the story from Pride Charlotte, interviewing festival participants, and the leader of the counter-protest.

If you’re interested, here’s Director of the Coalition of Conscience Dr. Michael Brown’s (the leader of the “God Has a Better Way Campaign) statement to the media. Always interesting to see what the opposition is saying.

In the Nation

The St. Louis Beacon covered the Equality Federation's Summer Meeting in St. Louis this week, attended by much of our own staff. The Federation is the national association of state equality groups like Equality NC. The AP also has the story, though not as good an article.

The Matthew Shepard Foundation offers a detailed update on the status and shape of the Matthew Shepard Act, the federal anti-hate crimes bill.

Congressman Jerry Nadler (D-New York) shares his plans for defeating DOMA, which include pushing for recognition of same-sex marriages across the country, regardless of the policies of individual states.

U.S. News gives us a progress report of the repeal of DADT, focusing on the efforts of congressman and Iraqi veteran Rep. Patrick Murphy.

La Voz de Houston tiene la historia de una de estas parejas gay que busca la egalidad en la inmigración.

Universo Gay nos da un resumen del movimiento de "ex gays" y sus peligros para los participantes.

Out in the World

The Box Turtle Bulletin reports of the proposed strengthening of anti-gay laws in Uganda. While the law already provides for lifetime imprisonment as punishment for sodomy, the new laws would ban all forms of free speech on behalf of gay people. The government proposals follow a three-day anti-gay conference in the capital city this past March, after which the government promised to take action against gay rights.

Lesbians in China are petitioning to allow gays and lesbians to donate blood, repealing the 1998 ban.

British Quakers are looking to extend religious and legal marriage to same-sex couples, even though it is currently in conflict with the law.

Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha has announced that this fall, his party will propose the legalization of same-sex marriage. Albania is still a relatively conservative country and it seems that this proposal might be aimed at improving Albania’s eligibility for E.U. membership.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Putting the 'pal' in Episcopal


This was the welcome one of our church friends gave us a few weeks ago. Partner, Kid, and I go to the local Episcopal church in Wake Forest, and a couple of weeks ago the church as a whole moved to affirm its acceptance of gay folks.

Bishops at the general convention voted 99-45 to declare “God has called and may call” to ministry gays in committed lifelong relationships.

The Episcopal Church is basically the American version of the Anglican church, and ever since the Episcopalians confirmed the first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, in 2003, there's been a big pushback from the Anglican church and conservatives in the Episcopal church to cut support for the LGBT community.

And unlike most other mainstream American churches, they haven't.

We joined the Episcopal church six years ago to provide symbolic support for an organized religious body that supported us as gay people. (Well, OK, we also liked the minister, and the people were very welcoming and supportive of us, happily adopting us as the church's token gay couple. We then promptly reaffirmed stereotypes by showing up everyone else when we hosted the after-service coffee hour with a wide selection of foods, including vegetable bouquets!)

The Episcopalians at the convention also voted to bless same-sex unions and research an official prayer for the ceremonies.

Our local church was thrilled with our adoption of Kid, and they were also eager to celebrate us during service with an official adoption ritual.

Many gay people have a mixed, if not negative, association with religion, and yet in America it is such an intrinsic part of our culture and life. It's nice - actually thrilling - to have one major body moving towards inclusivity and equality, even as others struggle with such basic ideas.

Monday, July 27, 2009

PRIDE Charlotte and Prejudice

by ENC volunteer Steve - Thanks to all our great volunteers who represented ENC at Pride Charlotte this weekend!

And then they came. They came wearing shorts, chaps, hats, and bandannas. They wore flip-flops, loafers, tennis shoes and boots. They wore shirts ....

The protesters came, as well. Their shirts said, "God has a better way," which was disappointing because they left off the ending - “For us all.” (I’m sure there is an active issue with a t-shirt maker pending somewhere.)

Other shirts were "Out is In," "I’m a whosoever," and "Legalize Gay," the rainbow emblems flashing bright as the rays of the sun. Wonderful it was. ["Legalize Gay" t-shirts were reaction to California's recent Prop 8 ruling.]

They came deftly honed at their skill of having a good time, and they were composed in relaxation and comfort for who they were. Friends brought friends, families brought their loved ones, couples as partners were together as one as it should be. Whether alone or in pairs or as a group, the throng of revelers were well-behaved.

This was my first such an event, even though I’ve been out for seven plus years now. It was everything I’d thought it would be but yet in some ways not stereotypical of what I had imagined. Stereotypes, now I realize, are merely a mental perception untested against reality. The reality for me is that for the first time ever I walked hand-in-hand with my partner down a city street unfeeling and uncaring about someone else’s perception of me – or us.

