Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Act Now: Beginning to ENDA

In case you missed it, there's a big push now to get a vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. It's happening now, and you can help!

Last Thursday House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House Education & Labor Committee is working hard to “have the strongest possible bill” and she believes a floor vote “will be soon.”

She added that she and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer have agreed that ENDA will come to the floor as soon as the House Education & Labor Committee is ready to report out the legislation.

LGBT advocates have been pushing Pelosi to bring ENDA to a House floor vote. Supporters of ENDA were also arrested in Pelosi’s offices in D.C. and San Francisco last month after they staged sit-in protests to draw more attention to the measure.

While federal ENDA wouldn't cover all North Carolina employees - which is why Equality NC's statewide employment non-discrimination work is so important - it would be a huge step forward.

To get more information and take action, go to the Equality Federation, United ENDA, HRC, and/or PFLAG.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Act Locally, Make Change Globally for Binational Partners

The recent news about hospital visitation - how the policy that we, Equality NC, pushed for and got passed here in North Carolina had been picked up and cited in a presidential memo directing that this policy be adopted at the federal level - shows exactly how changes made at the local level can ripple out and have a much broader, perhaps even national or global, effect.

(If you missed the hospital visitation news, find out more about it in the Washington Post, the New York Times, The News & Observer, or News Channel 14.)

In recent weeks, several local governments have endorsed a critical piece of legislation for immigrant families. City councils across the country have passed resolutions supporting the national Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), which would end discrimination against LGBT binational couples. A dozen cities have now endorsed UAFA and called on Congress to support it.

In some ways the move is mainly symbolic, but it also build supports for ending discriminatory immigration laws that keep LGBT couples apart.

Some examples include:
  • Binghamton, NY
  • Cambridge, MA
  • Chicago, IL
  • Ferndale, MI
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Miami Beach, FL
  • Minneapolis, MN
  • New York City
  • St. Louis, MO
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Seattle, WA
  • West Hollywood, CA
These resolutions have occurred because of increased grassroots support of UAFA. Local groups have enlisted local voices to testify in support of the resolutions and tell their own stories of discrimination as part of a binational family.

These local events lay the groundwork for advancing the issue in Congress. Personal tales touch hearts and create change.

Here's a letter a friend of mine in Durham wrote to his local city council about his Canadian partner, who is being forced to leave the country for a year:


I've been impressed with the work you have done on the City Council, and I wanted to check with you to see if Durham could be among the progressive cities that are passing resolutions to support the Uniting American Families Act.

You see, I am the US citizen in a bi-national, same-sex couple. My partner and I have managed to legally remain together for over ten years. He's never been an illegal alien, always being here on an appropriate visa. Currently, he is on an H 1B visa and working as a math and science teacher at [SCHOOL].

Unfortunately, his current visa expires in August ... and in order to get another one, he must leave the US for one full year. [SCHOOL] loves him, but they can't afford to keep his position vacant for a year. At this point, we can only hope that they will have an opening for the 2011 school year and will be willing to sponsor him again for a visa.

If we were a heterosexual couple, we could have gotten married long ago. In fact, I could have sponsored him for a Green Card, and by now, he could have already become a US citizen himself. But we're not.

It's devastating to find that my spouse of ten years will have to leave the home we've created because our government doesn't value our relationship. I've been a good citizen all of my 49 years, paid my taxes, contributed to charities, been a part of my community, and yet, I feel that I'm only granted partial rights.

Of course, same-sex marriage would help provide equity, but let's face it, gay marriage is still a little far away. I believe it will happen, but not soon enough. In the meantime, the Uniting American Families Act is before the House and Senate. This bill would change US immigration rules to join the 19 or 20 other, more progressive, countries of the world who already allow their citizens to sponsor their unmarried, same-sex partners for immigration.

If Durham has not joined cities like Miami Beach, St. Louis, and Seattle in passing a resolution of support for this bill, would you be willing to introduce such a resolution?

I look forward to hearing from you.



This is a very real issue for them. These are their lives.

Have you contacted your local city council about this?

Never underestimate the effect a local, personal appeal may have on the larger issue. I know several LGBT couples who are binational. And every smaller step toward equality we take puts us closer to full equality.

