Monday, August 31, 2009

Take Action Now for Immigration Equality!

Congress is currently working on a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced that he will finish the bill by Labor Day, and it is critically important that lawmakers hear about the need to include LGBT families in the legislation.

More than 36,000 lesbian and gay families are impacted every day by discriminatory immigration policies. Many families are forced to leave the United States or be split apart because U.S. immigration law does not allow lesbian and gay Americans to sponsor their partners and children for residency. For each of those families, the clock is ticking.

Read more about those families in a recent feature article in The Advocate.

By speaking out now, you will help ensure a critical victory for LGBT loved ones, their families, and equality. By supporting truly comprehensive immigration reform, we can be part of a historic effort that creates justice and fairness for millions of families.

We urge you to take action now, and we encourage you to share this with your friends and family. Follow both of these two links - nothing succeeds like excess:
This is a quick, easy way you can make a difference for all families, including our families.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Equality in the News August 21st – 28th

By ENC intern, Harmony

As many of you know, longtime ally Senator Edward Kennedy died this past Tuesday. Bay Windows has gathered notes from leading community members – local and national – on the former Senator and his work. You can read them here.

Para leer sobre el senador en español, fíjese en SentidoG.

In the State …

Q-notes reports on the merger of two LGBT publications – OnQ Network, based in Myrtle Beach, S.C, and Stereotypd, sourced in Asheville. More specifics here.

Lee Sartain, 28, is running for Raleigh City Council. “His friends call him an ‘ideas machine,’ flexible enough to adapt them to be politically realistic. He speaks his mind, says Trey Davis, a Duke University graduate and fellow wonk who works for the Urban Land Institute in Washington, D.C., ‘but he's Southern enough to know how to put a little sugar on it, too.’” If elected, Sartain will become Raleigh’s first openly gay city council member. Read more online.

Greensboro’s News & Record asks if it’s okay to be gay in Guilford County. Check out the mixed responses here.

Wilmington protesters, inspired by the beating of two men perceived to be gay earlier this summer, call for greater legal protection from hate crimes. Read more from WHQR.

Q-notes also reports on the protest.

Q-notes shares the anti-LGBT history of former Chief Justice of the N.C. Supreme Court Henry E. Frye, Jr. Chief Justice Frye was recently honored by the state Democratic party, which renamed the Sanford-Hunt dinner the “Sanford-Hunt-Frye” dinner.

Q-notes interviews two of the military veterans, both discharged under DADT, who spoke in Charlotte as part of the joint Human Rights Campaign and Servicemembers United speaking tour, Voices of Honor.

Home improvement store Lowe’s is set to pay 1.7 million dollars in a sexual harassment settlement to two men harassed for being perceived as gay, and one woman sexually harassed by her supervisor at the Lowe’s in Mooresville, N.C. The chain has also agreed to review its policies on anti-harassment training, and issuing complaints. Follow this link for details.

This year’s N.C. Literary Festival will be held Sept 10-13 at UNC Chapel Hill, and will include a segment called “Writing Gay” in which authors discuss the complexities of writing gay characters and the issues they face. Read more about what’s coming here.

In the Nation

The Gay and Lesbian Times reports on the recent Lutheran vote to accept Gay and Lesbian clergy in committed homosexual relationships and the various reactions from Lutherans and Christians of other denominations.

A more optimistic, less schism-searching perspective on the Lutheran decision comes from a blogger on Progressive Revival. shows there is no real timeline on the repeal of DADT, either from the White House or the Pentagon. Read more here.

Congressman Alcee Hastings wrote to the President yesterday, calling for a repeal of DADT and promising to keep pushing until he sees results. Read his bold letter at pinknews.

“According to the Associated Press, U.S. district judge David O. Carter ruled that the first of several challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act was improperly filed in a state court before it was advanced to federal courts.” Thankfully, attorney for the plaintiffs Richard Gilbert says he does plan to resubmit the case. Read more about the rejection of Smelt v. United States from the Advocate.

Philadelphia Gay News also has the story.

For a detailed update on the ENDA bill and its commitment to protecting gender identity as well as sexual orientation, check out the Associated Press.

