Taking It to School: Atticus Circle Annnounces Shirts for College Supporters of LGBT Equality

August 17, 2009

We’re proud to announce a new campaign today for the fall semester, involving college students who want to make a difference in the ongoing campaign for LGBT equality. The Fine By Me T-shirt campaign, as this release details, is ramping up for the Fall 2009 semester by making the “Gay? Fine By Me” and “Gay Marriage? Fine By Me” shirts available for bulk purchase.

Since its inception, the Fine By Me project — now part of Atticus Circle’s overall mission of education on LGBT issues — has been inspiring conversations about LGBT rights and the need for LGBT equality. We’re hoping for dialogues to be created in two key areas — the recent momentum toward same-sex marriage from a number of states, and the re-energized discussion around LGBT individuals in the military, and the potential repeal of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.

If you (or a college activist you know) wants to know more about coordinating a shirt campaign on a specific campus, go to the Fine by Me website for more info.


Austin City Council Adds to Non-Discrimination Policy

August 7, 2009

On Thursday evening, the Austin City Council passed a resolution adding to the city’s non-discrimination policy, which already requires contracting companies to have a non-discrimination policy including sexual orientation and gender identity. Companies applying for a city contract will now have to submit a copy of their policy.

The resolution also included a provision requiring the city manager to amend all economic loan programs and incentives for businesses. Businesses applying for these will not be required to adopt domestic partner benefits or non-discimination policies inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity; however, both elements will now be a part of a company’s scoring during evaluation for said incentives. Providing domestic partner benefits and an inclusive non-discrimination policy will be viewed as a favorable part of an application.

The resolution was sponsored by straight allies in our City Council, Laura Morrison and Bill Spelman, and was passed on consent (all seven members voted for it). According to Marti Bier, Policy Aide to Ms. Randi Shade, the first openly gay City Council Member in Austin, Shade felt “truly appreciative that we have such a strong group of allies in our City that they would carry this forward.”

Atticus Circle would like to extend our thanks to the City Council members, and to Morrison and Spelman in particular.

Anne Wynne and Kathryn Jean Lopez in the pages of the Statesman

August 5, 2009

This morning’s Austin American-Statesman includes the voice of Atticus Circle founder Anne Wynne, who wrote a response to an editorial that ran Monday in the same paper from National Review columnist Kathryn Jean Lopez.

Lopez’s editorial asserted that the momentum toward gay marriage is shifting away from acceptance. Wynne cites recent victories in a number of states to refute Lopez’s claims, and makes the simple arguments that equal rights for all are essential.

Thanks to the Statesman for allowing us to enter the public debate on its editorial page — we hope that readers better understand the importance of LGBT equality upon reading both editorials.

Take HRC Survey and Tell Congress to Repeal DOMA

August 4, 2009

The Human Rights Campaign is conducting a short survey of those who are affected, or who know someone who is affected, by the Defense of Marriage Act, signed by former President Clinton in 1996. The survey does not take long and includes the ability to share your story and opinions on the act, which the HRC will then share with lawmakers.

It is important that we urge Congress and President Obama to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. Despite the fact that same-sex marriage is now legal in six states, these couples continue to be discriminated against under federal law. Their states have taken the step of allowing LGBT couples to legally marry, yet they still lack the rights that heterosexual couples take for granted, such as Social Security survivors’ benefits, putting a spouse on a health care plan without tax penalties, the ability to take family and medical leave to care for a spouse, etc.

Federal law must catch up with the reality of our lives. Please, take a minute now to fill out this survey and tell your lawmakers what you think.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Enough Already

August 3, 2009

Air Force Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach is the latest of a long line of honorable soldiers who may be discharged due to his sexual orientation, unless Air Force Secretary Michael Donley rejects the review board’s April recommendation. LTC Fehrenbach, who has been charged with damaging “good order and discipline,” has served in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Bosnia during the course of his eighteen-year career and has earned nine Air Medals, including one in 2003 for heroism under fire during an enemy ambush in Baghdad. Fehrenbach stands to lose the $50,000 in retirement pay and medical benefits he would have earned after twenty years of service.

The Flag and General Officers for the Military, which sent the President a letter signed by 1,000 retirees protesting any attempts to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, argues that allowing openly gay soldiers to serve would “harm morale, discipline, unit cohesion, as well as undermine recruitment and retention.” But the policy has led to the discharge of 13,000 soldiers (326 since Obama’s swearing-in), many of whom were deemed to have critical occupations such as interpreters and engineers.

Representative Patrick J. Murphy (D-Pa), the first Iraq war veteran to be elected to Congress, argues the opposite. “I have full faith and confidence in our troops’ ability to continue to respect differences in our Army,” he said, according to the Washington Post. “The paratroopers I served with in Baghdad, the thing they cared about was whether you could get the job done and help us get home.” Murphy has recently sponsored the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which, if passed, would repeal DADT.

President Obama continues to publicly support the repeal of DADT, but has also said that he believes Congress should take the lead and repeal it through legislative means. The Senate Armed Forces Committee will hold its first hearing regarding DADT in the fall.

It’s time that people realized how old, tired, and hypocritical the arguments against repeal of DADT are.   The idea that we should tolerate discrimination in our military, which is supposed to be made up of our finest citizens, because we fear our military will then be unable to work together is wrong.   If President Truman had listened to such arguments, the military would still be segregated.   As Rep. Murphy pointed out, in times of combat it really doesn’t matter whether you’re black, brown, female, Muslim, gay, or none of the above.   What matters is your ability to do your job well and with dedication.

Arguments that allowing LGBTQ soldiers to openly serve in the military will harm overall “military readiness” also blindly ignores the problems DADT actually give the military.  Not only are we losing capable LGBTQ soldiers, we are losing soldiers who can assist us in translating critical languages such as Arabic and Farsi.  At a time when we are refocusing on the war in Afghanistan while continuing to maintain a presence in Iraq, all while keeping an eye on North Korea and Iran, it seems ridiculous and short-sighted to continue to discharge LGBTQ soldiers who have otherwise served us well and advertise to LGBTQ individuals who might otherwise enlist that they are not allowed.  The point is this: we need every qualified individual we can get, and whether they are straight or not doesn’t change their qualifications or their records.

The time to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is now.  The world’s political realities demand it, the principle of equality demands it, and our national environment has never been in a better place for it.  According to a Gallup poll released in June, the majority of church-goers, conservatives, and Republicans support the repeal of DADT.  To take action and get your voice heard on DADT, go here. Make sure that when the Senate Armed Forces Committee finally discusses this issue, they know exactly how we feel.