Monday, November 30, 2009
I say used to because as of tomorrow, December 1, a new law goes into effect that makes these illegal. (The no texting while driving law also goes into effect.)
Now, this isn't an antigay law by any means - it applies to all license plate frames, whether they be from CarMax, support the Steelers, say NASCAR, or sport the stars and bars.
The new state law basically bans license plate frames that cover any part of the word “North Carolina” or any part of the registration stickers on the plates. The highway patrol says this additional change will make it easier to identify law-breakers' license plates.
Marginalized groups, like the LGBT community, often use some kind of tag on their vehicles as expressions of solidarity. This just means there's one less avenue to use. No more 'family car,' rainbow bear paws, string of pink triangles, or 'hate is not a family value,' or at least not on the license plate frames.
Other vehicular expressions, like bumper stickers, static clings, vanity plates, and frames on the front of your vehicle, continue to be legal (and should be used - visibility leads to awareness and education).
(Along those lines, please also consider getting a red ribbon specialty license plate to increase AIDS awareness, especially in light of tomorrow being World Aids Day.)
Initially, violators of the the new license plate frame law will just get a warning, but ultimately there'll be a $100 fine for violations. (It'll be a great money-maker for the state, but not so much for the "framed" driver.)
I loved our rainbow kitties, but not enough to risk getting fined for them.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Unfortunately, being LGBT can often be a barrier for employment. That's why employment nondiscrimination is Equality NC's next big initiative (coming off of the success of our school antibullying work). This issue is also moving along at the national level with the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).
Equality NC will be asking for your help to do some federal-level phonebanking for this issue, and you can find information online to help make the case. Some good links include:
- United ENDA United ENDA is a coalition of state, local and national LGBT organizations and allies committed to the passage of comprehensive federal legislation that protects individuals from employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. United ENDA is a coalition effort of nearly 400 organizations, including Equality NC, where the power of the coalition comes from all of the work done by all of the organizations in the coalition.
- National Transgender Discrimination Survey (PDF), produced by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. (Preliminary findings from Sept. 2009.)
- ENDA Toolkit (PDF), produced by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
- Take Action for ENDA (PDF), produced by the National Center for Transgender Equality
- PFLAG's talking points and information on ENDA
Education is basically the essence of all of our nondiscrimination work. Americans believe in justice, fairness, and equal treatment, so we make the most progress when we can show people the inequities that LGBT citizens face.
Along those lines, the New York Times has launched a new blog feature, What If You’re Gay? that examines the issues that face gay couples, especially those that come from being denied marriage equality.
Check out this new feature: For Gay Couples, ‘Traditional’ Divorce Isn’t Always an Option and Seven Tips for Dissolving Gay Unions.
Monday, November 23, 2009
For the past several years, Craig and I (and later, when he came into the picture, Kid) have been part of a research study on gay parents and their children. We had the honor of being among the token gay male couples included.
Abbie Goldberg recently published the results of her study in her new book, “Lesbian and Gay Parents and Their Children.”
In her book, she notes that accumulated research shows that children of same-sex parents are not markedly different from those of heterosexual parents. They have no increased incidence of psychiatric disorders, are just as popular at school, and have just as many friends.
While girls raised by lesbian mothers seem slightly more likely to have more sexual partners, and boys slightly more likely to have fewer, than those raised by heterosexual mothers, neither sex is more likely to suffer to identify as LGBT.
In fact, these children tend to be less conventional and more flexible when it comes to gender roles and assumptions than those raised in more traditional families.
Long story short, the kids are all right! The New York times has a nice article on this here.
According to the American Association of Pediatrics, there are 9 million children living in LGBT-headed families in the United States alone. As of the 2000 census, children with two moms or two dads lived in 96% of US counties (and 100% of NC counties).
(This doesn’t include children living with parents who identify as bisexual or transgender and live with a partner of the opposite sex, single parents, or non-custodial parents.)
Despite these numbers, very few children’s books are published which reflect the lives of children with LGBT parents. It’s entirely possible for children to go all the way through child care and twelve years of school without ever reading a story about a family like theirs, let alone seeing their family reflected in music, TV shows, or movies.