Out in the World

The Uruguayan Chamber of Representatives voted yesterday to allow gay and lesbian couples to adopt. If this bill passes the senate, Uruguay, which already allows same-sex civil unions and gay and lesbian service-people in the military, will become the first country in Latin America to have such a law.

SentidoG reconoce “un ejemplo de lucha contra la homofobia en una escuela argentina.” Lea más aquí.

That’s all for this week, and the last of my blogs for Equality NC – I’m off to Spain this Tuesday! Thanks for reading – I hope it was helpful!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Attending a Health Care Town Hall with the President

With all the talk of town hall meetings on heath care recently, we asked ENC intern and volunteer Hillary Waugh to share her experience when the President held on in Raleigh a few weeks ago.

On Wednesday, July 29 President Barack Obama came to Raleigh for a town hall meeting on healthcare. While this took place before the heated town hall meetings that have occurred in the past few weeks, the event was nonetheless exciting, informative, and inspirational. In Needham Broughton High School’s gymnasium, which was standing room only, the president talked about and answered questions about the state of the economy and the proposed healthcare reform. In an overwhelmingly supportive crowd, President Obama received thunderous applause and standing ovations throughout his hour-long talk.

Although not everyone in attendance was in support of the proposed changes to health care, many were able to ask questions of the president and hopefully feel that their concerns were being taken into consideration. In such a large nation, it is easy to feel disconnected from the political process, and this event served as a wonderful opportunity for people to feel much closer to the decisions that are being made in Washington.

Hearing the president speak in person was a truly amazing experience. He is an incredibly powerful orator who also has the ability to break down topics that are confusing to many people into clear, concise language. The entire event served as a wonderful reminder of how capable a person we have leading our nation.

It is also wonderful that the White House provided Equality North Carolina with tickets to the town hall. That is such a huge compliment to ENC and a demonstration of how work being done by state-wide organizations is being noticed at much higher levels. The president’s town hall was also a striking example of how important it is for our elected officials to connect with constituents state-by-state and explain policies and changes that will undoubtedly impact all Americans.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Evangeical Lutherans (ELCA) Say Gay is OK

Last week, on Friday, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) voted not only to allow churches to develop ceremonies to “recognize, support and hold publicly accountable lifelong, monogamous, same gender relationships,” but they also decided to allow openly gay clergy in committed relationships to serve within the church (striking down a requirement of celibacy for gay clergy).

Earlier in the week, a majority in the church voted to approve a social statement on human sexuality to acknowledge without judgment the wide variety of views within the ELCA regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inclusion.

(That's kind of a sop to homophobic, conservative views, but it's still a big step forward. By working to keep conservative parishioners within the church, you provide them with more exposure to gay people so they can see we're just like them. Experience and education, not isolation and ghettoization, are the only cures for ignorance.)

All of this is huge news. The ELCA has almost 4.8 million members and is the seventh largest Christian church in the country. This decision came after almost a decade of study.

Following the ground-breaking work of the Episcopal church, you can see the beginning of a seismic shift in how mainstream religion regards gay folks. This is the largest church to date to take a gay-positive stance.

My partner was Lutheran for many, many years, and when we moved to Wake Forest, we tried to find a Lutheran church to call home. Unfortunately, we weren't able to find one that was a fit for our openly gay family and ended up going Episcopalian.

I'm thrilled, though, that LGBT Lutherans will no longer have to choose between their sexuality and spirituality. Churches are notoriously conservative institutions, but it's always affirming to see when their commitment to humanity and divinity move them forward towards inclusion and support of all.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Equality in the News August 14th – 21st

In the State

Support from the Bull City

This past Monday, the Durham City Council unanimously passed a resolution in support of same-sex marriage. While it has no legal power, the resolution sends a positive message of community support!

The vote is covered in The Advocate, and locally in the News & Observer.

Durham Blogger Pam Spaulding attended the meeting, and shares a more detailed account here.

However, Q-notes reminds us that while three such resolutions have passed in the Triangle, many more anti-LGBT resolutions have passed in cities around the state just this year.

