Sunday, February 28, 2010

Thanks to Communications Intern Danielle for this week's news round-up!


qnotes Shout Out

This week, Equality NC received a little love from qnotes. Let’s keep it going team! Thanks, qnotes!

Clay Aiken Speaks at LGBT Event in Raleigh!

This Saturday, The Human Rights Campaign is hosting their Carolinas Gala at the Raleigh Convention Center. Hometown boy Clay Aiken is the headlining speaker. The event is open to all.

This is an opportunity for everyone to come together. Hunter Corn, Board Chair of Equality NC says that "We're all the same people. We grew up here in North Carolina. We have natives and transplants, people coming from Charlotte to Raleigh, all to have a good time!"

It is not going to be all fun. It is also a time to promote the agenda for LGBT rights. Efforts have led to progress in the past, so let this weekend be a kickoff to more success.

Forrester Stands by Controversial Comments

North Carolina State Senator Jim Forrester is under fire for his homophobic and racially charged language. This week, Senator Forrester met with the Iredell Country Young Republicans to discuss the political climate in North Carolina. There he was quoted as saying, "slick city lawyers and homosexual lobbies and African-American lobbies are running Raleigh."

Forrester is no stranger to controversy. Since 2004, he has led to push for the Marriage Discrimination Act, which would write discrimination into North Carolina's constitution.

While the senator has apologized for being offensive, he stands by his comments saying, "I just wanted to tell people what was going on in Raleigh."

It is interesting that his comment implies that diversity in politics is a bad thing. When people make comments like that, it means we have to work even harder to promote our cause. Senator Forrester maintains that he has never been mean spirited, but I think that is a matter of opinion.

Civil Rights activist John Barnette said it best. He needs to wake up and realize this is America. This is a melting pot. And the melting pot is a good thing!


Housing Discrimination Study Begins in Chicago

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is embarking on a study of the challenges faced by lesbian and gay Americans in finding housing. Luckily, Chicago's Human Relations Commission has recommended that HUD add gender identity to the scope of its study to get a better understanding of the problem's impact on the entire LGBT community.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Let's Roll - with Glee! (White House Egg Roll and the Cast of Glee, That Is)

LGBT families take note! The annual White House Egg Roll has been announced, and you are invited.

A special outreach effort is being made to ensure a diversity of families are at this year's event, and that includes reaching out to the gay community.

The White House will open its South Lawn for children aged 12 years and younger and their families in a tradition that dates back to 1878. Tickets will be distributed through an online lottery system (more below), and LGBT families are urged to participate.

The President and First Lady have announced that this year’s White House Easter Egg Roll will be Monday, April 5, 2010. The theme is “Ready, Set, Go!” to promote health and wellness.

The event will feature live music, sports courts, cooking stations, storytelling and, of course, Easter egg rolling. All of the activities will encourage children to lead healthy and active lives and follow the First Lady’s ‘Let’s Move!’ initiative, a national campaign to combat childhood obesity.

Entries for the 2010 White House Easter Egg Roll Online Lottery will be accepted from Thursday, February 25 through Sunday, February 28. Please visit to apply for the online ticket lottery. One entry per person may be submitted at anytime during the lottery period. All entries will have an equal chance of being selected.

The lottery will be run on March 1. Lottery results will be available starting Thursday, March 4, 2010 at

As a special incentive for fans of Ryan Murphy's hit show, Glee - and yes, those fans are called "gleeks" - the cast of the show has been invited and will be performing.

Here’s a a video from last year’s event.

If you have kids, please be sure to sign up for this. Remember the hullabaloo from years ago when Laura Bush announced that all families were welcome to the Easter Egg Roll, including gay families?

LGBT families have come a long way, and this is not only a great way to raise our profile and help educate the public about the dreary ordinariness of our lives, but it's also a spectacular, extraordinary opportunity that you kids will love.

Special thanks to the Equality Federation for information about this event and the outreach to all American families.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Olympic Pride

For the first time ever, the Olympics and Paralympics have a PRIDE house.

The Olympics have long had different "houses" to celebrate the culture of different groups, e.g., Quebec House, Saskatchewan Pavilion, Irish House.