Most teachers want all children to be comfortable in their classrooms. Most parents want their children to grow up to be tolerant of all kinds of differences. Reading stories that represent all kinds of families helps all children to feel safe, acknowledged, and accepted.
Rainbow Rumpus offer a couple of free PDFs of coloring books for LGBT families.
They also offer parent and teacher guides for these books, as well as some good advice for talking with children about families.
- Let children decide for themselves when and how much to share about their own families.
- Read stories that show different family structures: single parents, divorced parents, married and unmarried parents, foster parents, adoptive parents, and extended families. Include stories about families with both heterosexual and LGBT parents.
- Talk with children about the different kinds of families and point out the similarities as well as the differences. Let the conversation about families take place over time and in the natural context of children’s curiosity.
- Don’t be afraid to use the words heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, as appropriate, to describe the adults in the stories. It’s important for children to hear these words used and defined as terms that may describe family members, because they will also almost certainly hear the words gay and lesbian used as insults by other children or adults.
COLAGE (Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere) has announced their ART Project to highlight the experiences of people born through assisted reproductive technologies (ART), e.g., donor insemination.
Over the past 30 years the number of people born through these technologies to LGBT parents has steadily grown, yet let little, if any, work has been done to bring this community together or address the experiences of these youth and adults.
The first major effort of the ART Project is to conduct a national assessment of children of gay parents born through donor insemination. COLAGE is calling all youth born through donor insemination and their parents to take an online survey.
COLAGE will be using all the information to develop and debut new programs and resources to provide tools to talk about these families, spark open dialogues within families and communities about donor insemination, and equip both COLAGErs and parents to navigate schools and other institutions.
There are two surveys, one for COLAGErs born through donor insemination and one for their parents. Both the surveys will be available online between now and November 30th. Each survey will take between 15 and 20 minutes to complete. If you have any questions about surveys or the ART Project in general, please contact Jeff DeGroot, COLAGE Fellow at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Survey for LGBTQ identified parents with a donor conceived child:
Survey for people born through donor insemination with a LGBTQ identified parent:
Friday, November 20, 2009
Today is National Transgender Day of Remembrance. Let’s remember those who were killed or took their own lives due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. This day of remembrance originally began to honor Rita Hester whose 1998 murder started “Remembering Our Dead,” since then this day has grown to publicly honor those we have lost. -Jennifer
State2009 Conference & Gala
This past Saturday Equality NC Foundation held its third annual Conference & Gala in Greensboro. The event brought together over 300 local and state activists and advocates. Over a dozen riveting educational workshops, and participant-led caucusing and networking took place and covered LGBT issues on college campuses (including a focus on Historically Black Colleges & Universities--HBCUs), legislative processes, same-sex parenting and the law, state hate crimes law, employment non-discrimination and more. During the plenary, Executive Director Ian Palmquist discussed the successes of the year. He spoke on HIV/AIDS drug assistance, the passage of the Healthy Youth Act, and how friendly legislators--backed by concerned citizens statewide--were able to block an anti-LGBT constitutional marriage amendment for the sixth year in a row. By far, the greatest achievement of the year came when the General Assembly passed the School Violence Prevention Act! Footage from the opening session on Pam's House Blend.During the Gala, Equality North Carolina honored Senator Julia Boseman with the Legislative Leadership Award. Stellar young activist, Kate Mabe, was also honored with her family. Watch the highlights, again courtesy of Pam Spaulding. Thanks, Pam!
Thanks to everyone who came out to the Conference & Gala! The day was certainly one to remember and I appreciated meeting the many allies/advocates/supporters/volunteers/interns that I did. You all are truly wonderful.
The High Cost of Bigotry
Denying rights doesn't come cheap in our state. Had the Marriage Discrimination Act gone through last legislative session, it would have cost taxpayers over five million dollars (that's five with six zeros!) to put equal rights to a popular vote. Blue NC breaks it down, and includes links to the bill, facts and figures.
NationA Day to Remember
There are a number of trans-specific stories this Transgender Day of Remembrance. Here's a portion of them from Colorado, New York, California, Canada (just pretend that's in the "World" section), Illinois, and Utah.