Court Rules that Second Parents are...Parents!

The News & Observer reports that the N.C. court ruling to uphold Sen. Julia Boseman’s parental rights over her and her former partner’s child may help bolster future gay adoptions. Judge Wanda Bryant concluded that "While [the adoption law] does not specifically address same-sex adoptions, these statutes do make clear that a wide range of adoptions are contemplated and permitted, so long as they protect the minor's 'needs, interests, and rights.'" (Btw, you can read Shawn’s blog post for more info!)

Q-notes offers a more compact version of the story.

In the Nation …

Clinton and those Acronyms Starting with Ds

One of the best-covered stories in LGBT news this week is former president Bill Clinton’s keynote address at Netroots Nation, in which he explained his reasoning behind the passing of DADT and DOMA.

Hannah Clay Wareham from Bay Windows acknowledges Clinton’s apparent regret, but feels he also blamed the LGBT community for these policies, claiming that they failed to deliver him support in congress.

Lisa Keen of the Bay Area Reporter also takes Clinton to task in her piece, completely debunking his excuses for DOMA and DADT.

Ryan Witt of the Charlotte Examiner takes a more balanced approach, empathizing with both sides. He also included the video of Clinton’s speech on the page, so you can decide for yourself!

The Obama Administration's Take on DOMA

In other big news, the Justice Department stated that the Obama administration affirms that DOMA “is discriminatory, and supports its repeal.” Finally! While not drastic action, the small gesture of support, according to Matt Coles of the American Civil Liberties Union--as quoted in The Economist, is “a promising sign.”

The Associated Press offers more detail on the action.

The Human Rights campaign has its own response to the administration’s action – “Tell Congress how DOMA affects you!” You can share your story here.

And a Little of Everything Else...

Campus Pride warns that the criteria used to determine the Princeton Review’s Top 20 "Gay Community Accepted" list is insufficient and potentially misleading to LGBT students. They also take issue with the Review’s use of the outdated term “alternative lifestyle.” Campus Pride offers their own list of LGBT-friendly colleges and universities in their Campus Climate Index.

The New York Times reports that the Lutheran Church is considering lifting the ban on non-celibate gay and lesbian pastors. The vote might happen today!

The first legal challenge to Prop 8 was set this past Wednesday for January 11th of next year! Read more from the Christian Science Monitor.

Out in the World

The Human Rights Watch will release a report Monday that urges the Iraqi government to do more to protect gay men, many whom they say have been killed and tortured by militiamen in recent months. Read more from the Washington Post.

Sanjeev Bery, in the Huffington Post, denounces the lack of coverage of Pakistan’s progress on transgender rights in the Western media.

That’s all for this week!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Victory for Gay Families in NC on Second-Parent Adoption!

The NC Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that a second-parent adoption by the state’s only openly gay legislator, Sen. Julia Boseman (D-New Hanover) of her former partner's six-year-old child, Melissa Jarrell, is valid. Jarrell had sought to void Boseman’s parental rights.

(Julia Boseman, pictured, was a champion in ENC's recent successful battles for the School Violence Prevention Act and the Healthy Youth Act.)

This is a huge and wonderful victory for gay families in the state. Up until now, second-parent adoptions by gay folks in the state have been in a kind of legal limbo, neither valid nor invalid. Now, they've been validated.

A three-judge panel of the court unanimously agreed that Boseman's adoption of Melissa Jarrell's child cannot be undone. State law creates a huge hurdle for reversing adoptions, and Jarrell had challenged whether state law even allowed gay parents to adopt.

And the state - thank goodness! - basically said it does. (Actually, they apophased it, saying they weren't saying gay adoption was valid but not countering the idea either.)

Judge Wanda Bryant wrote in the opinion that while state law "does not specifically address same-sex adoptions, these statutes do make clear that a wide range of adoptions are contemplated and permitted, so long as they protect the minor’s 'needs, interests, and rights,'"

Bryant wrote that the court would have reached the same conclusion if the couple in question were heterosexual.

So far second-parent adoptions in the state have only been occurring in Orange and Durham Counties, but hopefully this ruling will clear the way for more.