Now, there's a place for LGBT folks, athletes, families, and friends.

And there're actually two of them!

"PRIDE house Whistler is located in the centre of Whistler Village at the award winning boutique hotel of Pan Pacific Whistler Village Centre. It will be a hip lounge with a cocktail bar with TV monitors to watch the Olympics, hang out, trade pins, a media area to do interviews, and a venue to just have fun. PRIDE house will be designed with the core values of celebrating authenticity, diversity and inclusiveness."

"PRIDE house Vancouver is located at Qmunity- BC's Queer Resource Centre (1170 Bute Street Vancouver, BC). This is the operational hub of PRIDE house Vancouver, with special events happening at various venues around town. Friendly PRIDE house ambassadors will be able to fill you in on all that is fabulously queer in Vancouver. We will also have on hand immigration and refugee experts with a wealth of knowledge and resources for you. There will be free wi-fi and a public access computer for visitors’ convenience as well as a TV playing non-stop sports excitement."

"PRIDE House Whistler will be open from February 8th through to March 21st. The hours of operation is scheduled from 10AM to 10PM daily. (Subject to Change)"

"PRIDE house Vancouver will be open from Feb. 11th through Feb.28th for the Olympics and then again March 12th through March 21st for the Paralympics."

The Mission of PRIDE house is:
  • To provide an open and welcoming venue for the LGBT community and their allies to celebrate together diversity and inclusiveness through sport.
  • To educate and make aware that LGBT people are still discriminated against and in some cases persecuted for being or assumed to be a homosexual. It is still illegal to be gay in over seventy countries around the world and in seven countries the punishment for being gay is death.
This is particularity significant given that back in 1982, the first "Gay Olympic Games" were sued scant weeks before the opening ceremonies in order to force them to drop the use of "Olympic" and "Olympiad" in their name, leading to our current appellation of "Gay Games."

(While it's been stated that homophobia was not the reason for the litigation, other groups, e.g., Crab Olympics, Police Olympics, Special Olympics, Junior Olympics, were not sued.)

According to the PRIDE house website, PRIDE house is significant especially to people in nations such as India, Iran, Jamaica, Ukraine, and the 65+ others where it is illegal to be gay, and in the seven countries where it being LGBT is punishable by death.

"We are very fortunate we live in communities in Canada and the US where, for the most part, Gay & Lesbians are treated with respect and dignity, but in other parts of the world they are not."

"PRIDE house aims to provide those citizens who human rights are being denied a welcoming space to go to and find like-minded people, to find support and encouragement that is so valuable. How incredible is it going to be to help just one athlete, coach, friend or family find the support network they need to true to themselves. Now, that is something to be proud of."

Friday, February 19, 2010

Equality in the News February 13-19

Thanks again to stellar Communications Intern Danielle for rounding up the news!


NC LGBT Advocates Seek Protections

After successfully passing the LGBT-inclusive School Violence Prevention Act, LGBT rights advocates have set their sites on passing employment protections here in North Carolina. We will have to be patient though; an initiative like this will have to wait until 2011 when the legislature will reconvene for a long session.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in North Carolina

Recent polls suggest that North Carolinians are moving away from their conservative roots and toward embracing progressive social causes. More than 50 percent of North Carolinians support President Obama’s proposal to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Perhaps residents are beginning to recognize LGBT rights as a not political issue, but as a human rights issue.


New Hampshire Equal Marriage Safe

On Wednesday, two measures that would have eliminated equal marriage in New Hampshire were struck down. The New Hampshire House of Representatives voted 210-109 to end the HB 1590 initiative that would have repealed the legalization of equal marriage. Afterward, that same body voted down a proposition that would have given New Hampshire citizens the right to approve or reject same sex marriage.

It is refreshing to see that there are legislators who recognize that the rights of the minority should NEVER be decided upon by the majority group. The preservation of equal marriage is a great step in our fight. Now if the rest of the states would follow suit, we would really be making progress.

Former Mayor of Cambridge to run for State Senator

The first lesbian African-American mayor has announced her candidacy for State Senator of Massachusetts.

Way to Go Equality California!