For more information on immigration reform for LGBT folks, go to Immigration Equality and Out4Immigration.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Making Healthcare Fair!

By now you've heard that the hospital visitation policy that we, Equality NC, pushed for and got passed here in North Carolina has been picked up and cited in a presidential memo directing that this policy be adopted at the federal level.

(If not, you can read more about it in the Washington Post, the New York Times, or The News & Observer.)

Last week we got a call from News Channel 14, our statewide 24-hour news channel, who wanted to interview some LGBT folks who'd had problems here in North Carolina trying to visit a sick partner in the hospital.

We know those stories exist out there, but unfortunately we didn't know any specific people who'd experienced this discrimination to refer the reporters to.

These narratives help educate others about the issues LGBT people struggle with as we face prejudice on different fronts every day.

This year is especially significant for healthcare issues, given the recent historic passage of health care reform, so it’s even more important now that we draw attention to the issues of LGBT people and people living with HIV/AIDS.

We're not the only ones looking for these tales of bigotry. Please consider helping Lambda Legal with their Share Your Story project.

"We are looking for stories from lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and people living with HIV/AIDS who have been affected by healthcare discrimination. Perhaps you’ve experienced discrimination firsthand, or witnessed a friend or family member being mistreated. Whatever your story, we want to hear it."

Check out the link for specifics and details.

Please also consider placing a link to Share Your Story on your organization’s website, Facebook page, or other social networking sites. They have created some widgets (ooo, widgets!) you can use for this.

Tale-telling and narrative are how we understand our world and help others understand our experiences, good and ill. Never underestimate the effect your story can have.

Monday, April 19, 2010

No Longer To Serve in Silence ...

On May 11, veterans from all over America will go to Washington to tell their members of congress that it’s time to repeal the failed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law. This day is Veterans Lobby Day on DADT.

Now is the time to put pressure on Congress to act this year. The window for action is limited, and we have a very short time to generate enough grassroots pressure.

This lobby day will take place immediately before the National Defense Authorization Act – the bill that should contain DADT repeal language – is drafted on Capitol Hill.

The Human Rights Campaign and Servicemembers United, in partnership with the Service Women’s Action Network, the Truman Project, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and Vote Vets, are coordinating efforts to make this the largest lobby day of its kind.

If you are a veteran or the family member of a veteran or active duty service member, visit today to find out how you can help. You’ll find all the information you need to plan your trip and officially register to be a part of this historic day. This lobby day is less than a month away, so don’t wait - sign up today!

For more information or if you have questions, please contact Veterans Lobby Day staff at

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Shhhh! Day of Silence This Friday,. 4/16/2010

This Friday, April 16, 2010, we encourage you to stay silent ... as well as break the silence.

Founded in 1996 by students at the University of Virginia, and currently officially sponsored in K-12 schools by GLSEN, the Day of Silence is the largest student-led action to protest the bullying and harassment of LGBT people and their allies.

Participants take a day-long vow of silence and distribute or wear speaking cards with information about anti-LGBT bias and ways for students and others to “end the silence.”

Through "Breaking the Silence events," which are typically held at the end of the school day, students can speak out against harassment and demand change for their schools and communities.

The Day of Silence can be used as a tool to affect positive change, both individually and community-wide. The Day of Silence is designed to draw attention to the bullying and harassment faced by LGBT students everywhere.

Silence is used as a tactic to provide a space for personal reflections about the consequences of being silent and silenced. The Day of Silence is an effort that can raise awareness on this issue, prompting people to talk and think about it.

People are encouraged to participate in the way that they are most comfortable with. Some will be silent all day long. Others will hold a silent lunch. Still others will be vocal supporters. The key is that you call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment.

During the Day of Silence many will be communicating online to show their support of the Day of Silence. It’s definitely okay to use Facebook, Twitter, texting, and other forms of online communication during the Day of Silence, especially if you're spreading the word about the Day of Silence. GLSEN will be tweeting all Day of silence long.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Happy First Anniversay, Iowa!

You might not remember, but this time last year was the start of marriage equality in Iowa.