“Some” Equal Benefits in New York…
On Thursday, New York’s top court prohibit discrimination in employment, housing and public facilities based on gender identity and expression. The city joins 16 municipalities in Florida who have already adopted similar measures.
Equal Marriage Ban not allowed on D.C. Ballot
On Tuesday, the Board of Elections and Ethics ruled that a measure to let voters decide whether to ban equal marriages in D.C. cannot go on the ballot because it would violate the city’s 1977 Human Rights Act. What a novel idea! The D.C. City Council is expected to approve equal marriage, but of course opponents still wanted voters to weigh in (why is that not surprising). The D.C. bill is set to have its first vote on December 1st. The bill must be voted on twice before passing.
The Blade Will Rise Again?
Rhode Island Opens Door (Slightly)
Governor Don Carcieri (R) has opened the door to the limited recognition of equal relationships in Rhode Island. Governor Carcieri still opposes equal marriage and stated during the 2006 elections that he also opposed civil unions.
What took Carcieri to wake up and turn down the road of “sort of” equal rights for all?
Carcieri and an LGBT rights group had a closed door meeting Thursday, where he told reporters that he would “consider creating a domestic partnership system,” similar to the one approved by voters in Washington state. The system would allow LGBT couples benefits such as the right to use sick leave to care for a partner, rights related to the adoption of a child and child support.
WorldPhilippine LGBT Group Fights to Contest Elections
Recently, Philippine LGBT rights group, Ang Ladlad (Out of the Closet) has found itself caught in a legal battle to be allowed to run in next year polls. The Elections Commission ruled that the group cannot registered on the grounds that the group, “advocates immorality.” The rulings cited passages from the Bible and the Quran condemning homosexuality.
Charge Filed in Puerto Rico Murder
On Wednesday, charges were filed in the murder of 19-year-old Jorge Steven Lopez whose body was found last week. U.S. authorities said they are still considering whether to make it a hate crime case. Lopez was known as a college student volunteer for organizations advocating HIV prevention, LGBT rights.
Reports state that 26-year-old Juan Martinez Matos was arrested earlier this week and confessed to killing Lopez. He is currently jailed on a $4 million bond. Matos allegedly killed Lopez after mistaking Lopez for a female prostitute.
Finally on the Right Track
Caster Semenya will keep her gold metal, title, and prize money from an 800-meter race in August world championship, and results of her "gender verification" test will be kept private.
That’s the news briefs for this week. Since we’ll all be stuffing our faces with turkey (or a similar vegetarian or vegan-friendly main course), I’ll be taking a break from reporting on Equality news briefs. I’ll pick back up in December!
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Although not every person represented during the Day of Remembrance self-identified as trans (that is, as a transsexual, crossdresser, or otherwise gender-variant), each was a victim of violence based on bias against transgendered people.
The purpose of the day is to raise public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people. Transgender Day of Remembrance publicly mourns and honors the lives of transgender people who might otherwise be forgotten. TDOR gives transgender people and their allies a chance to step forward and stand in vigil, showing love, respect, and solidarity, and memorializing those who’ve died by anti-transgender violence.
Transgender Day of Remembrance can be used to educate students, teachers, and administrators about transgender issues, so we can try to prevent anti-transgender hatred and violence from continuing.
Ways you can observe TDOR include:
• Discussion forums with activists, politicians, and/or school officials
• Performance art
• Poetry or spoken word readings
• Visual representation of the number of deaths with:
- Cardboard tombstones of Remembered People
- Paper cutouts of Remembered People
- Chalk body outlines of Remembered People
• Teach-Ins and Speakers Bureaus
• Art/photo displays
• Trans movie screenings (such as “Boys Don’t Cry”)
• Trans 101 trainings
As with any awareness-raising day, it's not an end unto itself. TDOR is a tool towards the ultimate goal of the elimination of bigotry and prejudice against transfolks. It's important to use this day as a starting point for discussion and education. The work of TDOR can be continued by:
• Working to add “gender identity and gender expression” to laws and school antibullying policies
• Having a Trans 101 training for workers and educators
• Working to have some restrooms designated as gender neutral
• Collaborating with others on trans issues and teaching them how to be trans allies
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
In 1993, President Clinton suspended the existing Department of Defense policy which banned gay personnel from military service. However, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and influential members of Congress vehemently opposed the President’s attempt to permanently lift the ban. This led to six months of intense Congressional and Administration discussions and hearings on the issue. The end result was the infamous "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" law.