Our friends at Equality California have sponsored the first bill in the nation that included gender identity and sexual orientation on state forms. This bill would allow the state to gather real data about gays, lesbians, and transgender people and their usage of public services.

Should this bill pass, this would increase the state's ability to evaluate the needs of the LGBT community in terms of crucial public services and programs, such as job training. Studies have shown that families led by same-sex couples do not have the same economic resources as other families.

This bill is tremendous for California. After the heartbreaking passage of Proposition 8, this could begin California's redemption to the LGBT community. Any bill that would recognize California’s diverse population are positive ones for the LGBT community.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What's Old Is New Again ....

It often seems like the movement for LGBT equality is composed of nothing but middle-aged folks and youngsters.

While youth culture is a critical component of the steady, progressive march towards fairness, we wouldn't be where we are today without the work of our elders and predecessors.

(And presumably/hopefully, we're all eventually going to end up as part of the older segment of the community!)

Back in October, the Department of Health and Human Services announced the creation of a national resource center for LGBT elders. Last week, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) announced that the DHSS Administration on Aging had awarded them the funds.

SAGE is the oldest and largest organization serving LGBT older adults. SAGE will be awarded $900,000 over three years and will partner with other organizations to create, among other tools, a comprehensive web-based clearinghouse on LGBT aging issues.

The National Technical Assistance Resource Center for LGBT Elders will assist communities across the country in their efforts to provide services and supports for older LGBT people. The Resource Center will provide training to aging service providers and LGBT agencies nationwide, and will offer critically important educational tools to LGBT older people.

SAGE will partner with 10 organizations with expertise in a wide range of areas including mainstream aging, LGBT aging, culture change, and competency and program evaluation, including:
  • PHI (a national training expert)
  • The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a)
  • The National Council on Aging’s National Institute of Senior Centers
  • The American Society on Aging
  • The Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging and Longevity
  • Centerlink (the national association of LGBT community centers)
  • GRIOT Circle
  • FORGE Transgender Aging Network
  • Third Sector New England/The LGBT Aging Project
  • openhouse
"The Resource Center will seek to engage, empower, and support mainstream aging providers, LGBT providers and LGBT older adults to ensure that LGBT elders have the necessary and culturally appropriate supports and services to successfully age in place."

SAGE plans to develop their web-based clearinghouse to serve all three audiences. The clearinghouse will include diverse resources, social networking tools, an “Ask the Experts” service, and web-based trainings.

We'll never get where we're going unless we remember where we came from, and cherish those who got us there. It'll take all of us, young and old, to win our cause in support of freedom, families, and fairness.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Post-Valentine's: Whoopi for Marriage Equality, Just The Facts, Binational Couples

This year, Freedom to Marry Week wrapped up on Valentine's weekend.

Ironically, this weekend thousands of couples chose to tie the knot by entering into civil marriage, but of course, here in North Carolina, none of them were gay.

Many gay couples did indeed celebrate their love, but they weren't able to take part in any of the more than 1,000 rights given by civil marriage.

Still, the marriage equality movement is advancing. A couple of decades ago, it was unthinkable that gay couples would get married, and now we have five states (with D.C. pending) that treat LGBT couples like all other citizens.

Here are three things to note with regard to couple equality:

The conversation around marriage equality is first and foremost about real families, real couples, and real children, who need and deserve the security, clarity, and respect that comes with marriage.

In honor of black history month, the Freedom To Marry Coalition has produced a high-profile list of 10 African-Americans Who Support the Freedom to Marry. You'll recognize the names, and you'll be impressed.


Marriage Equality: Facts and Resources

(Crossposted from Gideon Alper's fantastic Gay Couples Law Blog on 1/18/10.)

Statistics and facts for same-sex marriage can be hard to find. Marriage equality is in the news a lot, but a lot of people just want unbiased information before deciding how they feel about it.

Here's what you need to know:


Latest statistics:

  • 41% support marriage equality for gay couples
  • 49% oppose it
  • 10% say it depends/are unsure

Historical trend of increasing support:

  • Public support for marriage equality has increased about 1% annually over the last two decades.
  • Statisticians predict a majority of Americans will support marriage equality by 2012.

