Friday, October 30, 2009

Equality in the News October 23-30

Apologies for the late posting of this edition of Equality in the News, everyone! Blogger and Word were not playing nicely together. :) -Rebecca

Happy (early) Halloween Everyone! My has the time really been flying lately, before you know it will be November and you know what that means? Turkey, yes, but more importantly Equality North Carolina Foundation’s Annual Conference & Gala, which this year will be held in Greensboro. There’s still time to register, if you haven’t done so. You don’t want to miss it, there will be many exciting workshops and speakers! -Jennifer


A Local Take on Federal Hate Crimes Legislation
Our own Ian Palmquist was interviewed for a story on President Obama's signing of federal hate crimes legislation on News Channel 14. We're very proud of him, and also of the fancy new banner you see behind his head during the interview. :)

Hometown Minister Makes Good!
Reverend Gilbert H. Caldwell, a native of Greensboro and graduate of North Carolina A&T, has been elected to the PFLAG national board of directors. Rev. Caldwell is a founding member of United Methodists of Color for a Fully Inclusive Church, Black Methodists for Church Renewal, and the Church Within a Church Movement.


Obama keeps his Promise
This week President Obama signed a bill to include violence against members of the LGBT community in federal hate crimes law. The expanded law also covers crimes motivated by gender identity or disability. Obama has also expanded some of the federal benefits of same-sex partners, but not health benefits or pension guarantees. He has allowed State Department employees to include their partners in certain embassy programs available to married spouses.

Maine Governor Urges Residents to Vote for Equal Marriage
On Tuesday Maine Governor John Baldacci urged residents to vote against repealing Maine’s equal marriage law, while acknowledging his past opposition to gay marriage. Baldacci admitted to once preferring civil unions to equal marriage. Baldacci comments, “I came to believe that this is a question of fairness and of equal protection under the law and that a civil union is not equal to civil marriage.” Rev. Bob Emirch states, “Politicians have had their chance to speak; now they just need to step aside and let the people make their decision.” Let’s hope that decision is for equal marriage.

We "Count"
The 2010 Census, for the first time, will include the opportunity for people in same-sex relationships to be counted. While it's nice for the government to "see" our community during the Census, these numbers will be invaluable to LGBT groups whose funding depends on having accurate demographic information, as well as to those who claim that no LGBT folks live in their communities.

Brazilian Husband of Massachusetts Man denied US Asylum
A Brazilian man has been denied asylum by the Obama administration and will not be reunited with his Massachusetts husband. Apparently, attorney General Eric Holder did not act on a Friday deadline in the case of Genesio “Junior” Oliveria effectively denying the 30-year-old Brazilian man’s request for asylum in the U.S. on humanitarian grounds. Since 1994 sexual orientation has been grounds for asylum in the United States after a ruling by (then) Janet Reno. Dozens of asylum seekers have won asylum on that ground according to immigration equality.

US Attorney Starts Job in Washington
America’s first openly gay U.S. Attorney started her job in Washington this week. “I don’t think I can fully appreciate how important it is to many people to have someone in a role like this who is gay,” Jenny Durkan, the new U.S. attorney commented. LGBT rights activists state her appointment reflects a growing acceptance in the U.S. as well as the attitude of President Obama’s administration. Kudos to Durkan for her new role as a U.S. Attorney!

Thank YOU for Being a Friend, Bea
You may know her as Dorothy Zbornak or Maude Findlay, but also remember her as a friend to the LGBT community. Bea Arthur included a $300,000 donation to New York's Ali Forney Center, an organization supporting homeless LGBT youth. The organization plans to use the funds to help purchase a residence for young people. I wonder: will it also have a lanai and a bottomless supply of cheesecake in the fridge?


Argentina Considers Equal Marriage
Recently, there has been a growing number of equal marriage supporters in the Argentina congress, which has opened debate on whether to change dozens of laws that define marriage as a union between a “man and a woman." It remains to be seen whether or not an equal marriage law has enough votes to overcome opposition from religious groups. The Roman Catholic Church remains a driving force in Argentina. Let’s hope Argentina sets a great example for the rest of Latin America by passing an equal marriage law!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Voting for Gay Families Around the Country!

Next week's elections will have quite a reach for LGBT families in other parts of the country, which will ultimately affect ours. From Maine to Washington to Kalamzoo, here's what's happening:

In Maine, voters are going to the polls to weigh in on Question 1, a citizen's veto of the state's marriage equality law. Signed by Governor Baldacci on May 6 of this year, the law was scheduled to take effect in September, but was delayed when opponents collected enough valid signatures to place it before voters. If you know folks in or near Maine, please be sure to get them to vote early, take the pledge to protect equality, and volunteer time/resources to help get the community (the whole community, not just the gay community!) to vote in support of marriage equality for all.