It's all about the children. This ruling, and the ability of both gay parents to adopt their children, protects the kids and ensures that the children wil have the protection of two parents.

Strengthening families - especially our families - helps all of us.

Monday, August 17, 2009

APA Repudiates Reparative Therapy ... Finally!

A couple of weeks ago, the American Psychological Association officially announced that mental health professionals should not tell gay clients they can become straight through therapy or other treatments. These are mainstays of the antigay industry, which tries to treat sexual orientation as a choice or a sickness.

Now, this is certainly great news and a worthwhile announcement. However, what took them so long? I mean, it was decades ago, back in 1973, when they declared that being gay wasn't a mental disorder. How come it took them so much longer to acknowledge the damage so-called reparative therapy does to people?

I remember almost 10 years ago when I was diagnosed with stomach cancer, I was chatting with my gastronenterologist, and we ended up talking about current celebrities who were in the news for having affairs. One of them was gay - I don't remember who it was - but the first thing my doctor said was "He should get reparative therapy so he could have a normal relationship with a woman and not cheat on guys."

Now, she knew I was gay and in a relationship. There we were talking about having my stomach surgically removed, and she just casually mentions that a gay guy needs therapy to become straight.

In fairness to her, her comment was a knee-jerk reaction, and she had no actual issues with gay folks. She was simply parroting something she'd heard, out of ignorance. When the situation was turned around - "That straight guy needs therapy so he can be a in a normal relationship with another guy and not cheat on girls" - she immediately realized her faux pas.

Even now, though, years later, I remember the shock and discomfort I felt at her statement. When you're seeing a doctor, you're already feeling vulnerable and unwell, and there's an immediate power-differential between you and this authority figure.

I cannot imagine how I'd feel if that doctor were telling me I needed treatment to change something so basic with myself as who I was attracted to. It was bad enough to catch it as an indirect, offhand comment. How devastating to have it be a direct attack on your sexual identity.

Not only did the APA refute, nearly unanimously, reparative therapy, but they also urged therapists to advise clients whose sexual orientation and religious faith conflicted
to consider multiple alternative options, ranging from celibacy to switching churches.

Their declaration is a great thing without question. Hopefully future advances for equality will be more timely (and more strongly worded would be nice, too).

Friday, August 14, 2009

Equality in the News August 7th - 14th

Hey everyone. Drop by our table at the 14th Annual N.C. Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, which starts today in Durham.

In the State …

The Associated Press released its review of the year in the N.C. legislature, mentioning the School Violence Prevention and Healthy Youth Acts.

Ian Palmquist, of Equality NC, issued our own “year in review” as well.

Last week was “Family Week” in Provincetown, MA – advertised as “the largest national gathering of LGBT families and their friends in the United States.” Read a review of the town-guest relationship – including comments from a Greensboro, NC family. proclaims that the annual N.C. Gay and Lesbian Film Festival is something for us all to get excited about, not just the organizers. "We always try to be cutting edge," says Carl, senior director of the Carolina Theatre, "but this year we hit the jackpot."

In the Nation …

At N.C. blogger Pam Spaulding gives a detailed and thoughtful commentary on "At the Intersection: Race, Sexuality, and Gender," a comprehensive report released this week by the the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. It is a must read for anyone hoping for coalition building beyond the boundaries of race, sexuality, and religion.

To read the original HRC report in pdf, click here.

“Are Black people really homophobic?” bluntly asks columnist Mary C. Curtis in Politics Daily. Answer: It’s really much more complicated than that.

The American Bar Association has approved a resolution to repeal the section of DOMA that prevents same-sex married couples from receiving federal benefits. Read more from Edge.

For a great summary on this bill, check out this piece from the CCH Aspen Publishers Technical Answer Group.

Equality California has announced that, after months of research and consultation with experts and grassroots activists, they will are now working towards an initiative FOR marriage equality in the 2012 election. They believe that a 2010 campaign is not likely to succeed for a host of reasons. All Headline News covers the controversy over this approach. Check out Equality California's full plan to win.