Marriage Laws

Places Where Gay Couples Can Legally Get Married:

  • Massachusetts (2004)
  • Connecticut (2008)
  • Iowa (2009)
  • Vermont (2009)
  • New Hampshire (2010)
  • Washington, D.C. (Coming in March 2010)

Places Where Gay Couples Married In Other Places Are Recognized:

  • New York
  • California (but only if you got married before Proposition 8 passed)


The most recent census did not count marriages gay couples directly, so the following are estimates based on how people reported their household. It counts households with 2 members of the same sex that are unrelated.

  • Total Number of Gay Couples: 594,391
  • Number of People in a Couple: 1.2 Million
  • State With the Most Couples: California (92,138)
  • State With the Least Couples: North Dakota (703)
  • Highest Concentration of Gay Couple (% of all couples): Washington, D.C. (1.29%)
  • Lowest Concentration of Gay Couples (% of all couples): North and South Dakota (.22%)

Gay people make up 1-4% of the population in most cities, but are more concentrated [PDF] in metropolitan areas.

Gay marriage facts and statisticsHighest Number of Same-Sex Couples:

  1. New York, NY: 47,000
  2. Los Angeles, CA: 12,000
  3. Chicago, IL: 10,000

Highest Concentration of Gay People:

  1. San Francisco, CA: 15.4%
  2. Seattle, WA: 12.9%
  3. Atlanta, GA: 12.8%

Lowest Concentration of Gay People:

  1. Detroit, MI: 1.5%
  2. Richmond, VA: 3.4%
  3. Cleveland, OH and Memphis, TN: 3.5%


State by State Map of Gay Marriage Laws. The Wall Street Journal compiled information from the Human Rights Campaign, the National Conference of State Legislatures, and other sources, to compile a user-friendly interactive map.

Text of State Constitutional Amendments Targeting Same-Sex Marriage. If you're one of those people who wants to read the laws themselves to see how exactly gay marriage is outlawed, check out this collection put together by Lambda Legal.

Year 2000 Census Information on Same Sex Households. Expect these numbers to increase in 2010 more than other types of families. The 2010 census will be the first to let gay couples report as married.

Immigration Equality premiered a new video on Valentine's Day at the Huffington Post.

This video highlights the plight of binational same-sex couples who cannot get married. In a straight couple, the US partner can sponsor the other for residency. LGBT couples do not have that option, which means the non-US partner can be targeted for discrimination and kicked out of the country.

There are 36,000 lesbian and gay binational families in the United States, and half of those are also raising young children.

According to Rachel B. Tiven, Immigration Equality's executive director, "For every day that passes without action from Congress, another family faces separation and another child is put in jeopardy of losing a parent."

The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name, i.e., LGBT love, has come a long way, but there's still some distance to travel. Eventually it'll be The Love Where LGBT Couples Get The Same Rights As Straight Couples, then the Love Whose Children's Get The Same Legal Protections.

Finally, ultimately, it'll all just be Love. And that's what Valentine's Day - and Freedom To Marry Week - is all about.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Equality in the News February 5-12

Thanks again to Danielle, our communications intern, for this week's news round-up!


Asheville City Council Moves Toward Fairness in Benefits

Ashville is moving forward on granting same-sex partner benefits to city employees. Earlier this week, Asheville City Council voted 4-2 to support a motion by Council member Gordon Smith supporting benefits for city employees in same-sex domestic relationships.

Of course, such a measure cannot go without opposition. Some members of the religious community renounced the measure. Reverend Keith Ogden said that, “The acceptance of gays and lesbians is akin to selling your soul to the devil.” When members of the religious community renounce such measures, it puzzles me.

It would seem that measures that would extend health insurance and sick leave to ANYONE, would be supported by all religious groups. Why would he want to deny benefits that could help the sick for any reason? Passion often clouds the bigger issue and we seem to forget that regardless of our differences, all people have basic needs that should not be denied because of someone else's personal feelings.

If Rev. Ogden would think about the bigger implications of his wishes, maybe he would see that selling your soul to the devil and giving families benefits is not the same thing.

Chapel Hill Wants You to Give Them the Business!

