No Rational Reason to Ban Same-Sex Marriage

On Friday, an Arkansas judge struck down the state’s 2004 state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage stating “This is an unconstitutional attempt to narrow the definition of equality. The exclusion of a minority for no rational reason is a dangerous precedent.” This makes Arkansas the 18th state in the Union to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay people. Judge Piazza of Pulaski County in Arkansas cited the 1967 decision to repeal laws which up until that point prohibited interracial marriage in his decision.

interracial marriage protestArkansas has become the first state in the Bible Belt to legalize marriage equality, which is huge.

As many of you already know, we are awaiting news on oral arguments heard on May 5th by the Federal Court in Idaho to decide the constitutionality of our own state’s 2006 amendment.

Learn more about marriage equality battles by state here.

Come on, Idaho!!

rainbow idaho

 

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Mother’s Perspectives: Part Two

Once again, thank you to the speakers who, on Tuesday, decided to share with us their experiences. From what I could tell based on the conversation that followed, there was a great deal of takeaway from these two families’ stories.

Part Two: Verna and Josh

“I taught Josh when we was younger, and he’s teaching me now.”

Josh is twenty years old, and he came out to his mother, Verna, two years ago. Verna, having been brought up in the same generation as Susan, faced the same situation in a very different time.

She said she had an idea about Josh’s sexuality when he was as young as three. “If any one of my four boys is gay, it’s Joshua,” she retells this thought jokingly.

But she opened her story, not with the distress of Josh’s coming out to her, but with the unconditional love she felt then and still feels now for him and all of her children. She strives to teach them to be strong, knowing they (especially her second son) will face adversity. She taught them to take others’ opinions with a grain of salt. It is within your own self and the people that love you that you should find comfort.

One day, Josh called his mom, and she could tell he was nervous. She could tell he had something big to tell her, and it was tough for him.

“Mom, I’m gay.”

“And…? I know Josh; I’ve always known.”

And the simplicity of realizing that maybe his identity was not as secretive as he had thought has forged an even stronger bond between mother and son. She never pushed him; she never even asked him. It was his story to tell. When asked a direct question, Verna’s advice, based upon her own experience was: wait for them to tell you. Even if you have an idea and you want to test the waters, be vague, generic and open-ended. Don’t make them feel pressured to tell something they’re not ready to tell yet. They’ve got to come to terms with it themselves before they can trust others.

For a time, after that confirming conversation, Verna felt legitimate fear for her child. As a Catholic, she honestly believed that, as a gay man, Josh could not go to heaven. Reconciling her feelings for her son and the knowledge that this is something with which he was born, with the belief system of the Catholic church has been a struggle. From the beginning, Verna told Josh to never “lose his faith in God.”

Josh is adamant that he owes all his success to the encouragement from his mother. As of next weekend, Joshua will be a college graduate, having served on the North Idaho College student senate body (ASNIC), as President for the Gender and Sexuality Alliance and as Treasurer for the NIC Signers’ Club.

Verna said of Josh’s accomplishments, “I couldn’t be more proud– not because he’s gay, but because he’s my son.”

josh and verna

Josh and his mom, Verna

josh swan 2

This award was presented to the North Idaho College Footsteps Committee by the Task Force On Human Relations for their work in diversity and human rights.

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Josh (center) and his siblings

Mothers’ Perspectives: Part One

First off, a heartfelt thank you to Bev Moss, her daughter, Susan and Verna Swan and her son, Josh. It was courageous to stand up the way you did last night and bare your honest experiences with the group. It was wonderful to see how perspectives the same exact situation could differ, even to the point of reminding one another what had happened.

Part one is for Bev and Susan Moss:

“Isn’t it wonderful when one person loves another?”

In the case of Susan Moss, her coming out story began at age 16, nearly 25 years ago. Obviously, the societal climate toward the LGBT community was much different. (If you think we’ve got work to do now, just imagine how far we’ve come.) Susan noticed something different about herself as she entered her teenage years, but didn’t have a definitive answer until her first relationship with another girl at 16.

She didn’t want to tell anyone. It is important to note that Susan and Bev never really talked about it.They began the reminiscence by disclaiming that neither one really new what the other was going to say. “Let’s see how this goes,” they said. Bev, Susan’s mother, chimed in to take over a little of the story then. She told us that she had confronted Susan. “Are you gay?” After giving the confirmation, Susan felt like a ‘failure at coming out.’ She felt as though the control she had over her own story had been taken from her, and she ran from the situation, eventually leaving North Idaho altogether for a period.

In the year 1988, Bev cried over the news that her daughter was gay. Not necessarily the fact, but the struggles of disclosing the information to other family members, the unhealthy high school relationship Susan was in and the widespread misinformation of HIV and AIDS during that time. Even though, she’d had suspicions, the confirmation meant she couldn’t hide with her “head in the sand” anymore; she had to wage this uphill battle alongside her daughter.

