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.


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.

Kudos to a Senator and an Author

July 31, 2009

Two recent quotes caught our attention — one, from Senator Christopher Dodd, and one, from author Nora Roberts — that we thought should get your attention as well.

In an editorial published last month in the Meridien Record-Journal, Dodd talked about his evolving position on gay marriage. While formerly supporting a distinction between civil union and marriage, he now supports gay marriage, based on a better understanding of the legal protections necessary for all Americans. In the editorial, he stated:

“My young daughters are growing up in a different reality than I did. Our family knows many same-sex couples – our neighbors in Connecticut, members of my staff, parents of their schoolmates. Some are now married because the Connecticut Supreme Court and our state legislature have made same-sex marriage legal in our state.

But to my daughters, these couples are married simply because they love each other and want to build a life together. That’s what we’ve taught them. The things that make those families different from their own pale in comparison to the commitments that bind those couples together.

And, really, that’s what marriage should be. It’s about rights and responsibilities and, most of all, love.

I believe that, when my daughters grow up, barriers to marriage equality for same-sex couples will seem as archaic, and as unfair, as the laws we once had against inter-racial marriage.

And I want them to know that, even if he was a little late, their dad came down on the right side of history.”

Author Nora Roberts, in a statement of support for gay marriage for Equality Maryland, created a simple and elegant articulation of the essence of the pro-gay marriage position:

“Love is a gift. Marriage is a celebration of and commitment to that gift — a promise between two people. The right to legally marry should never be denied based on the gender of those who love, but instead honored, respected and protected for all.”

These statements are affirmations from two of the millions of people across the country who support LGBT rights — but the statements are particularly powerful and inspirational, and we’re lucky to have supporters like Sen. Dodd and Ms. Roberts within our ranks.

How We Celebrated the Stonewall 40th: Our Day At Cornerstone Church

June 29, 2009

We’re pleased to report that our first Sundays of Solidarity action, in partnership with our friends at Soulforce, was a success!  Yesterday, a delegation of our straight and LGBTQ supporters attended Cornerstone Church in San Antonio — one of the largest single congregations in Texas — and embarked on a series of necessary conversations between our delegation and Cornerstone members.

While the delegation meet with Cornerstone members, Jeff Lutes (Soulforce’s Executive Director) and Jodie Eldridge (Atticus Circle’s Executive Director) met privately with Rev. John Hagee and some of his family members.  The goal of the meeting was to reach a place of new understanding and to help churches, like Cornerstone, to understand the real consequences of their anti-gay rhetoric and how it affects the LGBT community.

Pastor John Hagee agreed to explore the possibility of ongoing conversations with us beyond the one initiated yesterday. Based on reports from our delegation members, we connected with Cornerstone members in the true spirit of Sundays of Solidarity. We looked for common ground while letting them know why LGBT equality is so important to us.

Coverage from the event included this San Antonio Express-News article, looking at both parties’ views on how the conversations went; this WOAI-AM article, which called the meeting “historic,” and this Austin American-Statesman article from Saturday, previewing the meeting.

While we’re anxious to see how today’s meeting between President Obama and LGBT leaders go, and as we continue to monitor legislative and judicial developments around same-sex marriage rights and other fundamental rights, we’re hopeful that the example we set Sunday will help everyone realize the conversations that are possible and necessary around LGBT rights.

Mother’s Day for all Moms

May 8, 2009

parent \ˈper-ənt\. noun.1 one that begets or brings forth offspring 2. a person who brings up and cares for another.

Take a look in the nearest Merriam-Webster dictionary and you will find that “parent” isn’t defined in gay or straight terms – a parent is simply someone who brings up and cares for another.  Sadly, our society discriminates between LGBT and straight parents.  Because same-sex couples cannot legally marry, they cannot function as equal parents out in the world like their straight counterparts.  Here are a few ways discrimination affects the lives of the families headed by same-sex couples:

  • If the parents were to separate, a parent could be completely denied access to the child.
  • The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act allow married couples up to 12 weeks off to care for a sick child or spouse. The law does not extend these protections to same-sex couples because they cannot legally marry. As a result, if a child were to become seriously ill, her parent may not be able to take the necessary time off from work to care for the child.
  • Same-sex couples are denied many of the financial benefits of being able to marry, creating a smaller economic pool from which families can draw for their basic living needs and inevitably impacting the standard of living of the child.

LGBT parents and their children are not equally protected under law. This is why Atticus Circle is introducing two new campaigns this spring: “All Mothers’ Day” and “All Fathers’ Day.”  We want to ensure that every parent in America receives the recognition, basic rights, and “the pursuit of happiness” he or she is promised.

Our “All Mothers’ Day /All Fathers’ Day” campaigns work like this:

1. Sign up on our website. After signing up, we will send you two emails. One will have our “All Mothers’ Day/All Fathers’ Day Toolkit” attached. The other will be a sample of the e-card you will send to your friends, family, co-workers, etc.

2. We will provide you with a link to contact your elected officials.  We will provide you with a sample letter to mail to your representatives expressing your support for All Mothers and All Fathers.

3. Don’t forget: Mother’s Day is May 10 and Father’s Day is June 21.

4. Sign up for All Mothers’ Day / All Father’s Day

Council approves Marriage in DC

April 7, 2009

More great news — this time from our nation’s capitol.

The District of Columbia Council voted unanimously in favor of legislation recognizing same-sex marriages from other states as marriage in the District.

“This is the march towards human rights and equality,” said Council member David A. Catania, at-large independent. “It is not the march toward special rights…and that march is coming here.”

Council members voted 12-0 in favor of an amendment to a bill introduced by Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat. Members also approved separate legislation that recognizes relationships that are similar to domestic partnerships in the District and have all “the rights and responsibilities of marriage” in another jurisdiction.

Another provision in the legislation allows the mayor to certify relationships that fall short of marriage as domestic partnerships in the District.

(source Washington Times)

Update on Gay Marriage in Vermont (and now New Hampshire)

March 30, 2009

The legislative action around gay marriage in Vermont — and now in New Hampshire — is getting more and more interesting by the day.

In Vermont, it looks as if both the state’s House and Senate will pass a bill affording LGBT individuals the right to marry, but Gov. Jim Douglas has said he may veto the bill if it crosses his desk without the 2/3 majority necessary to override a veto. As a result, he’s been getting a lot of letters and e-mails in the last few days expressing concern over the possible veto, here’s how to add your voice to the growing chorus.

In New Hampshire, the State House narrowly passed a similar bill several days ago, and the Senate will now take up the bill. As in Vermont, there’s concern among LGBT equality supporters that the state’s governor will veto the bill should it pass. Here’s how to contact him in case you want to let him know about your support for gay marriage rights.

Despite the encouraging developments in New England, there’s still a lot of work to be done in many different parts of the country to forward LGBT rights — especially where churches and faith communities are concerned. If you haven’t yet visited the new Sundays of Solidarity website, please take a moment to do so. This is an exciting new project we’re doing in conjunction with our friends at Soulforce, and it’s a chance to make a difference on a community level by engage non-affirming faith communities in honest and open discussions. While not every state is on the cusp of adopting momentum-changing legislation, conversations like the one we’re asking you to have are what will help bring every state to more reasonable positions on LGBT issues. Please help us spread the word, and please join us for our initial training session on Sunday, April 19 as we prepare to engage in these necessary conversations.