Under DADT, the military would not inquire about the sexual orientation of current and future service members. The law also said that gay men and women would be allowed to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces unless they declared they are gay, attempted to marry a person of the same sex, or engaged in homosexual conduct. Service members who were discovered to be homosexual would be subject to dismissal.
DADT policy has failed to live up to its intended goal of serving the best interests of the military while respecting the privacy and dignity of its gay servicemembers. Approximately 13,000 gay, lesbian, bisexual, and straight servicemembers have been abruptly fired from their jobs with the U.S. military as a result of the policy. DADT has been consistently misunderstood, misapplied, and grossly abused, and the policy now functions in a state of arbitrary enforcement that is inconsistent with the needs of the military and with the principles of sound public policy.
Servicemembers United has released new data showing that racial and ethnic minorities constituted an unusually large percentage of discharges under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) law in Fiscal Year (FY) 2008. The full press release can be found here.There is, however, great hope of change coming:
- Military Panel Recommends Repeal of Sodomy Statute, ServiceMembers United, 10/22/09
- Survey raises doubts on ‘don’t ask’ policy, Boston Globe, 11/10/09
- AMA votes to seek repeal of 'don't ask,don't-tell', Associate Press, 11/10/09
- PBS releases 'Ask Not' documentary and accompanying interactive website
(GLAAD has a media kid of Veterans Day ideas and resources. HRC and Servicemembers United are sponsoring the Voices of Honor tour.)
Monday, November 9, 2009
World AIDS Day will be next month on December 1, as usual. This year's theme is 'Universal Access and Human Rights.' Here're some good resources for helping to get the word out:
- AIDS.gov, World AIDS Day - December 1, 2009 has some great online and offline options for helping publicize and educate.
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services HIV/AIDS Awareness Days site shows that World AIDS Day is just one of several days selected to raise awareness of this illness.
- AVERT.org has some cute educational games you can play online to help test your own knowledge, as well as learn more.
- The World AIDS Campaign has some multilingual posters and postcards you can download and use.
One especially bright point was this excerpt, which announced the end of the unreasonable HIV/AIDS travel ban:
"Twenty-two years ago, in a decision rooted in fear rather than fact, the United States instituted a travel ban on entry into the country for people living with HIV/AIDS. Now, we talk about reducing the stigma of this disease -- yet we've treated a visitor living with it as a threat. We lead the world when it comes to helping stem the AIDS pandemic -- yet we are one of only a dozen countries that still bar people from HIV from entering our own country. If we want to be the global leader in combating HIV/AIDS, we need to act like it.
And that's why, on Monday my administration will publish a final rule that eliminates the travel ban effective just after the New Year. Congress and President Bush began this process last year, and they ought to be commended for it. We are finishing the job. It's a step that will encourage people to get tested and get treatment, it's a step that will keep families together, and it's a step that will save lives."
Finally, just last week French researchers published the successful findings of a revolutionary gene therapy that used a disable version of HIV to treat a fatal brain disease. This development is amazingly exciting(/scary!), and a great example of making lemonade from the ultimate lemons.
There's still a ways to go in removing the stigma from HIV/AIDS and developing treatments, but by spreading information and raising awareness, we all contribute to an eventual cure.
(And we still encourage you to get a Red Ribbon specialty license plate to help raise awareness and support the Alliance of AIDS Services-Carolinas.)