The parade of souls and onlookers alike took part in their individual ways on this day of Charlotte Pride. None were worse for wear in their own beliefs and lives.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Equality in the News: July 18 – July 24

Once again ENC Intern Harmony Pringle has prepared our news round up!

PRIDE Charlotte 2009 is happening this weekend! Come represent the LGBT community and their Allies at any or all of these exciting events, and be sure to stop by our table at the festival and say hi!

In the Old North State ...

Angela Boatright-Spencer, of the Charlotte Episcopal Examiner, offers an interpretation of the Episcopal Church's recent action in favor of LGBT rights within the church, correcting misrepresentations. The Associated press also covers the story.

The Charlotte Observer covers a round-table discussion "Out is In ... at the Workplace" held by the Lesbian and Gay Community Center as part of Pride Charlotte this past Thursday, focusing on LGBT experiences on the job.

Ali Davis, a contributor to, lambastes the Pentecostal Evangelists for their protest plan at Pride Charlotte.

Jim Burroway of the Box Turtle Bulletin expands the story, providing a disturbing and detailed profile of each of the leaders of the group of "worshipers, intercessors, musicians, soul-winners, walkers, talkers, and believers of every age, color, and size" there to "stand together as a prophetic witness to our society" this weekend in Charlotte.

Pitt County resident Laurie Potter writes a letter to the editor of the Reflector, addressing County Commissioner David Hammond's request for a same-sex marriage ban and highlighting its disagreement with former Supreme Court rulings.

A new study from UNC-Chapel Hill reports that gays and lesbians smoke more than people who identify as heterosexual. Outcome, Buffalo's Gay Newspaper, has the story.

If you're still thinking about it, the Healthy Youth Act receives a positive and optimistic review in the Gaston Gazette.

In the Nation ...

FindLaw's got a hefty review of the position of the states on same-sex marriage. Find out where each of the fifty stands in part two of this series!

The major LGBT legal groups are skeptical of the legal approach to the upcoming federal challenge of California's Prop 8, and are seeking to intervene in the case. Read more about their concerns at

"The Human Rights Campaign and other LGBT political organizations feel comfortable that gay issues will get a fair consideration from Sotomayor." Read more from the Bay Area Reporter.

Out in the World ...

A two-day symposium in Srinagar debates the legality of homosexuality, and other moral questions facing modern India, before Islamic law.

Here's a pick-me-up from the fiery Irish Senator who folks are dubbing Ireland's Harvey Milk. About gay rights in America he offers, ""I want the whole lot now, with the cream and cherry on top,'' he says. "And an apology.'' Read more and even catch a video.

A lesbian couple in Russia is fighting for marriage rights, reports Radio Free Europe. Wish them luck!

That's all for this week!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Black Gay Pride Blogging

By ENC intern Brittany

On Saturday July 18, 2009, I attended Charlotte Black Gay Pride.

I arrived early with my friend Corey accompanying me. The location was Fran’s Park and Center, which is a locally owned Boys and Girls Club. I was very happy to be out of the hot sun for this Pride! A definite plus in my book!

After choosing a booth and setting up, Corey and I helped finish setting up the tables. Ashleigh arrived soon thereafter and helped for a few hours. (I want to say thank you very much to her!)

At 12:00, people began coming in. There was music playing and approximately 35 vendors altogether. It was a very good turnout despite some difficulties which arose in the beginning.

There was a stage set with the prospect of some entertainment. After going around once, acquiring some of the cool free stickers and meeting some amazing people from UNC Charlotte Pride, ACLU, Charlotte Gender Alliance, and QMocha, the live singers began. Two acts went on with two songs each. Following this was the always entertaining drag show.

By the end of this, it was already 5:00. We made many new contacts, and I had the privilege of witnessing Charlotte Black Gay Pride, a place where I felt an extreme amount of pride and a strong sense of community.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Why Black Pride?

This past weekend was Charlotte Black Gay Pride. Now, we've had people ask us, isn't regular gay pride enough? Why have a black gay pride?

There's no reason, of course.

Or rather, there's no reason beyond the one to have any pride celebration: to be visible, to share community, to support each other and let the world know we exist.

The gay community is often seen as being primarily male and white. As such, it's important for for other groups, like people of color (POC), to be seen within the greater LGBT movement.

Being a minority within a minority is tough. I mean, which bigotry do you reject and address first? It's not an either/or situation. POC are POC. Gay people are gay people. Gay POC are gay POC. None of us are portions of ourselves - we're all total human beings with varied aspects.