The economic downturn has had implications for all sorts of markets. Chapel Hill has seen a significant decrease in visiting apart from University of North Carolina basketball games and graduations. To combat this, the city of Chapel Hill is going to begin advertising in niche markets, such as the LGBT community. Despite the perception that North Carolina is not gay friendly, officials in Chapel Hill are working to combat that.


RI Speaker Makes History Twice

Rhode Island has sworn in their first openly gay House Speaker, as well as the first African-American House Speaker in the state. Fox has been the House majority leader since 2003 and was former Speaker William J. Murphy's top deputy and chosen successor. In an interview, Fox said that he was in a long-term relationship but was not legally married. He said that he would like to married in his home state, Rhode Island.

The gubernatorial race currently has three candidates who have promised to sign a marriage bill that would extend equal rights to same-sex couples.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Do Tell! Two Ways To Oppose DADT

Thanks to Communications Intern Danielle for her work on this post.

At the State of the Union Address on January 26, 2010, President Barack Obama finally called for the repeal of the "Don’t Ask Don’t Tell" (DADT) policy so that gays and lesbians could serve openly in the military. While many - including Robert Gates, Defense Secretary - have supported the initiative, the call for repeal has met opposition.

Once again America is lagging behind its allies. Countries like Israel, Canada, and England have openly LGBT folks serving with honor and distinction in the military. It behooves us to change this.

Equality NC is focusing this year on combating discrimination, and this includes discrimination against North Carolinians currently working and serving in the armed services, as well as their families, all of whom bear the weight of deception and self-closeting required by this prejudicial policy.

1) In order to fully repeal the DADT policy, we must ensure that our federal representatives are on board with our cause. The legislation needs 218 supporters for it to pass in the U.S. House of Representatives. In order to ensure that gays and lesbians can serve openly, we have to take action.

Only three House representatives of North Carolina have confirmed their support for the repeal. Contact your congressperson directly - either by e-mail, mail, or phone, or in-person - to get them and/or keep them on board. Tell them how the policy impacts not only you but also your families.

Learn more from the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a non-partisan, nonprofit legal services watchdog and policy organization dedicated to ending discrimination against, and harassment, of military personnel affected by "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

2) The Family Equality Council is an organization working to advance rights and legislation that effect queer folk and their families. Serving under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” causes extreme hardship for LGBT parents, who are forced to choose between protecting their partners and children and serving their country.

The Family Equality Council knows the hardship that employment discrimination, from corporate America to the military, causes for loving LGBT families wanting simply to care for and support one another.

Help the Family Equality Council advance equality. Do you have a story about how “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has impacted your family? Are you serving in the U.S. military, or choosing not to serve because of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”? Share your story with them

We also encourage you to report any discrimination you face in North Carolina to us. Equality NC will use your stories of bigotry and unfairness to convince the legislature of the importance of nondiscrimination legislation and the value of judging people fairly based on actions and merit, not arbitrary differences.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Saint Comes Marching In ... For Marriage Equality

Happy Freedom to Marry Week!

I'm pleased to say that the Saints are winners.

No, I don't mean because they won the Super Bowl, which they did, beating the Colts 31 to 17. (At least that's what I read in the news - no sports-gay am I!)

I don't even mean the entire team of the New Orleans Saints. I'm talking about one specific person.

Scott Fujita, linebacker for the Saints, is a total winner.

Last year, he participated in the National Equality March in Washington and became a vocal supporter for marriage equality. This is significant for two reasons.

First, he's a straight ally - the married father of two twin girls - who wasn't really involved in the gay rights movement before this.

Second, and more remarkably, he's a professional football player, and pro sports are notable for being a bastion of entrenched homophobia. It's extremely rare for a gay sports figure to come out, and it's also unusual for the topic of sexual orientation to even be discussed, much less for someone to be vocal about their support for LGBT equality. The NFL is not renown for its progressiveness and diversity.

Scott Fujita talked about why he endorsed the National Equality March and why he supports LGBT equality in an interview with Dave Zirin in the Huffington Post last October.

"By and large in this country the issue of gay rights and equality should be past the point of debate. Really, there should be no debate anymore.