Friday, November 6, 2009
Happy November to everyone! I’d like to first congratulate ENC’s executive director Ian Palmquist for being elected board chair of the Equality Federation!!! This is quite an honor and we’re proud of you! -Jennifer
Marriage Equality for AllOn Oct. 22nd, North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C., held a forum on marriage equality that was sponsored by NSCU’s GLBT Student Center & the Union Diversity Activities Bard. Panelists for the event included Kate Kendall, Tracy Hollister, Jimmy Creech and ENC’s executive director, Ian Palmquist (yay for Ian!). During the event Ian discussed the issues of marriage, legal protection, and the definition of marriage facing each state individually. Ian stated that North Carolina has been more progressive than other Southern states, but still lag behind many other states in the rest of the country that are advancing the rights of the LGBT community.
Chapel Hill Elects Openly Gay MayorOn Tuesday, Mark Kleinschmidt was elected as Chapel Hill’s mayor. He will become the third openly gay man to hold mayoral office in North Carolina. Kleinschmidt is a leading civil rights and LGBT advocate in North Carolina. He is also the former board president of North Carolina’s ACLU chapter and the former board member of Equality North Carolina. Kleinschmidt’s platform calls for better public transportation, community development, centralized urban growth rather than sprawl and environmental protection. Congratulations to (soon-to-be) Mayor Kleinschmidt.
The LOSS in MaineBy now, you’ve probably heard about results on Maine’s marriage referendum. Many LGBT activists blamed scaremongering ads and President Obama’s lack of engagement. Activists insisted that Obama should have spoken out forcefully in defense of Maine’s marriage law before Tuesday’s referendum. The law was repealed in a vote of 53 percent to 47 percent. Many California activists stated that the outcome in Maine strengthened their belief that it will fall on the U.S. Supreme Court, not the voters, to make equal marriage legal. A federal lawsuit challenging Prop. 8 is scheduled to go to trial in January. Although the loss in Maine is disappointing, it isn’t the end. The fight isn’t over for Equal Marriage.
State Benefits Won in WashingtonIn other relationship recognition news--this time far better news--voters in Washington chose to move closer to equality by approving Referendum 71, known to many as "everything but marriage."
Work, Stay, and Live in KalamazooKalamazoo became Michigan's 16th city to approve an ordinance protecting individuals from employment, housing, and public accommodation discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Way to go, Kalamazoo!
New York Governor Calls for Session on Budget, Equal MarriageRecently, NY Governor David Paterson made the decision call the Legislature back to Albany for a special session to cut the budget and possibly vote on legalizing same-sex marriage. The Governor wants the Senate to give final legislative approval to same-sex marriage; however, there are no guarantees that there are enough votes to carry the measure, which has already passed in Assembly. Paterson’s agenda includes addressing a deficit of more than $3 billion with midyear cuts to school aid and health care, among other measures.
Yet Another StudyThis just in: Same-sex couples are similar to straight couples! (That's sarcasm you hear from me.) The study at UCLA, based on data collected by the 2008 American Community Survey, found that the highest percentages of same-sex spouses in 2008 were found in the Northeast (Massachusetts and Vermont). No surprise there, but it's worth noting that Utah and Wyoming rank fourth and fifth, respectively, in number of same-sex couples. The study also found that, contrary to what conservatives will tell you, same-sex couples live, work, and raise children much the same way as their opposite-sex counterparts. Bravo to UCLA for bringing this to a wider audience’s attention.
UN Panel Faults Russia’s Support for Human RightsThis past Friday a new U.N. Human Rights Committee recognized that Russia is still struggling with human rights abuses, with the rights of its LGBT citizens being one of them. Although homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia in the 1990s, the panel noted ongoing violence against LGBT Russians, including police harassment. I hope Russia is able to come to terms with these issues so that every citizen feels comfortable in their community.
Well, that’s the wrap up for the week! I hope everyone continues to have a great weekend. Don’t forget Next Saturday November 14th, is Equality North Carolina’s Conference and Gala. Click here to learn more. I hope to see you there!
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
My thoughts go out to all the families in Maine who will continue to be denied dignity and equality under the law. Many of us will need time to grieve over the fact that a majority of our fellow citizens would vote to deny lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people their full civil rights.
And yet, I'm also encouraged by what happened in Maine. Just under half of voters — tens of thousands of people — voted for marriage equality. While it wasn't enough, let's not forget that just fifteen years ago, few Americans had even heard of the concept of marriage equality for same-sex couples.