Having a celebration like Charlotte Black Gay Pride lets us acknowledge all of those elements and not focus on one. We need these events. In fact, we could use more of them, like trans pride, Jewish pride, family pride, etc.

We're all in the struggle for gay equality. We can best come together by acknowledging - and celebrating - our differences. We can and should be proud of everything about ourselves. Black gay pride isn't about being separatist or exclusive, but rather the opposite. It's about unity and a common human cause, despite superficial differences.

Check out ENC's upcoming blog on Charlotte Black Pride later this week.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Equality in the News for July 11-17, 2009

So what's happened since last Friday?

In the home state …

Q-Notes releases the second half of their piece “Timeless Pride,” a summary of major LGBT activism and milestones in North Carolina since 1971.

WITN reports that the Pitt County resolution against same-sex marriage appears dead after a county commissioners meeting this week, which was accompanied by a small protest against the resolution. Q-Notes has more background on this protest as well.

Should Perdue’s appointment of Republican judge Eric Levinson cause concern within the LGBT community? Q-Notes has the scoop.

Mitchell Gold, CEO of the Taylorsville, N.C.-based Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams furniture company and a friend of Equality NC, chose to attend the DNC’s 10th Annual LGBT Leadership Council Dinner, held on June 25 in Washington, despite the call for a boycott due to what some see as the party’s weak follow-through on LGBT issues. But Q-Notes reports that Mitchell Gold saw the dinner as an opportunity.

The Blue Ridge Now argues for the practicality of the new policies implemented by the Healthy Youth Act.

In the nation …

The Matthew Shepard Act passes the senate – but as an amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill, not a stand-alone bill. That puts it at risk of a veto due to the bill's funding of the problematic F-22 jet program. The Advocate has the story.

Although it’s a bit out of date, this piece from the San Francisco Chronicle debunks some misconceptions and misleading testimony about the Act from the senate floor.

Un resúmen del Matthew Shepard Act, y la historia de Shepard mismo, en español

President Obama acknowledges the struggles of "our gay brothers and sisters" in his speech to the NAACP. Yay!

About 250 people showed up outside the Florida offices of WFLA this past Wednesday to protest the airing of anti-LGBT American Family Association documentary Speechless: Silencing the Christians, which was also aired in Charlotte, NC.

South Carolina Pride 2009 received a 12,000 dollar tax grant from Richland County government this year. Established 20 years ago, it is now a major tourist attraction, bringing in approximately 7000-8000 attendees last year.

Out in the World …

“The number of openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered ( LGBT ) representatives in the national legislatures of 18 countries around the world has tripled since 1998.” reports a study performed by UNC-Chapel Hill professor of Politcal Science Andrew Reynolds, Ph.D. See more of his findings here.

That’s all for this week!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Does Your Visitor's Bureau Welcome You?

Recently I found out that the city of Raleigh welcomes gay folks.

It's true! The Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau has a specific page for it's LGBT visitors (and there's even a link from it's main visitor page). They've gotten a rainbow acorn logo, since Raleigh is 'the city of oaks.'

It's definitely a sign of progress and fairness to be visible within a city, but it's an additional step forward when the city itself visibly invites you. One of the tools of bigotry is active ignorance, pretending that a group doesn't exist or even working to closet it or hide its existence. It's much harder to discriminate against people when you see them, when they become a real, human group.

It's amazingly thrilling and validating for a city to say "hey, gay folks, you're welcome here."

It's also pretty savvy, especially in these tough economic times, to reach out to any group. Pink dollars spend just as well as any other, and according to the Gay Financial Network, LGBT folks are more likely to search out and support gay-inclusive companies and communities than other consumers.

The discovery of the 'Greater Raleigh Gay and Lesbians Visitors Guide and Info' site lead to another discovery - the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association, a nonprofit organizations which describes itself as the leading global organization dedicated to connecting businesses in the GLBT tourism industry.

Two other places in North Carolina have registered with the IGLTA:
Does your city/town welcome you, as a queer person, and the LGBT community? How do you know? More importantly, how do you - and they - let other people know?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sweet Sorrow

Farewell blog by departing ENC Foundation board member Jami Taylor

Recently, I accepted a faculty position at the University of Toledo. As such, it is with great sadness that I must stand down as a director of Equality NC Foundation. On the bright side, I leave after we won important legislative battles with the School Violence Prevention Act and Healthy Youth Act. In particular, the School Violence Prevention Act victory marks the first time that a fully inclusive and explicitly pro-LGBT law has been enacted in the state. By my count, it is also the first state level transgender inclusive law in the South. These accomplishments, along with our on-going fight to block a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage are items to which we should all be extremely proud.