Dice Equality California que se debe posponer la lucha por el matrimonio gay hasta el año 2012. ¿Porque? Reuters América Latina tiene la respuesta.

Out in the World

The second ever gay rights march in Mumbai is planned to take place today and tomorrow. “There is a need for the gay community to find an identity that is connected to Indian culture, said Pallav Patankar, a trustee with the Humsafar Trust, a community-based organization. “Our homosexuality is not about being Western. We’re trying to find our own path.” Read more from the N.Y. Times.

That’s all for this week – hope it got you thinking!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

New DOJ Info on Rights of People with HIV/AIDS

Last month the Department of Justice (DOJ) released a new technical assistance fact sheet relating to admitting people with HIV/AIDS to occupational training schools and granting state licensure in barbering, massage therapy, and home health care assistance.

People with HIV/AIDS unfortunately still face obstacles in obtaining training and state licensure in these occupations because of overly-broad state licensure requirements that applicants be free of communicable diseases. Because HIV/AIDS is not communicated through casual contact, excluding individuals with HIV/AIDS under licensure requirements is discriminatory and in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The DOJ publication is intended to provide guidance for state licensing agencies and occupational training schools so that individuals with HIV/AIDS have an equal opportunity to pursue these jobs.

"People with HIV or AIDS should not be denied access to their chosen profession because of outdated laws or unfounded stereotypes and fears," said Loretta King, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ. "The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice is committed to the full and fair enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act."

The Americans with Disabilities Act protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination in all activities of state and local government entities and by public accommodations. This publication and additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available at the Department’s ADA Web site at

Monday, August 10, 2009

Lifting the Ban - The HIV Travel Ban, That Is!

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has published proposed regulations that would eliminate the HIV travel and immigration ban. Once finalized, the regulations would remove HIV from the list of “communicable diseases of public health significance.” Once HIV is removed from this list, the two-decade old HIV ban would finally come to an end. HHS has called for a 45-day comment period on these proposed changes.

The national group, Immigration Equality, has assembled a broad-based coalition that has continued to push for full equality under U.S. immigration law for people living with HIV.

Please go to Immigration Equality's Take Action page to sign on to their comment applauding HHS for removing HIV from the list and calling for HHS to publish the final regulations as quickly as possible. Once the comment period closes, HHS will review the comments and issue final regulations, hopefully before the end of the year. Immigration Equality is very happy with the proposed change and has submitted comments in full support of the suggested regulations.

Federal champions on this issues include Senator John Kerry, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, and former Senator Gordon Smith, who led the fight in Congress last year to remove the statutory HIV ban.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Equality in the News for August 1-7, 2009

Drop by check out our table in the community room at next weekend’s Gay and Lesbian Film Festival at Durham’s Carolina Theatre. Tickets on sale now.

In the State

Salisbury-native Anne Stanback, who lead the fight for marriage equality in Connecticut has been announced as the Keynote speaker for the 3rd annual Salisbury/Rowan PFLAG Autumn Soirée. The event will be held on September 19th at Catawba College. Congratulations Anne!

As part of “Equality Forward,” an HRC essay collection on race, sexuality and gender, Charlotte’s Bishop Tonyia Rawls shares the story of reconciling her sexual and gender identity with her religious calling.

Former troops speak out against DADT in Charlotte at a public discussion held in Town Hall. The meeting was sponsored by the HRC and Servicemembers United.

In the Nation

NPR reports that the American Psycological Association took a stand on “ex-gay” programs this Wednesday, resolving through a 125-to-4 vote that they oppose so called “reparative therapies” which claim to change one’s sexual orientation. The report also clarifies their position on homosexuality, which is described not as a mental disorder, but as a normal variant of human sexuality.

The U.S. census bureau released its plans for counting same-sex marriages in the nation … or not. They will release two versions of the 2010 census: one which will continue to automatically “unmarry” same-sex couples that report married status, and one which will report unedited responses. Only in 2011 will the census report state-by-state data on same-sex partners who identify as husbands or wives.

Bay Windows, New England’s largest LGBT newspaper, offers a quick update on the status of GLAD’s lawsuit against DOMA.