Advice given to Susan’s parents is universal and so important for all to hear:

Ask your child for three years to fully adjust. It’s likely that it took that long or longer for your child to come to terms with this part of themselves. Do as much research as you can. Get the facts because having knowledge is the best way to assuage fear. Remind yourself that this person is the same person you called your child yesterday; you’ve just learned some new information about them.

This wise, before-his-time man was also quoted as saying “Isn’t it wonderful when one person loves another?”

Bev has long since fully accepted this piece of Susan’s identity, spending years manning the hotline for concerned parents of LGBT persons and providing a safe, accepting place in her home for Susan’s peers. And Susan has returned to Coeur d’Alene and is working tirelessly to make Coeur d’Alene schools secure and inclusive for all students.

Bev

Bev

Susan (2nd from the left) and her gorgeous family

Susan (2nd from the left) and her gorgeous family

May is National Foster Care Month!

Did you know that there are 400,000 children currently in the United States foster care system, 100,000 of whom still need to find adoptive homes? According to data compiled by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) more children more gay couples are raising families than ever before, through adoption, surrogacy, and artificial insemination. However, same-sex couples still face discriminatory legal barriers in the effort to bring up children.

allies for adoption

An article in the New York Times in June 2011 posits that a large portion of the legal hurdles same-sex couples face when raising children stems from the fact that marriage is prohibited to these couples in two-thirds of the nation’s states. Only two states (Utah and Mississippi) explicitly bar gay and lesbian couples from adopting. But the inability to legally marry leaves many challenges to both parents having official guardianship of their adopted child. Read the full article here.

PFLAG is in full support of the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, which strives to nullify the challenges same-sex persons face in the quest for adoption based upon marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity.

You can help too!

Learn more about what ECDF strives to do here. The, head over the the PFLAG National Action Center to learn about contacting your legislators to register your support for the bill.

family is family

 

 

 

Support PFLAG National Programs

A couple of exciting (and easy!) ways to support our parent organization are set for the fundraising extravaganza that will be May 2014.

giveOut-logoIn addition to our own rummage sale, for which we are still taking donations, and whatever support we can lend Spokane PFLAG on National Give OUT Day (our status is not ready this year for it), everyone can chip in to help the national nonprofit.

care with prideFirst, for the third year running, the Johnson and Johnson Company is partnering with PFLAG’s Safe Schools Program to raise money to go toward anti-bullying strategies. Johnson and Johnson understands the unique struggles faced by LGBT students, and with their Care With Pride initiative, they can help to make a difference. Watch an informative and heartwarming video about the way the world could be here and then be sure to text “HERO” to 41010 to send $5 to Care With Pride. Johnson and Johnson will match every dollar for up to $150,000 to PFLAG’s LGBT youth programs. That’s $300,000 to help make schools a safe place for all students. Just send the text and $5 will be added to you cell phone bill– easy peasy.

 

this day in juneSecond, there is an amazing new book that is available now for preorder on Amazon. It’s called “This Day in June”. Here is the Amazon.com description:

This Day in June is an uplifting and upbeat book that shares the experience of attending an LGBT Pride festival and a day when everyone is united. It includes back matter that informs the reader of various aspects of LGBT history and culture.

Inspired by founder, Jeanne Manford’s, bravery and hoping to instill in the next generation feelings of love and solidarity, this book is written for parents and children to enjoy and learn together. A copy of the book costs $8-11, depending on whether you want hard or soft copy and a portion of the proceeds will benefit PFLAG National when you order through Smile, Amazon’s charity giving program (as soon as we have the necessary documentation, we’ll have one of these too, so every time you order though Amazon, you    can support your local PFLAG chapter). Simply select PFLAG National as your chosen organization when you order.

amazon smile

So, that’s it! $15 later and you helped raise nearly half-a-million dollars for safe schools as well as provided your family with a valuable tool for educating our youngest allies.

Respect for Marriage Coalition – New Ad

The Respect for Marriage Coalition is a collaborative effort by over 100 special interest groups (the primary focus of which may or may not be LGBT issues) to end the Defense Against Marriage Act (DOMA). PFLAG National is one of them.

The Respect for Marriage Coalition is a partnership of more than 100 civil rights, faith, health, labor, business, legal, LGBT, student, and women’s organizations working together to end the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and grow support for the freedom to marry.

This organization is responsible, in part, for introducing the Respect for Marriage Act to the United States Congress in June of last year (apparently just hours after Section 3 of DOMA was overturned by the Supreme Court). The bill would effectively nullify the discriminatory language of the 16-year-old statute and recognize the rights of all married couples (same-sex or otherwise) on a federal level regardless of where that marriage was officiated.