Voters in Kalamazoo, Mich., are being asked to approve an amendment to the City Code of Ordinances to prohibit discrimination in housing, public accommodations, and employment based on a variety of enumerated categories including an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity. Because all people - including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people - deserve to be treated fairly and equally wherever they may live or work, if you know someone who lives or works in/around Kalamazoo, have them support this.

Voters in Washington State face Referendum 71, which is a vote to keep the domestic partnership law that provides legal protections for same-sex couples and seniors who are in committed relationships. If you have friends or family in or near Washington State, please tell them to vote early. You can spread the word, pledge your support online, and join a broad coalition to support equality for all Washingtonians.

A decade or so ago, this sort of legislative activity would have been unimaginable. The time are changing, though, and we can make sure the changes are positive, towards equality and fairness.

The road to equality in North Carolina goes through Maine, Washington, and yes, even Kalamazoo.

Monday, October 26, 2009

It's Not Just Rihanna and Chris Brown ... LGBT Domestic Violence

When it comes to domestic violence in the LGBT community in NC, these are the headlines you see ....

Getting help is hard for gay domestic violence victims, Winston-Salem Journal, September 17, 2008

Domestic protection lacking for same-sex couples, Durham Herald-Sun, March 20, 2007

Domestic Violence is when two people get into an intimate relationship and one person uses a pattern of coercion and control against the other person during the relationship and/or after the relationship has terminated. It often includes physical, sexual, emotional, or economic abuse.

Any violence taking place within a family or intimate relationship is domestic violence. It includes abuse of spouses, girlfriends and boyfriends, children, and elderly people. Domestic violence cuts across all socioeconomic, ethnic, racial, religious, and age groups.

While members of both the gay and straight communities can obtain domestic violence protective orders against partners if the pair shares a residence, gay couples who do not live together are not entitled to the same protections (according to Chapter 50 of the N.C. General Statutes).

(Inequity for gay folks - what else is new? Equality NC is working with the NC Coalition Against Domestic Violence to change this law.)

In addition to legal barriers, if a gay person isn't out to their family, they won't turn to them for assistance. And LGBT people have the added stigma resulting from societal gender stereotypes. Plus many domestic-violence programs may not be suited for victims in same-sex relationships (e.g., a man in a same-sex relationship might not be able to stay at a shelter, which in many cases is for women and children).

However, there are still some good domestic violence resources out there for LGBT folks. In the summer of 2003, the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCCADV) began a new initiative aimed at addressing domestic violence in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender relationships. The initiative, Project Rainbow Net (RPN), is a grassroots effort based on the insight of an advisory council made up of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who have an understanding of domestic violence in LGBT relationships and a desire to end it.

Here are some great information links from them:

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Federal, state, and community organizations for violence prevention and victim services, businesses, health care providers, and others do educational programs, have recognition and memorial ceremonies, and perform community outreach.

According to the NCCADV, the rate of domestic violence within LGBT relationships is the same as in straight relationships. There are always options and choices when it comes to domestic violence, whether it's for yourself or a friend or family member.

Education and communication are always the first steps in making things better.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Equality in the News October 17th-23rd

By Jennifer Sheppard, intern

TGIF everyone! This week has been another exciting (and in some cases not so exciting) news week!

Big news of course is the U.S. Senate's vote to pass the Defense Authorization bill, which includes the hate crimes law! The bill now goes to President Obama for his signature, which is expected next week. This is a huge step for our country. North Carolina's Senators split on the issue, with Kay Hagan voting for the bill and Richard Burr voting against.


Singer Banned for Derogatory Language

Singer Matt Boswell was banned from Reidsville, N.C. this week when he used a derogatory term for LGBT’s during a replay of his performance at the city’s annual Fall Festival. Douglas Austin (who was in attendance to the event) emailed the local television station requesting that Matt Boswell’s offensive words be edited from his televised performance, however, the city of Reidsville decided to ban Boswell from performing at any future city-sponsored events. Matt Boswell’s outburst has sparked surprise among some fans who state, “he’s always been generous with his talent and time.” Hopefully in the future Mr. Boswell will learn how to be respectful all of the time, instead of half of the time.