We've come a long way fast. And, despite the heartbreaking setback of yesterday's vote, the momentum is still very much on our side.
I also find hope in the phenomenal campaign that the No On 1 team ran. They talked one on one with tens of thousands of voters. They put the faces and stories of same-sex couples and families at the forefront. They engaged leaders from local elected officials to the Governor in the fight for marriage equality.
We even had a number of Equality North Carolina supporters who went up to Maine to help out, and many more who made calls to Maine voters from their homes.
Of course, after some time to grieve, we should look at what worked well and what could be done better next time. But I suspect that in the final analysis we'll see that the work No On 1 did won over thousands and thousands of voters to our side.
The state just wasn't quite there yet. But it will be.
A little history: Maine voters went to the polls four times to vote on nondiscrimination based on sexual orientation. The first three times they rejected it. But Equality Maine didn't give up, and the state legislators who believed in fairness didn't give up. Now it's the law of the land.
We've got to keep fighting in Maine and in every state.
Yesterday, voters in Washington state approved comprehensive domestic partnerships, and in Kalamazoo, Michigan, voters rejected vicious attacks on the transgender community to support the city's nondiscrimination ordinance.
New York and New Jersey have a real chance of passing marriage equality legislation this year. The Federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would protect many workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, could become law in the next few months.
All of that's going to take a lot of hard work.
Rest assured, if we do that work, we'll win marriage back in Maine, California, and, eventually we'll win our full civil rights in states like North Carolina and the whole nation. We know how to do it.
I'm in it to win it. Are you?
Monday, November 2, 2009
November is National Adoption Month, celebrated throughout the United States in an effort to finalize adoptions from foster care, and to celebrate all adoptive families. (National Adoption Day falls on November 21st this year, the Saturday before Thanksgiving).
This year's theme for National Adoption Month is "Answering the Call - You don't have to be perfect to be a perfect parent."
(The 2009 focus is also more toward the African-American community. A disproportionate amount of kids in the foster care system are racial minorities.)
There've been some really positive legal developments for gay parents in the state recently. Now is a great time for LGBT folks to adopt, and the foster care system is a great place to look for kids who need homes and parents.
Thousands of children in North Carolina enter the foster care system each year, and range in age from infants to 18 years old. All foster children have unique backgrounds, experiences, personalities, strengths, and needs.
The NC foster care system is open to gay parents. (OK, well, technically, they're neither open nor not open.) Your actual experience will depend on any foster care agency you go through and/or the officials in any county DSS (Department of Social Services) that you deal with. We found everyone we interacted with to be extremely positive and supportive of us as a gay male couple looking to adopt - all they cared about was being sure that the kids in need found a good, loving home that could support and care for them.
During November, there are plenty of things you can do to observe National Adoption Month, either as a parent, prospective parent, or someone who has no plans to have children but wants to support adoptive families. Some ideas for this month include:
☼ Write down your family story and add it to a scrapbook.
☼ Contact your local paper about National Adoption Month, and ask them to publish a positive story about adoption.
☼ Contact a children's organization or foster care agency and ask how you can help.
☼ Create your family tree. Complete one about your child's birth family (if information is known) as well as your adoptive family.
☼ If you have one, ask your place of worship to offer a special prayer for children in foster care waiting for adoption.
☼ Watch a movie with an adoption theme.
☼ Donate books about adoption to your local or school library.
See Celebrating National Adoption Month for 30 days of these kind of ideas.
Last time I went bowling with the local gay dads group, I thought it was hilarious that most of the people there had had their children biologically through an ex-wife. Apparently the old-fashioned way of having kids is also the new-fangled way for gay parents!
Still, there are already thousands of children out there who need homes, and foster care and adoption are great ways to form your family.
(And if you're thinking about having kids or are already a parent, the Family Equality Council is a great resource.)
Adoption is a great way to make a positive impact in a kid's life, and it's also an investment in the future for yourself, LGBT folks, the country, and society as a whole.
It's easy to think that you won't be a good parent, but I can guarantee you that having you as a parent will be hundreds of times better than having no parent at all.