"For me, in my small platform as a professional football player, my time in the spotlight is probably limited. The more times you have to lend your name to a cause you believe in, you should do that.

"I remember reading about an initiative that was proposed in the state of Arkansas. It was some kind of measure aimed at preventing adoptions by single parents.

"Now, the way I translated that language was that only heterosexual, married couples could adopt children. As an adopted child, that really bothered me.

"What that is really saying is that the concern with one's sexual orientation outweighs what's really important, and that's finding safe homes for children, for our children.

"It's also saying that we'd rather have kids bounce around from foster home to foster home throughout the course of their childhood, than end up in a permanent home, where the parent, whether that person's single or not, gay or straight.

"Either way, it doesn't matter. It's a home that's going to be provided for a kid who desperately needs a home. As an adopted child, that measure really bothered me. It just boggles my mind because good, loving homes for any child are the most important thing."

So say we all! I'm still not a football follower, but I'm definitely now a fan of the Scott Fujita. No matter how you look at it, this guy's a Saint.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Equality in the News January 30-February 5

Thanks again to Communications Intern Danielle for this week's stories. Clearly the big story in NC has been the weather, perhaps pushing out other local news.


Slow-Moving Progress that We Can Believe In?

President Obama’s call to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is gaining momentum. Leaders in Washington, DC as well as North Carolina are agreeing that the current policy should be repealed. While there is a significant degree of agreement, there is little action.

Defense Secretary, Robert Gates says that the pentagon will need at least a year to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Why does it need a year? It seems as if initiatives to take away rights comes about fast enough; why can’t policies granting rights be enacted just as quickly?

President Obama, this week, commented on the hateful anti-gay legislation in Uganda. The bill proposes that those involved in same-sex relationships be punished by jail time or even execution. While the President is right that we can agree that these policies should not exist, how does he plan to stop them? Let’s wait and see…

Uganda Official Alleges That the Anti-Gay bill will change

In response to numerous counties condemning the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, Deputy Foreign Minister Henry Okello Oryem suggested that the bill is likely to change. The proposal aims to change the current policy of imprisoning gays and lesbians to extend from 14 years to life or the death penalty. Mr. Oryem says this in response to President Obama’s comments.

While I appreciate the sentiment of changing the proposal, I would rather that they scrap the whole thing and repeal their current policy. Mr. Oryem noted that Uganda is more concerned with providing a healthy environment for their citizens than targeting gays. Uganda’s President, Yoweri Museveni has already distanced himself from the proposal, citing that it does not represent the values of his administration.

Hopefully, this policy will die out and soon equality will spread to Uganda.

U.S. Tax Court to allow Deductions Associated with Medical Transitions

A ruling this week allows medical costs associated with gender transition to be deducted on federal income taxes. Previously, the court contended that these procedures were cosmetic and therefore elective and should not be tax deductible. This ruling was applauded by the LGBT community for its recognition of the need for transitioning.

While this denotes progress for the movement, some believe that this decision is moot due to the high unemployment rate of transgender people, meaning that few have the insurance coverage or income to pay for costly medical procedures. The decision was partly on their treating Gender Identity Disorder as a “disease.” While the language and reasoning may be off, the ruling is a step in the right direction.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A March Through History

Thanks to Brant, our Triad Organizing Intern, for this piece.

This Monday, February 1st, despite the recent weather and some too-tight snow boots, I had the pleasure of participating in the silent march from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (A&T) to downtown Greensboro to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Greensboro Sit-Ins. These sit-ins took place beginning on February 1st, 1960 at a ‘Whites Only’ lunch counter at a Woolworth’s in downtown Greensboro when four freshman students from A&T ordered coffee at this counter, and refused to leave. Their bravery and determination truly sparked change in the South during this troubled, unjust time, and today they are heroes.

The march started on A&T's campus, at the February One statue, a beautiful monument commemorating the sit-ins and these four students. There were several speeches before the march began, and a large crowd, and small speakers that were unfortunately pointed away from where I stood, so I heard little. When the march began, we were reminded that this was a silent march, to encourage reflection, and at that, we left.