Judge refuses to dismiss equal marriage ban lawsuit

On Wednesday, a federal judge challenged the backers of California’s voter-enacted ban on equal marriage to explain how enforcing equal marriage threatens conventional unions. U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker and Charles Cooper (a lawyer for the group that sponsored Prop 8) came during a hearing on a lawsuit challenging the measure as a discriminatory under the U.S. Constitution. Andy Pugno (general counsel to the coalition of religious and social conservative groups behind Prop 8) stated that supporters of equal marriage, “were trying to persuade the judge to substitute their views for those expressed by voters” He continued to state, “…the voters who passed Prop 8 are on trial in this case and they continue to be accused of being irrational and bigoted for restoring the traditional definition of marriage.”

Court blocks names in partnership referendum

On Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocked Washington state officials from releasing the names of people who signed referendum petitions to bring expanded rights for same-sex couples for a public vote in November. The court stated that its order would remain in effect while it decides whether to take up a request by Protect Marriage Washington, the group that wants to reverse the ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Referendum 71 asks voters to approve or reject “everything but marriage” law, which grants registered domestic partners the same legal rights as married couples.

Justice Department Seeks Action vs. Discrimination
Recently, the Obama administration stated that they will seek to fight discrimination against members of the LGBT community. In the past the Justice Department has only had a small role in protecting the rights of the LGBT community. Tom Perez (the assistant attorney general in charge of the department’s Civil Rights Division) stated that pending legislation in Congress will allow the department to attack discrimination against members of the LGBT community. Twenty-one states already have laws prohibiting workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and 12 extend those laws to gender identity. Several other states protect public employees who are LGBT.

Mississippi Teen Fights for Yearbook Photo

Recently, 17-year-old Ceara Sturgis took her senior photographs in a tuxedo. Traditionally, female students in her district dress in drapes and males where tuxedos. School officials are trying to ban Ceara’s photo from appearing in the 2009-10 yearbook. The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi has become involved issuing a demand letter to the principal to publish the photo of Ceara. ACLU says it is giving the school until October 23rd to respond before pursuing court action. The deadline for the photo to be accepted for the yearbook was September 30th, but advertisements for the publication are still being taken so Ceara still has time for her photo to be included. Let’s hope Ceara is able to keep her yearbook photo and have it published in her yearbook! How cruel would it be to deny a student who rightfully took photos as her other classmates did, to not publish hers because of traditional, conservative views?


Russian LGBT community expresses disappointment in Clinton

On Wednesday Russia’s leading LGBT activist stated that he was disappointed in the secretary of state (Hillary Rodham Clinton) because she met with an outspoken foe of LGBT rights during her two-day trip to Russia and did not decry discrimination towards members of the LGBT community in the country. Hilary Clinton attended a ceremony unveiling a statue of Walt Whitman at Moscow State University with Russian officials including Moscow Mayor, Yuri Luzhkov (who has blocked attempts to hold pride marches in Moscow). The statue of Walt Whitman was placed in the gardens of Moscow State University, where in May more than 30 LGBT activists were arrested for attempting to hold a pride march.

Well, those are the briefs for this week. I’m off for a short weekend in sunny Tampa! I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Think It's Tough to Be LGB in School? Try Being T.

Earlier this year, GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) published a report on the experiences of trans youth in schools.

You can get the gist from the title of the report: Harsh Realities: The Experiences of Transgender Youth in Our Nation's Schools.

Transgender youth face extremely high levels of victimization in school, even more so than their non-transgender lesbian, gay, and bi peers.

The report had one bright spot: Trans students are more likely to speak out about LGBT issues in the classroom. They don't just speak out on harassment, bullying, or other issues relating only to transgender students either, but instead work for the entire LGBT community.

Key findings of the report include:

Biased language:

  • 90% of transgender students heard derogatory remarks sometimes, often or frequently in school in the past year.

  • 90% of transgender students heard negative remarks about someone's gender expression sometimes, often or frequently in school in the past year.

  • Less than a fifth of transgender students said that school staff intervened most of the time or always when hearing homophobic remarks (16%) or negative remarks about someone's gender expression (11%).

  • A third of transgender students heard school staff make homophobic remarks (32%), sexist remarks (39%) and negative comments about someone's gender expression (39%) sometimes, often or frequently in the past year.
  • School Safety and Experiences of Harassment and Assault
  • Two-thirds of transgender students felt unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation (69%) and how they expressed their gender (65%).

  • Almost all transgender students had been verbally harassed in the past year at school because of their sexual orientation (89%) and gender expression (87%).