The Iowa Supreme Court, in Varnum v. Brien, ruled unanimously for equality for same-sex couples and their families. This made Iowa the third state where LGBT
couples had the freedom to marry.

It was also significant in that it was the first state in the heartland of America to get marriage equality. This began a series of successes that brought the freedom to marry to same-sex couples in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Washington, D.C.

Marriage equality hasn't been a sure and steady path - the loss of fairness and freedom to marry in Maine was a huge setback - but we have made amazing progress. Only a year ago, there were just two places in our country where same-sex couples could marry. Now there are six!

We honor and join the joyous couples in Iowa who are celebrating their first anniversary.

Lambda Legal captured some of the voices and images from the weddings of their clients in the Varnum case. You can take a look here to see what an impact equality makes.

(If the embedded video, below, doesn't work, click here to watch a YouTube video.)

It's easy to get caught up in the struggles and travails for freedom and fairness for LGBT Americans, and the losses always hurt so much, but it's critical to celebrate the victories that give us a model to aim for.

Happy Anniversary to all couples from corn country!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Keep On (Egg)Rolling! A Photo Blog

Craig, Kid, and I got to go to the White House egg roll this past Monday. We got tickets as part of an outreach effort to LGBT families and families in the South to ensure that a diversity of Americans was represented. (Thanks to the Equality Federation and Brian Bond, White House LGBT Liaison, for coordinating that.)

First thing in the morning, we went to the White House Conference Center on Jackson Street to pick up tickets.

In the Jackson Conference room ...

... a group of staffers checked us in.

One of them had even drawn a cute welcome sign by hand!

Then we got our much-coveted golden tickets.

We got the 1:45 time slot, so shortly before 1 pm we dutifully approached the White House.

We found the entrance - to the pre-line LEADING UP TO the actual line.

There were people ...

... more people, ...

... and yet more people!

Did I mention the people?

It was hot and tiring waiting in the long pre-line, but it began to move after half an hour, and then we flew through it. They were efficient once things got going! We went through a security checkpoint (where we were metal detected and had all of our pocket belongings and cameras carefully inspected), and then we got on the Ellipse.

We were given free snacks and drinks here - no food or beverages are allowed on the actual White House lawn. This was a good move, since everyone, kids and parents included, were all grumpy and thirsty. While we waited here, there were entertainers on a stage who sang songs and encouraged the crowd to do a variety of activities to get us moving in fun ways.

My family laid on the grass and waited. We did some rock-paper-scissors and talked about the stuff we expected to see.

After another 15 or 20 minutes, we got in the actual line to the White House lawn.

It was a bit of a process getting thousands of people to assemble into coherent single-ish file. Parents and kids held hands or walked hand-on-shoulder in order to stay together. People actually formed multiple lines that converged into one.

Finally we made it through the gates onto the White House lawn. Here's Kid (my kid, Isaiah, lower right) in front of a fountain.

The lawn was set-up like a mini-festival, with multiple activities and events for kids. Here's Kid running an obstacle course. (Did I mention it was bright and sunny?)

The event was well-staffed, with dozens of volunteers around at all times, wearing pastel hats and green aprons with a bunny on the front. You can see a couple in this picture, which also has a fountain in it. And, oh yeah, the White House (which seemed surprisingly small in real-life).

There was a small stage set up for dancing-related activities, like hula-hooping to songs.

Kid got to enter a small fenced area and watch Disney's Zack and Cody read him a story.

Parents got to stand outside of a small fenced area and watch their kids watch Disney's Zack and Cody read them a story.

There was a stage set up for performers. Unfortunately, we missed the cast of 'Glee' (which Craig loves) and instead got to be entertained by the screechy pop-styling of teen-singer Justin Beiber. (I don't know anything about him. Props to him for not lip-syncing, but there is something to be said for production values in music! Thankfully Kid didn't care for him. Now if Miley Cyrus had been there ....)

It was the height of the Cherry Blossom Festival in DC, and many trees were blooming beautifully. (Kid is running a football practice course in front of this one.)

The entire Mall area is amazing, with multiple memorials and sights being visible from any given area. Here's a photo from the White House lawn with the Washington monument.