Out of fear of missing the efforts of any person, I will not single out the work of any individual for special praise. Staff members, volunteers, board members and interns have all been important in achieving our recent gains. More importantly, you, the people who support our work, have been vital. Without your generosity, our organization would not exist. Without your willingness to live openly, attitudes would not change. Without your willingness to contact legislators, political actors would not do what is right. It has been a privilege to work with and for such a such a group of dedicated and talented individuals. I will miss everyone and I hope that we can collaborate in the future.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Equality in the News for July 4-10, 2009

Thanks again to our Communications Intern Harmony Pringle for compiling this week's Equality in the News!

In the State …

Supporters of marriage equality are planning to protest during the Pitt County Board of Commissioners meeting this coming Monday to show their contempt for a same-sex marriage ban proposed by Commissioner David Hammond.

Edge, Boston’s largest LGBT news network, offers a debriefing on the recently released, and somewhat controversial, Dallas Principles, drafted by 24 individuals in a hotel room in Dallas last May. One of these 24 was NC’s own Pam Spaulding!

For a first-hand look, check out their website at

Chapel Hill Native and six-year Dean and Director of Religious and Spiritual Life at Duke University Rev. Craig Kocher may become the new Chaplain at the University of Richmond. A committed LGBT ally, Rev. Kocher would make the U of R chaplaincy a place for the community to “engage questions of difference with dignity and grace.”

Pamela Jones, a Charlotte blogger, takes a moment to reflect on all of the LGBT activity in July, especially in the city.

The School Library Journal says its piece on the Healthy Youth Act, mostly hopeful that it will help to reduce the high rates of teen pregnancy in the state. If only their slightly mis-informed headline – “North Carolina Abandons Teaching Abstinence to Middle Schoolers” – were true.

The Cherokee Scout weighs in on the effects of the Healthy Youth Act in their county.

More Historically Black Colleges and Universities around the nation are adopting non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation. Winston-Salem State University happily amended theirs earlier this year, thanks to a proposal from the school’s Gay Straight Student Alliance!

In the nation …

On editors of the New Republic share their frustration with the inaction of the Obama Administration towards LGBT issues.

USAToday reports that computer programs which automatically “unmarry” same-sex couples, as well as other complications, will make the 2010 Census inclusion of same-sex marriage a challenge.

The White House and the OPM came out in “whole-hearted” support of extending health and retirement benefits to the same-sex partners of government employees. Office of Personnel Director John Berry admitted in a statement that, “Historically, the federal government has in many ways been a progressive employer, but we’re behind the private sector and 19 states, including Alaska and Arizona, on this one.

The School Violence Prevention Act goes national as the Safe Schools Improvement Act, which would also include the specific enumeration of sexual orientation and gender expression. Blogger Pam Spaulding has the details.

In the World …

Sarah Brown, wife of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, carried a red, white and pink version of the Union Jack, joining in the annual London gay pride march.

That’s all for this week!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Pink Ribbons - Breast Cancer and the LGBT Community

Recently some local blogs - Pam's Health Blend, and BlueNC, working with firedoglake - took NC Senator Kay Hagan to task for not supporting a public health plan. Their complaint was very specific - they are speaking on behalf of women survivors of breast cancer.

This issue is of particular relevance to the gay community. While one in every eight women will have to deal with breast cancer in her life, lesbians and bisexual women actually have an increased risk of breast cancer.

Now the reasons for this are debatable. These women may be less likely to monitor their health and get screened for breast cancer, due to real and/or perceived homophobia in the medical community, not having access to health care through a partner, etc. They may also tend to have fewer children and have children later in life, both of which put a woman more at risk.

Even though the causation is debatable, the correlation is not. Breast cancer is a very real issue that affects lesbians and bi women more than straight women.

Of course, breast cancer is an issue for all people - men, transfolks, teens, the elderly, etc.

The most effective means of controlling breast cancer is early detection, through self-examination, exams by a physician, and regular mammograms (especially at ages 40+).

The American Cancer Society has plenty of information on breast cancer. They also have resource materials for LGBT folks regarding cancer in general.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Giving Back Hope - Suicide Prevention

by ENC intern Stephanie Silberstein. Her personal activism was recently featured in a new blurb by Q-notes.

You may or may not be aware of the huge problem with suicide among LGBT youth. I certainly wasn’t aware of it until almost a year ago, when my best friend told me he wanted to commit suicide.

He is both bisexual and religious, and at the time didn't see any way to resolve the conflict between what the Bible said and who he was attracted to other than to destroy himself.