  • More than half of all transgender students had been physically harassed (e.g., pushed or shoved) in school in the past year because of their sexual orientation (55%) and gender expression (53%).

  • More than a quarter of transgender students had been physically assaulted (e.g., punched, kicked or injured with a weapon) in school in the past year because of their sexual orientation (28%) and gender expression (26%).

  • Most transgender students (54%) who were victimized in school did not report the events to school authorities.

  • Among those who did report incidents to school personnel, few students (33%) believed that staff addressed the situation effectively.
  • Impact of Victimization on Educational Outcomes
  • Almost half of all transgender students reported skipping a class at least once in the past month (47%) and missing at least one day of school in the past month (46%) because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable.

  • Transgender students experiencing high levels of harassment were more likely than other transgender students to miss school for safety reasons (verbal harassment based on sexual orientation: 64% vs. 25%, gender expression: 56% vs. 32%, gender: 68% vs. 38%).

  • Transgender students who experienced high levels of harassment had significantly lower GPAs than those who experienced lower levels of harassment (verbal harassment based on sexual orientation: 2.2. vs. 3.0, gender expression: 2.3 vs. 2.8, gender: 2.2 vs. 2.7).
  • In-School Resources and Supports
  • Although transgender students were not more likely to report having a GSA in their school, they did report attending GSA meetings more frequently than non-transgender LGB students.

  • Although most transgender students (83%) could identify at least one supportive educator, only a third (36%) could identify many (six or more) supportive staff.

  • Only half (54%) of transgender students reported that their school had an anti-harassment policy, and only 24% said that the school policy included specific protections based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
  • School is tough enough, and it's tough enough being part of a marginalized group, but imagine being part of the fringe of the margin. Check out the full report. Like most of GLSEN's work, it provides excellent and compelling data.

    The reality can be harsh indeed, but don't be scared to look - the information is important. Knowledge and education are the keys to eliminating prejudice and improving policy.

    Monday, October 19, 2009

    Straight But Not Narrow - Ally Week!

    This week is all about the straight folks, or at least the ones that support us gay folks. (OK, it's also about the gay folks who support the other gay folks. It's about all of us!)

    GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network) is sponsoring Ally Week.

    Allies generally are non-LGBT people who are committed to ending bias and discrimination against LGBT people, but the term ally is more inclusive (particularly within the Safe Schools Movement) and can refer to anyone who supports ending anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying, and harassment in schools. For example, a bisexual adult can be an ally to LGBT students, and a lesbian student can be an ally to a transgender student.

    During Ally Week, people are encouraged to take the ally pledge:

    "I believe all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression deserve to feel safe and supported.

    That means I pledge to:

    • Not use anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) language or slurs.
    • Intervene, if I safely can, in situations where students are being harassed.
    • Support efforts to end bullying and harassment."
    This is one of the 10 easy things that you can do to take action.

    Students are encouraged to sign up for specific events and activities on the website. You can also connect virtually through Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter.

    On the website, you can download ally pledge cards and stickers, as well as order posters, t-shirts, and other promo materials. You can read and submit ally stories online, and you can learn about local and student organizing.

    Ally Week is just one part in a larger program to create safe schools for all students and ultimately create a safe environment for all (including LGBT) people.

    Wednesday, October 14, 2009

    Take Action and Be Kevin Jennings' Friend

    Kevin Jennings is a hometown boy made good.

    Though Kevin wasn't born here, he grew up in Winston-Salem. He went on to found the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and is currently the Assistant Deputy Secretary for the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools at the U.S. Department of Education.

    He's written six books on gay rights and education, and he won the Lambda Literary Award in the Children's/Young Adult category for his book Telling Tales Out of School.

    In 2004, Kevin received the National Education Association (NEA)'s Virginia Uribe Award for Creative Leadership in Human Rights.

    Of course, now that he's an openly gay man in a leadership position in the current executive administration of the country, anti-equality groups are slandering him something fierce. He's been accused of everything from child molestation to advocating murder. A few of them have apologized for some of the lies, but more of them are still propagating misinformation as part of political character assassination.

    The mainstream press and gay bloggers have come to his defense, and now you can, too. Become his Facebook friend, or at least a member of the Support Kevin Jennings Facebook Group.

    Kevin is a great educator and advocate for the LGBT community, and the opposition against him is nothing more than homophobia.

    All it takes is a couple of clicks to show your support, and your virtual connection will make a real difference.

