Our neighbors and fellow citizens believe in fairness, and the more open and visible LGBT folks become, the more progress we'll make in our neighborhoods and towns.
- Georgia just elected the nation's first black lesbian legislator (an inclusive twofer!). Simone Bell, won a runoff election to represent Georgia State House District 58. For more than 20 years, she worked as an activist and advocate in Atlanta and across the South, tackling issues of workplace equality, access to affordable health care, fighting HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination, safe schools for all children, youth empowerment, and women’s issues. She becomes the second openly LGBT member of the Georgia State House, joining Rep. Karla Drenner.
- Atlanta voters elected the city’s first gay man, and first Asian-American, (again, a two-in-one step forward) to the city council. Alex Wan will represent District 6 after winning an election run-off. He is development director of Jerusalem House, Atlanta’s oldest and largest provider of permanent, supportive housing for homeless or low-income individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS.
- Washington (not the original, historic one we have here in North Carolina, but instead that second one in D.C. that likes to hog the headlines) just had their city council vote in favor of marriage equality (in the first of two votes). This initial vote was almost unanimous with 11 against two voting to legalize same-sex marriage. And signs are positive for the next vote in a couple of weeks.
(According to Our Families Count, D.C. has the largest percentage of same-sex couples in the nation, where 1.5 percent of all households comprise same-sex couples. This is more than double the documented percentage of any state.)
- Just a couple of weeks ago, the Charleston, SC, City Council passed legislation that prohibits discrimination in matters of public accommodation and housing and includes protection for LGBT folks. Now, South Carolina is not a bastion of progressive, gay-positive liberalism. This is a huge victory for fairness and equality.
- A few months ago, AAA South (the 4th largest AAA affiliate in the country, covering more than 4 million members in Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Puerto Rico) said it recognized all spouses, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. The policy now lets gay married couples receive spousal discounts under AAA's Associate Membership program. This happened after Equality Florida launched conversations with AAA after receiving calls from gay couples who had been denied family memberships.
Change doesn't occur instantly. Instead, it happens bit by bit, locally and regionally before it finally culminates in larger, national progress.
Fairness doesn't come when the majority votes on rights for the minority. Instead, it comes when the minority is seen as ordinary, when LGBT struggles are seen as the regular travails of all folks, not something different or other. It comes from knowing our neighbors, being in the local PTA, shopping at the farmer's market, going to the movies as an out LGBT family.
Change is slow, but it does come, and it's happening all around us. It may sound hard to believe, but for the bright future of equality, look to the South.