Fortunately, my friend survived. He learned to embrace who he is and is living a happier, more open life now.

But he’s lucky, and so are the people who care about him: 30% of successful suicide attempts are related to the victim’s sexual orientation.

Sadly, this is a hidden problem — or at least one many people in the LGBT community are not aware of. While there’s a great organization called The Trevor Project that hosts a suicide hotline specifically geared to the LGBT youth community, there is not a lot of media attention given to this problem, and many people first face it when tragedy strikes.

So last April, I decided to step in and begin raising awareness. I opened a Cafepress store dedicated to encouraging LGBT youth to survive and thrive. I designed a few t-shirts and accessories with pro-LGBT messages, as well as creating a site that provides information about suicide prevention, safe schools, and other issues of concern to LGBT youth. The site is designed to raise awareness among both the LGBT and straight communities, and 10% of profits go to support the Trevor Project Hotline. My favorite design so far (pictured above) reads, “30% of suicides are LGBT related. I refuse to be a statistic."

It is not always easy working on suicide prevention, especially when faced with the premature deaths of handsome/beautiful, talented young people. However, I feel like I’m giving back to the LGBT community and perhaps to G-d, in gratitude that my friend made it, and living Harvey Milk’s words when he encouraged us all to “give them hope.”

Friday, July 3, 2009

Equality In the News June 27 – July 3

Special thanks to intern Harmony Pringle for reporting on this week's Equality in the News!

This week’s theme is solidarity – with the President, with the LGBT communities in other nations, and with other marginalized communities within our own nation. As author Elie Wiesel eloquently stated
This is the duty of our generation as we enter the twenty-first century -- solidarity with the weak, the persecuted, the lonely, the sick, and those in despair. It is expressed by the desire to give a noble and humanizing meaning to a community in which all members will define themselves not by their own identity but by that of others.
And now, the news!

The continuing commentary from the Legislature …

Healthy Youth Act
  • Q-notes points out that while “an incredible step forward” (quoting our own Ian Palmquist), the Healthy Youth Act still includes problematic language, offering faithful, monogamous, heterosexual relationships as the “best” option for preventing sexually transmitted diseases.
  • If by now you still aren’t convinced, you can read a strongly-worded editorial supporting the HYA from the Wilmington Star News.

School Violence Prevention Act

  • The Hickory Daily Record received two letters to the editor this week chastising pastors for their criticism of the SVPA and using Christianity to support the act, rather than tear it down.
  • Ragan Robinson gives voice to senators and citizens on all sides of the debate over the SVPA and its connection to LGBT rights, especially same-sex marriage. It is a WONDERFUL summary!

In other NC-related news...
  • Our own North Carolina native and founder of the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network Kevin Jennings will take his post as assistant deputy secretary of education for the department’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools on July 6th, but not before the conservative Family Research Council has their say. Q-Notes has the story.
  • Indy Week reminds us that determining what happens to a partner and his or her property after death is another important bundle of rights denied same-sex couples.
  • For the year in review – in regards to marriage equality in the nation and the state – check out Indy Weeks recent post!
  • Charlotte and Raleigh are part of a pilot market for a new program of the Human Rights Campaign called “Ya Es Hora” (It’s Time), which aims to help legal resident Latinos through the citizenship process. “The time has come to unite the LGBT and Hispanic Community. We have more in common than differences and we should work on our common issues,” says Cynthia Leigh Lewis, HRC Arizona Political Co-Chair. She hopes that new Latino voters would be able to weigh in on issues important to both communities. Hurrah for Allies!

Across the country, and the world...

  • This past Monday, 250 LGBT leaders met with President Obama to commemorate the Stonewall riots and to hear the President’s plans for the future. While a gesture of solidarity from the President, who connected the struggles of the LGBT community to those of the African-Americans and allies that made his election possible, the dinner did not satisfy everyone, and the President offered no hint as to when we could expect his promises to be realized. But he did try to reassure the audience, stating that "I want you to know that I expect and hope to be judged not by word, but by the promises my administration keeps" and that "By the time this administration is over, I think you guys will have pretty good feelings about the Obama administration." We certainly hope so!
  • Monday was also a big day for LGBT communities of India, where “Several BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] leaders on Monday defied the ‘gag order’ imposed by the party leadership as they came out in the open in support of gay rights even as the official party line was to skirt the issue.” These comments came out following Sunday’s Queer Pride march – complete with signs, drums, and colorful clothing – in Bangalore. The march was part of a weeklong celebration organized to raise awareness in time with the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.
  • The New York Times examines lagging political action versus popular culture in this week’s article

Thanks for reading and Happy Fourth!