    Monday, October 12, 2009

    Ten Years: Working With You For Change

    By Ian Palmquist

    Ten years ago today, something happened that changed my life in ways I couldn't have imagined then: I started my first day of work at Equality NC.

    I'd graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill that May and had been looking for a way to get into LGBT movement work. I was sure that was going to mean leaving North Carolina and heading off to New York, DC, or maybe San Francisco.

    Happily, Equality NC's then-Executive Director, MK Cullen, asked me to come on staff. I have to admit, I was pretty nervous about it. It was the first time Equality NC was hiring a permanent second staff person. Plus, I was leaving my $11 per hour full-time job at UNC Student Stores for an $8 per hour half-time job.

    My parents thought I was crazy. But I knew that chances to do paid movement work right here in my home state were few and far between, and leaped at the chance.

    I've never regretted it.

    At lunch today, a former intern of ours asked me what my favorite thing about working for Equality NC was. I thought a minute, and realized that the answer was clear.

    The thing that his given me the most joy these ten years has been the chance to work with amazing leaders across the state and the nation who are fighting to make all of our lives better:
    • Incredible volunteers who work tirelessly to win local policy victories or collect hundreds of postcards to legisaltors in conservative areas;
    • Dedicated board members who work to realize a vision of what Equality NC could become;
    • Amazing coalition partners who time and again stand up to insist that the LGBT community be included and protected;
    • Hard-working colleagues at other Equality Federation organizations who have made me a better leader, and our movement more effective; and
    • Talented co-workers and interns who pour their heart and soul into
      improving the lives of LGBT people in our state.
    MK, and her successor Jo Wyrick, taught me so much about politics, grassroots organizing, and running a non-profit as I became the Assistant Director. Ed Farthing stuck with me as Co-Executive Director through some tough financial times and encouraged me to keep fighting because the work we were doing was so important.

    Now Kay Flaminio, Shawn Long, and Rebecca Mann make coming to work as Executive Director these last three years something to look forward to, and have made our recent successes possible.

    Ten years is a long time, and sometimes people ask my why I've stayed at Equality NC. I've been recruited a couple times to work for national organizations, but when I thought about it I realized that I could have the greatest impact working right here with you.

    I truly believe that the most important work we can do to win full equality nationwide is to fight the fight in the states. The federal work is unquestionably important, too. But no amount of lobbying in DC will make a difference if our community isn't on the ground in local communities building public support for equal rights, passing local and state policies, and creating a climate for change.

    That's why I'm so proud to work with Equality NC. Thanks to the amazing hard work of everyone that makes up this organization, we have achieved things no one thought were possible.

    Here in our proudly Southern state, no bill that would diminish the rights of our community has passed since 1996, while our neighbors have seen attacks on our families enshrined into their state constituions.

    Instead, we've increased protections for same-sex couples by ensuring basic hospital visitation rights. We've made life safer for our young people by making sure schools address bullying and harrassment. We've protected the lives and health of people by securing comprehensive sex education in public schools, increased funding for HIV prevention programs, and expanded access to HIV/AIDS drugs for low-income North Carolinians.

    Most importantly, we've made our voices heard and laid a foundation that will, in time, allow us to build a state of equality.

    I'm so proud of what we've done together. But I'm even more excited about what we can achieve going forward.

    Thanks for being a part of my journey this past decade. I'm counting on you to stick with us as we keep moving forward together.

    ENDA Suits Us to a (LGB)T

    By Stephen Wiseman, former ENC intern

    As I started a new job last week, I once again thought about my lack of protection as a queer person in the workplace.

    My new employment comes only weeks after the House Committee on Education and Labor heard testimony about the devastating impact of workplace discrimination faced by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. This hearing was part of the Committee’s work on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), HR 3017, which would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

    One of the witnesses at the hearing, Vandy Beth Glenn, was immediately fired from her job at the Georgia state legislature when she informed her supervisor she was transitioning from male to female. Unfortunately, Ms. Glenn’s experience is one that is all too common within the transgender community.

    Over the summer I worked with the National Gay and Lesbian Task force analyzing data from the National Survey of Transgender Discrimination, a groundbreaking survey on discrimination against transgender people in the United States.

    Data from this large-scale (6450 respondents), first-of-its-kind survey show that discrimination in employment against transgender people is a nearly universal experience: 97 percent of the respondents reported being mistreated or harassed at work, and nearly half (47 percent) said they had lost their jobs, were denied a promotion, or denied a job as a direct result of being transgender. Results from this survey (a partnership between the Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality) were submitted as testimony to the Committee.