The Respect for Marriage Coalition is gaining steam since last June and just release an ad which features the opinions of three prominent Republican figures, former First Lady, Laura Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney (who has a gay daughter, in case you didn’t know) and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

To see what you can do for the Respect for Marriage Coalition, go here.

 

Unitarian Universalists of North Idaho

Q: What do you get when you cross a Jehovah’s Witness with a Unitarian Universalist?
A: Someone who knocks on your door and asks you what YOU believe.

Have you heard of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations? For short, and because meetings are generally on Sunday, we call it “church”. But it’s not like any church you’ve ever been to.

uua logoThe Unitarians promote and live their lives by seven pretty basic principles:

1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person

2. Justice, equality and compassion in all human relations

3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to grow spiritually

4. A free (as in uninhibited) and responsible search for truth and meaning

5. The right of conscious and the democratic process, both in the congregations and society at large

6. The goal of the world community with peace, liberty and justice for all

7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part

Sounds great, right? No dogma or doctrine. Just guidelines for living life well and respecting the lives you encounter along the way. A church that encourages the concept of “life before death”. Learn as much as you want by visiting their website.

coexist2The local chapter of the Unitarian Universalists has been serving the Coeur d’Alene area with meetings most Sundays, book discussions, dances and socials. I’ve attended a handful of times over the last year because, personally, I love the community feeling of a church without Jesus Christ being shoved down my (and my kids’) throat. Just one woman’s opinion.

If you are interested in learning more about the North Idaho Unitarian Universalists, please consider attending a mixer being hosted by one of the congregations members or sitting in on a service. The meetings are held at the Harding Family Center at 411 N. 15th St in Coeur d’Alene from 10:30 to 11:30AM. Childcare is provided for free most Sundays, and this is one of the most welcoming bunches of people I have ever met!  uuni bbq invite 2 jpeg

Jeanne Manford PFLAG Way – A New Street in Queens

(First of all, does anyone else see the irony that the founder of an LGBT rights group lived in Queens? I’m sorry if that’s not PC, but it is a cute coincidence.)

What was formerly know as 171st St in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens, N.Y. is being officially renamed in honor of the founder of PFLAG. We’ve been learning about Jeanne Manford, the spirited mother who was unfailingly proud and supportive of her gay son and unwitting founder of one of the largest LGBT and ally support group organizations.

Jeanne died last year at the age of 92.

Read the full article here.

Safe Schools Improvement Act (H.R. 1199)

As you know, locally, we’ve been dealing with adding the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to Idaho’s Human Rights Act, which would extend legal protections and due process to members of the LGBTQ+ community with regard to employment, housing and service. In addition, advocates are hoping to “add the words” to language in the school district’s anti-discrimination employment and student conduct policies.

Well, turns out, adding the words at the federal level is moving along as well, if not better. The Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) has the possibility of heading to the House floor, and with just 25 more co-sponsors (that is, legislators willing to vote in favor), it has a good chance of making it up to the Senate. PFLAG National participated in National Safe Schools Partnership coalition, and by persistently contacting lawmakers, they were integral in attaining 11 additional co-sponsors, bringing the total support to 193. Go here to see what you can do to help. You can also use the information you find there if you plan to attend this event. (We need 218 out of 435 to have a majority vote.) Watch this informative video from my friend, Bill, to learn how how a law is made.

Learn more about the SSIA from the Human Rights Campaign.

The Human Rights Campaign conducted the largest survey of LGBT youth ever conducted, over 10,000 respondents aged 13 to 17. For the resulting statistics on the unique struggle of LGBT youth, go here.

lgbt bullying

 

The Laramie Project- 10 Years Later

In October of 2008, a young man named Matthew Shepard was lured from a bar, beaten and left tied to a fence in rural Laramie, Wyoming in the middle of the night. He died in the hospital a few days later from his injuries and hypothermia. He was brutalized because of his sexuality– Matthew was gay.

Following the news of this egregious hate crime, the Tectonic Theater Project went to Laramie and conducted over 200 interviews with the citizens regarding the causes and effects of the horrible event. It bred the most performed play in the United States and an HBO film that went to Sundance and was nominated for 4 Emmys.

Laramie_Book_cover For more information on the Tectonic Theater Project, go here.

North Idaho College and the Theater Department are bringing “The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later” to Boswell Hall in April 2014. The original creators of the play did a follow-up investigation in Laramie, a full decade after the murder of Matthew Shepard. What they discovered was more that just a epilogue they were expecting.

Read the original article in the Press about the upcoming performances here. (Once again, if you read the comments, you will fume… North Idahoans sure are fun…)

Show dates are April 17-19 and 24-26 at 7:30PM.

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