We marched down the same path that the A&T Four took. We marched in rows of eight. We were silent. Nobody spoke, but the sun was shining between days of poor weather, and there was a feeling that had been sparked and that the sun kept warm and alive. A joy. A gratitude, really. It shone above our heads and from downtown, in the horizon, and lead us forward. It rose from the ground, its warmth penetrating the frozen land, carrying us. I felt this as I walked in the same footsteps as these four courageous men, to whom their future was uncertain.

It only took about 25 minutes, and we arrived (with much boisterousness and jubilation, I may add) at Governmental Plaza, just behind the renovated Woolworth's, which is now the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. (Unfortunately, the museum was sold out for the day, since February 1st also marked its grand opening, so I did not have the chance to see the inside.) Here, the people convened and heard the speeches of many members of the community, mostly student leaders from the colleges and universities in the Triad area. First was the President of the A&T's Student Government. His speech was brief, but he encouraged all of us to fight for what we believe in, no matter how it marginalizes us, for this is typically the price of activism. His speech was universal and important, for it was all-inclusive, and we were a large, diverse crowd. Similar speeches were given by the Student Government Presidents and students of other HBCUs, colleges, and universities in North Carolina and the Triad. One student from Greensboro College remarked his mother's insistence that while in high school, his receiving average grades was unacceptable, as his race is not average, but above-average, and does above-average things. This statement was particularly moving, as it really highlighted the activism encouraged by the speakers. Nobody who strives for change can claim they are average, or that their peers are average, or that they are fighting average fights. It is all for great change, and in the name of greatness, to secure great, bright futures for us all.

The student speakers concluded with a spoken word performance that is really beyond description. The words were beautiful, eloquent, and powerful. The voices were strong and conveyed feelings that really shook me. The performance of this writing and the raw energy behind it was truly sensational, and did a great job of summarizing everything I, and the people around me, I am sure, felt during this event. It was very inspirational for someone working towards equality and who looks back at the Civil Rights Movement in awe and with great respect.

As A&T's Student Government President put it, I must "sit in for something." For something about which I am passionate. For something in which I really believe. For something that will guarantee an equal and just future for myself and for my peers. This day not only reminded me of the power of a single person, but of the undeniable strength in unity and solidarity, working towards which I am more certain every day is my life's work.

-Brant Miller

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Here Come the Brides! Freedom to Marry Week 2010

Valentine's Day is just around the corner, and we're also coming up on the annual celebration of Freedom to Marry Week 2010.

This will be the lucky 13th annual celebration, and it will run from Feb 8-14.

Obviously LGBT folks do not currently have the freedom to marry their loved ones in North Carolina (and most of the US). This week marks an opportunity to share our stories, reflect on the values of equality and love, and engage our neighbors in the movement for freedom, family, and fairness.

Marriage equality is important, not just because marriage is a symbol but also for the more than 1,000 rights that civil marriage carries.

(Note the reference to "marriage equality." If you refer to "gay marriage" or "same-sex marriage," you're making it sounds like LGBT folks want something other than marriage, and you're implying that marriage somehow implicitly denies gay folks. You can read an essay on this specific topic here. Language matters.)

For more about Freedom to Marry week, check out the information at Freedom to Marry.

If you do nothing else, look at their FAQ, appropriately titled "Short Answers to Big Questions."

The single most important action everyone can take towards achieving marriage equality nationwide is having conversations with friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, and anyone who will listen about why the freedom to marry matters to you.

Conversation Starters

10 Ways to Start Conversations About The Freedom To Marry


Talking about Marriage and Relationship Recognition for Gay Couples

Talking About Marriage in African-American Communities

Talking About Marriage in Latino/a Communities

Talking About Marriage in Asian/Pacific Islander Communities


From Oregon: Mailers with Personal Stories and Info about Why Marriage Matters

From California: Sample Ads for People of Color

The Freedom to Marry as a Matter of Economic Justice

The Freedom to Marry: Why Non-Gay People Care and What We Can Do About It

And of course, we encourage you to sign up on Equality NC's marriage registry - to celebrate your civil marriage, commitment ceremony, anniversary, or partnership celebration - to show your support for LGBT equality.

Working together, we'll soon all be able to walk down the aisle with the one we love!