    We are at a critical point in defining the state of the workplace for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and particularly transgender Americans. The passage of ENDA will go a long way in ensuring individuals are able to contribute their talents and skills in the workplace, free from discrimination.

    For more information and how you can become involved please visit and

    Friday, October 9, 2009

    Equality in the News October 2-8

    Happy Friday….I’m actually writing from Virginia and let me tell you, it is beautiful up here. The leaves are starting to change colors and the days are getting shorter. There isn’t much longer until the holiday season! I have quite a bit of news to report today…so jump it!



    Blue Ridge Pride is Tomorrow!

    ...and we'll be there, along with supporters of equal rights from across Western NC. Read all about the event in the Mountain Xpress, which includes a peek behind the scenes to show the many amazing organizers who have been carefully planning this year's Pride for months. They promise a "family friendly" day, where participants will "come together in high-profile gatherings to connect, be recognized and revitalize their activism." Sounds like a great time!

    The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later

    On Monday (the 11th anniversary of Matthew Sheppard’s death), New York will give fresh meaning to the term “world premiere,” with more than 140 simultaneous, one-night only productions occurring throughout the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Spain, Hong Kong and Australia. Currently, Winston-Salem’s Paper Lantern Theatre Company & Raleigh’s Burning Coal are the only North Carolina companies participating. The audiences at most of these stagings will participate in an interactive, web-based simulcast with the New York premiere at the Lincoln Center. Director Ian Finley finds the center question of the epilogue to be: “How do we create the story that defines our communities?” With only a handful of tickets left at press time, company officials were considering adding a second show Monday afternoon to accommodate demand. Proceeds from the Burning Coal event will go to Equality North Carolina Foundation, and those from Paper Lantern will go to the Adam Foundation and the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

    Greensboro Billboard Stirs Emotions

    Last week, the Triad Equality Alliance unveiled a billboard in Greensboro above the Battleground Avenue near Cone Blvd. The billboard will “open up the debate over equal marriage,” according to the group. One of the couples on the billboard [Pearl Berlin and Ellen (Lennie) Gerber] are more than happy to be featured. They have been together over four decades and believe that the only thing that is missing in their relationship is the wedding. Greensboro citizens seem to be torn about the billboard the message it conveys. I hope the billboard opens the eyes to some of the citizens of the city to become more proactive towards equal marriage.

    Hickory Resident Moves from LGBT Acrimony to Advocacy

    Brent Childers of NC-based Faith in America details his journey from self-proclaimed religious bigot to outspoken advocate for LGBT rights in this Newsweek web exclusive.


    Missouri finds Discrimination to be a Destructive Cancer

    Second-parent adoption is a hot button issue in North Carolina and across the country. In Montana, Justice James Nelson sided with a 6-1 majority on the state supreme court that upheld a ruling giving parental rights to a Missoula woman who had been in a 10-year relationship with another woman that included two children legally adopted by her partner. Justice Nelson used strong language to get his point across that LGBT rights are human rights.

    Nelson is quoted as saying that discrimination against LGBT individuals is “a prevalent societal cancer grounded in bigotry and hate…I remain absolutely convinced….that homosexuals are entitled to enjoy precisely the same civil and natural rights as heterosexuals, as a matter of a constitutional law.”

    A Texas Divorce?

    On Thursday, a Texas judge cleared the way for two Dallas men to get a divorce. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott argued that because the state doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, its courts can’t dissolve one through divorce. District Judge Callahan ruled that the court “has jurisdiction to hear a suit for divorce filed by persons legally married in another jurisdiction,” meaning the court can legally grant the couple a divorce. There is a lot of disagreement among Texas citizens on this issue, but as with equal marriage, ALL American citizens should have the right to a marriage, or divorce, if they so chose to.

    Congress Votes to Extend Hate Crimes to Include Sexual Orientation

    The US Congress voted Thursday to classify anti-LGBT violence as federal hate crimes, as part of a military policy bill. The bill would extend protections to those attacked based on a variety of factors, including sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, military service or gender. Next stop: the US Senate!

    National Equality March in Washington

    Thirty years ago, gay rights activists staged their first national march in Washington D.C. Now, thirty years later, thousands of advocates are preparing to rally again in the nation’s capital this weekend. The march is to bring many of the same issues to the public's attention such as: bills to outlaw job discrimination based on sexual orientation, the extension of existing hate crimes legislation, and a presidential order allowing LGBT soldiers to serve openly in the military. On the eve of the march, President Obama plans to deliver the keynote address at a dinner in Washington sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign. Urvashi Vaid, whose private foundation gave $50,000 to support the march, stated that the weekend would also showcase progress. Legally married same-sex couples, straight supporters and members of mainstream religious denominations are among those planning to attention. These alliances would have been unimaginable 30 years ago.