There was an actual egg roll, where kids tried to race eggs down lanes using large plastic kitchen spoons. (Kid is in the center in blue.) It was all equanimitous and in fun, so there were no formal winners or losers.

After an hour-and-a-half, we were done. We headed for the exit.

We never got to see any of the First Family (the President was throwing a baseball at the Nationals, but I'm not sure where the First Lady or First Daughters were), but we did get a souvenir egg with Barack and Michelle's signature on it, as well as a pack of yellow Peeps (tm).

Oh, and did I mention the gay people. We were there! There was at least one other LGBT family from North Carolina there, and I saw two lesbian couples with kids. Also, at least two of the White House staff there were gay, one chef and one security guard. (There was one guard on the roof of the White House who I certainly wished were gay! He was camera-shy unfortunately.)

My favorite, however, was a group of high school kids from a gay-straight alliance (can't ... remember ... name of school). There were bunches of them, and they had these awesome shirts:

This is the world we're working for, one where all types of families can come together at a common event, and HAVE NO ONE CARE. Oh, and having equal rights for all of those families, too.

Events like this are a step forward towards that day of true equality. It was an amazing experience, and it'll be something Kid will remember - the first time he went to the White House.

Monday, April 5, 2010

April Fools?

There've been several stories in North Carolina news recently in need of a punchline. They may seem funny, but sadly the homophobia around them is no joke.

Did you hear the one about ...

Jesse Helms, Gay Activist and Civil Rights Champion?

The Jesse Helms Center, curator of "Senator No"'s legacy, are trying to touch up our most infamous antigay senator's legacy.

In the wake of the end to the HIV travel band, the center, located in Wingate, is challenging the idea that Helms was a homophobe or obstructive in the AIDS fight.

“It was Senator Helms who worked most tirelessly to protect the very principles of freedom that homosexuals are denied in many other nations.”

John Dodd, president of the Jesse Helms Center Foundation, disputed an editorial in the British newspaper The Guardian that vilified Mr. Helms for his role in the HIV travel ban. Mr. Dodd said that “two million Africans were alive” because of the senator’s work fighting HIV/AIDS.

For a bit of historical context, let's consider some of Senator Helms' own words:

  • "There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy." - States News Service, May 1988
  • "Homosexuals are weak, morally sick wretches." - 1995 radio broadcast
  • "I despise the use of the once beautiful word 'gay.' They are not gay; they are repulsive." - Senate floor, February 20, 1992
  • "I may be the most radical person you've talked to about AIDS ... somewhere along the line we're going to have to quarantine it if we are really going to contain this disease. We did it back with syphilis. We did it with other diseases and nobody even raised a question about it." - Raleigh News & Observer, June 15, 1987
His history of homophobia is pretty unimpeachable. With friends like that, who needs friends?

He wasn't the first antigay public official, however, nor will he be the last (unfortunately) ...

Morgan and Blake and Boles, Oh My!

Former House Republican Speaker Richard Morgan, who is running for a Senate seat now, attacked Rep. Jamie Boles in an open letter for voting for the antibullying bill that passed last year, protecting all students from harassment in school.

The letter, paid for and distributed by the Richard Morgan Campaign Committee, includes the line "... and up in Raleigh you’re the only Republican in the House voting with the Democrats to pass gay rights legislation."

Including gay students in antibullying protections is now gay rights? And the irony is that Boles didn't vote for final passage of the School Violence Prevention Act.

It's not news that the LGBT community continues to be an easy target for bigoted politicians to use in seeking power and raising money. Consider ...

The Forrester for the Trees ...

Remember back in February when state Sen. Jim Forrester spoke to the Iredell County Young Republicans? He told them that "Slick city lawyers and homosexual lobbies and African American lobbies are running Raleigh."

You'd think this was a setup for some satire on North Carolina's bigoted past, but sadly he was as sincere as could be.

Ironically, if what he said were true, there's no way he would have been able to say it or get away with it.

The sadness and humor of bigotry and ignorance are nothing new, but they serve as a constant reminder of the work we need to do. LGBT North Carolinians have come a long way in our struggle for fair and equal treatment, but there's still work to do.

To support Equality NC's work for equality for LGBT North Carolinians, please click here.