The Huffington Post has the story on DADT in this week’s piece. The title – “Slogging Towards Repeal” – really says it all.

365gay brings us updates on ENDA, and its progress in congress.

Harvey Milk and Billie Jean King are both to receive the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Out in the World

On August 1st, five same-sex couples, in which one member was Dutch and the other American, were married in Amsterdam. The act was meant to send a message to the United States, mainly that marriage by the state is first and foremost a civil issue, not a religious one. Or as one newlywed put it, “Wake up.”

Also on August 1st, someone opened fire on a gay youth club in Tel Aviv, killing two and wounding 15 more. Many say the tragedy was part of a greater conflict between liberal Tel Aviv and the neighboring Orthodox communities. Our hearts go out to Tel Aviv and its communities!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

HIV/AIDS Stigmatization

HIV/AIDS is more of a burden than many other illnesses.

In addition to the disease itself, HIV/AIDS also carries a specific stigma that affects all aspects of a person's live, including employment, housing, self-image, access to care, and relationships.

This stigma is very real, and it's also a very real problem in and of itself.

This stigma is different from that of other diseases in that it's often based on a judgmental perception of "lifestyle choice," and it also affects caregivers, advocates, friends, coworkers, and volunteers, as well as people living with the disease.

The Western North Carolina AIDS Project has developed a set of resources to help address the issue of stigma around HIV/AIDS.

Check out their I Need U2 Know campaign. While it's specific to Western NC, the ideas and information can be used to replicate this program in other areas. They provide a list of things to do to get involved in your community, as well as links to articles and information posters about HIV/AIDS and its associated stigma.

They are asking people to sign on to their efforts to end this stigma by literally signing a form that says:

I know that:
  • People living with HIV/AIDS deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
  • People living with HIV/AIDS deserve unconditional love from their families.
  • People living with HIV/AIDS have right to equal access under the law to safe and affordable housing, employment, healthcare, and education.
  • People living with HIV/AIDS should be seen as productive members of society.
  • People living with HIV/AIDS have a right to LIVE, just like everyone else.
Stigma can lead to isolation, depression, loss of rights, substance abuse, homelessness, suicide, and an unwillingness to get treated/tested.

Awareness, education, and compassion are how we overcome it.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Asking and Telling in Charlotte

While I know many people that are fans of the Clintons, I don't know any that actually like the Don't Ask, Don't Tell "compromise" that former President Bill Clinton arrived at when he tried to allow gay folks to serve openly in the military.

I say "compromise" in quotes because the only thing this policy compromises is the integrity of loyal gay servicepeople. This policy is simply horrible.

It basically codifies the idea that gay people can serve as long as they don't flaunt it. As long as they lie. As long as they pretend to be heterosexual, because that's normal.

Though many of us are hopeful that President Obama will do something about this awful, failed policy, folks in Charlotte will be able to hear first-hand how it's negatively affecting LGBT folks in the military.

The Human Rights Campaign and Servicemembers United will be bringing the 2009 "Voices of Honor" Tour to Charlotte this week. The national tour highlights the continuing use of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy to fire fit, competent, and highly skilled Americans from the U.S. military solely because of their sexual orientation.

The event will be at 6:00 pm at the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County in the Main Library, Francis Auditorium (310 North Tryon Street, Charlotte, NC 28202). This will be a town hall forum on "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell."

"Voices of Honor" features a diverse group of gay, lesbian, and straight veterans who have served under the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, including:
  • Jarrod Chlapowski, a former U.S. Army Korean linguist who opted to not re‐enlist because of DADT and is now a Policy Advocate for the Human Rights Campaign
  • Alex Nicholson, a former U.S. Army Human Intelligence Collector discharged under DADT and the current Executive Director of Servicemembers United
  • Julianne Sohn, a former Marine Corps officer and Iraq War veteran who was discharged under DADT
  • Michael Noftzger, a former U.S. Army Psychological Operations specialist and a local Charlotte‐area resident
It's well past time we ditched this bit of discrimination. It hurts a lot of people, and it reflects poorly on America and our commitment to equality.