    Speaking of Washington…

    On Tuesday a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry in D.C. The bill was nearly certain to pass the D.C. city council, but becoming a law will prove to be more complicated because Congress gets a chance to review D.C. legislation before it takes effect. The good news is, Congressional leaders acknowledge that the bill is likely to become a law!

    Non-Maine Natives in support of Maine’s Campaign to Keep Marriage Equal

    On November 3rd, citizens of Maine will go to the polls to decide whether to uphold the state’s equal marriage law or overturn it. It will be the first time voters in a state will decide the fate of same-sex marriage law approved by the Legislature. Pam Perkins, a North Carolina native, flew up to Maine using frequent-flyer miles donated by a supporter of equal marriage through a program called “Travel for Change.” Pam says she has spent much of her time making phone calls to Maine citizens to gain their support in the campaign. Many other out-of-staters are up in Maine showing their support for the campaign. I wish them all the best. It is wonderful to have so much support on such a pressing issue.

    President Obama chooses an openly gay lawyer for ambassadorship

    On Wednesday, President Obama plans to nominate an openly gay lawyer as the United States ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa. If confirmed by the Senate, David Huebner would become the third openly gay ambassador in United States history and the first pick by the Obama administration.


    Russian Court Rules Against Same-Sex Couple

    This past Tuesday a Moscow court ruled against a two women seeking to become Russia’s first legally married same-sex couple. The couple’s lawyer, Nikolai Alexeyev, who is a longtime Russian gay rights activist, told reporters that they plan to fight the ruling. The couple plans to fly to Canada later on this month to marry and then return to Russia in order to force authorities to recognize the marriage. Congrats to the couple for not giving up on their rights. However, it’s still a shame that in order to have their union recognized they need to fly to another country. Hopefully Russia revisits equal marriage; and quickly.

    French Soccer Team Snubbed by Muslim Team

    Recently, a French gay soccer team believes that its members were victims of homophobia when a team of Muslim players refused to play a match against them. The team states that it received an email from the Creteil Bebel club canceling a match scheduled for last Sunday. The email read: “…because of the principles of our team, which is a team of devout Muslims, we can’t play against you…our convictions are much more important than a simple football match.” Creteil Bebel, told French-info radio that he apologized if anyone “felt upset or hurt.” Too little too late Bebel, too little too late…

    That’s all I have for now! Have a great weekend & tune in for more briefs next week!

    Wednesday, October 7, 2009

    A Sign of the Times ...

    If you live in Greensboro, you might've seen this billboard, created by Triad Equality Alliance (TEA).

    Actually, you may have seen or heard something about it if you just live in the area, or the state, or, well, the whole world! Their most recent initiative has really gotten some attention:
    TEA has been around for years. TEA's mission is to eliminate prejudice and to secure social justice and civil rights for LGBT people by educating and enlightening the general public about LGBT members of the community and the special issues affecting them. Equality NC Foundation has served as their fiscal agent.

    You can see some of their previous billboards here:
    Their work has been a perfect example of putting a face on a civil rights issue. When you're just denying rights to 'The Gays,' then it's easy. When you have a human face whose civil rights and American promise of equality are being taken away, that's much, much harder.

    Anything that humanizes the LGBT community works in favor of equality. Here's what one teenager said about TEA's first billboard campaign:

    "I turned around and went by it 3 times...."

    "I'm a 17 year old and I go to Burke High. I always kind of knew that I was attracted to girls and last year fell in love with Kathy and am sure now that I'm a lesbian. Since then, I haven't said anything to anyone but my mom who was pretty cool about it but wanted me to talk with a counselor who has been great. Anyway, besides Kathy, my mom and my counselor, all I hear around here about gays and lesbians is really awful. It has had me real, real depressed.

    "Tuesday night I was driving to town from the mall and drove by y'alls billboard. Wow! I almost ran off the road. It was awesome. Just awesome. And it's BIG!!

    "It was the first positive thing I've heard since I admitted to myself that I'm gay and it just knocked me out.

    "I was driving down 26 crying and everything - I turned around and went by it 3 times, then found out how to get back there in the Sears lot to just stare at it for awhile. Anyway, I wanted to thank ya'll for doing it. You can't really ever know what it meant to me but I wanted to try to tell you."

    -- Angela

    Most of the time you don't hear about how your actions have affected others. The feedback TEA has received has been extremely positive, and that's only what's known. There's no way to tell how many countless lives have been affected by this simple affirmation of common humanity.

    It's truly a positive sign of the times.

    Monday, October 5, 2009

    "The Dream is the Truth ...." - GLBT History Month

    The title is a snippet of a quote from Zora Neale Hurston, the fabulous black lesbian author who is one of the 31 out LGBT folks being celebrated as part of GLBT History Month that extends through all of October 2009.

    If you go to the main website, each day you can get information about each of the people being lauded including videos, bios, and resources. They even have factsheets and posters your can download and distribute.

    Check out the honorees throughout the month, and you might learn something about our community and its rich contributions to history and culture. Here's who you can find on which day:

    1. Alvin Ailey Jr.
    2. John Amaechi
    3. Tammy Baldwin
    4. John Cage
    5. Ruth Ellis
    6. Rainer Fassbinder
    7. Michel Foucault
    8. Harry Hay
    9. Magnus Hirschfeld
    10. Zora Neale Hurston
    11. Jasper Johns
    12. Cherry Jones
    13. Kate Kendell
    14. Alfred Kinsey
    15. k.d. lang
    16. Rachel Maddow
    17. Deirdre McCloskey
    18. Paul Monette
    19. Pauli Murray
    20. Joan Nestle
    21. Todd Oldham
    22. Suze Orman
    23. Christine Quinn
    24. Robert Rauschenberg
    25. Jerome Robbins
    26. Hilary Rosen
    27. Yves St. Laurent
    28. Esera Tuaolo
    29. Urvashi Vaid
    30. Gus Van Sant
    31. B.D. Wong

    Education, visibility, and awareness are the keys to overcoming the ignorance and prejudice that preclude equality. Take this opportunity to tell a friend, family member, or co-worker about GLBT History Month.

    Friday, October 2, 2009

    Equality in the News for September 26-October 2

    Happy October! Time sure is flying by quickly! I hope everyone had a great weekend and enjoyed Pride this year! I was unable to attend because of work, but heard some many great things!



    Pam Spaulding Speaks at NC Pride

    Many of you were well aware that North Carolina’s 25th Pride took place in Durham! Please take a look and listen at Pam Spaulding’s keynote address, where she mentions ENC and the passage of the School Violence Protection Act.

    Speaking of Pride…

    The News & Observer reports that 4,500 attended this year’s pride fest which has been the largest number yet! Woo-hoo! The Herald-Sun also covered the event, and includes a small slide show.

    A University Study Confirms What We Already Know…

    East Carolina University (which just so happens to be my school), states that a study published this month in Adoption Quarterly found that: “the sexual orientation of adopted parents was not a significant predictor of emotional problems.” Well of course it isn’t. The only thing that should matter is whether or not the parents are going to love their children!

    Orange County: The New Travel Hot Spot?

    The Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau held a symposium for the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association and ENC Executive Director Ian Palmquist was quoted giving some details about the political climate in the area.

    Local Teens' Perspectives on the Need for Ally Week

    The teen column in Wilmington's Star-News focused on making schools safer for LGBT students this month, and highlights the need for allies to speak out against name-calling.


    Pro-Prop 8 Campaign Seeks to Shield Internal Memos

    On Friday U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco heard arguments from lawyers seeking internal campaign records from sponsors of California’s voter-approved gay marriage ban. The attorneys are challenging Prop 8, saying it denies equality to LGBT couples in violation of the U.S. Constitution. The judge is expected to rule on the issue next week.

    Illinois: Marriage Equality Bill Introduced

    On Thursday Illinois Senator Heather Steans introduced a marriage equality bill in the Illinois State Senate. The bill is co-sponsored by Representatives Deb Mell, Sara Feigenholtz, Constance Howard, Harry Osterman and John Fritchey. Our friends at Equality of Illinois applaud the sponsoring legislators! Congrats to Illinois!

    “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

    An article in Joint Force Quarterly--the Pentagon's top scholarly journal--argues forcefully for repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Adm. Mike Mullen who is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff states that, “after a careful examination, there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that unit cohesion will be negatively affected if homosexuals serve openly.” You don’t say? It amazes me how there have to be “studies” for many citizens in this country to believe in equal rights.

    Well, that is it for this week’s round up. Please tune in next week for additional news briefs. Also, fan us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for daily updates!