Posts Tagged ‘LGBT’

How personal stories win hearts and minds

FreedomToMarryI recently had the pleasure of interviewing Marc Solomon, national campaign director of Freedom to Marry, about the work he and many others have been doing to win the right for same-sex couples to marry nationwide.

It has not been a short or easy journey, but the efforts are most decidedly paying off. Support for marriage equality is at an all-time high in the United States, and there is much hope that the U.S. Supreme Court will make same-sex marriage the law of the land this summer.

What has driven a dramatic increase in support? According to Solomon, what has won hearts and minds has been “the real work of organizing couples to share their stories, and parents and children to share their stories with friends, neighbors and lawmakers.”

The stories of why their marriage — or their parents’ marriages or children’s marriages — were so important. Once people find out they know people who are gay couples, they know them and go to school with them and work with them, that’s when people really start to come around. They see it’s in sync with their value system of the Golden Rule and treating people with respect. It’s not people who want to uproot the institution of marriage. It’s committed people who want to get married to each other. At the heart of it, that’s been how it’s happened.

Read my full interview with Solomon over at Eclectablog.

[Image courtesy of Freedom to Marry.]

Supporting equality for all

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal….”

Statue-LibertyBWThe world knows these words from the U.S. Declaration of Independence well. It’s a foundation of our country’s vision of a land where everyone has an equal opportunity to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

In the years since those words were written, America’s leaders have amended our laws to make it clear that every citizen is entitled to the same rights, regardless of their gender, skin color or other characteristics. That work isn’t finished yet, though, because the LGBT community still faces discrimination in the workplace and in their personal lives.

Legislation like the “religious freedom” bill recently passed in Indiana is a giant step backward in the march for equality. Other “religious freedom” legislation already exists in some states, and is pending in others. Although I fully support laws that protect an individual’s right to practice his or her faith (or not to practice any faith) without government interference, I do not believe in laws that allow discrimination against anyone, for any reason.

So it does my heart good to see an outpouring of support for LGBT equality in the wake of the Indiana bill being signed into law. Across the country, people are standing up and being heard.

The most notable example is the “Open for Service” campaign. Here’s how the campaign website describes Open for Service:

We are a non-partisan, nonjudgmental group looking to provide a grassroots network for people to support businesses that open their doors for everyone – Black, White, Gay, Straight, Christian, Atheist, Disabled . . . well, you get our drift.

OpenForBusinessOpen for Service’s mission is simple: to celebrate businesses that oppose discrimination of every type. For a $10 contribution, businesses can be added to the Open for Service roster and receive a window sticker to show their customers that they believe everyone is equal — and will serve everyone accordingly.

As a small-business owner, I’m proud to sign on to Open for Service. I may not have a shop window to display my sticker in, but I gladly join businesses across the country in saying I would never turn away a customer because of who they are, what they believe, or who they love. Open for Service also sends a positive message of unity and lets those who may fear discrimination know they are welcome.

I believe in equality, and I believe in the collective power of people to drive positive change. Together, we can make sure America remains a country that upholds the principle that all men and women are, indeed, created equal — and makes sure everyone is treated that way.

With tolerance and justice for all

Tolerance. Justice. Diversity. Equality. These are principles I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

And they’ve become indelibly stuck in my head, it seems, by the musical Parade. The show tells a tale of intolerance and injustice in the Deep South of the early 20th century, a story that’s still being played out around the country.

With tolerance and justice for allI saw Parade more than a month ago, at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. The production was superb, and the show (book by Alfred Uhry; music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown) is powerful both in music and message. Parade is based on the true story of Leo Frank, a Northern Jew living in Atlanta, who in 1913 was unjustly accused of murdering a young girl. You can read more about Frank and Parade, but if you have the chance to see the play I urge you to do so with no prior knowledge, as I did. I was deeply moved and stunned by the story.

I will share that Parade explores issues of the intense pride of the Deep South, particularly after the Civil War, and how that loyalty sometimes becomes bigotry. It looks at the ways justice can be derailed for political gain or hatred of someone who doesn’t fit in, whether that person is African American, Jewish or simply different. It also eloquently expresses that everyone has a point of view, and rarely is that view either all good or all bad. And that despite the inclination of some to go along with a group mentality, there will always be those who follow their own conscience. That there are people who will do the right thing, no matter what it costs them.

The performance was followed by a talk with members of the production team and the audience. Parade was part of an ongoing endeavor at Ford’s Theatre called the Lincoln Legacy Project, “a five-year effort to create a dialogue in our nation’s capital around the issues of tolerance, equality and acceptance.”

Audience members shared their thoughts on how the story paralleled current events like the Troy Davis execution, which had happened that week. Others mentioned Alabama and its immigration laws, or attendees at a GOP debate booing a soldier for being gay. Still others talked about how the media can shape the public’s thought powerfully enough to influence a legal verdict.

One woman was extremely angry. She demanded to know why Ford’s Theatre had put on a play that, as she put it, made her “hate the South.” She couldn’t understand why a theatre would present a play that portrayed the South as so evil, that would add fuel to the fires of hatred already so prevalent.

The director of the theatre came out to answer the woman’s questions. He explained that everything in the play is true, and that the production team felt the play had an important message to convey. Although bigotry may be directed at different groups today than it was 100 years ago, it still exists.

I could see exactly where he was coming from, because the play raises timeless issues of intolerance and injustice. What’s more, I disagreed with the woman’s viewpoint. Partly because some of the negatives Parade portrays about the Deep South were, and are, sometimes true. But even more important, the play’s characters include Southerners who accepted diversity and who did the right thing, in one case risking a potentially important career. The play shows that no matter what side people were on — that of a beloved young girl who was mysteriously murdered or the man who swore he’d never touched her — everyone suffered a loss. Everyone was seeking justice. My heart ached for everyone.

All of this has stuck with me for a month, as I’ve listened to the music and continued following the news about events in the Deep South. Alabama, in particular, troubles me. I realize our country has an immigration problem, but I’m certainly not alone in questioning the severity of the law they’ve passed there. A recent article even compared the immigration fight in Alabama to the civil rights era. Meanwhile, some Alabama state legislators have used racial epithets while others have faced charges in a gambling corruption trial.

All this and more paints an ugly picture. It makes me angry. It makes me wonder how any state could have so much disrespect for its citizens. I realize I don’t know every detail, but it still upsets me. It also worries people I’ve spoken to who live there or were raised there. One man in particular dislikes going back because of what the state has become, but still urged me to read a book that celebrates the good things about Alabama (Alabama Afternoons by Roy Hoffman). It’s on my to-read list. I appreciate his balanced view.

Because while I reflect on the questions that continue to roll around my head, many still unanswered, I can’t stop thinking of the two ladies from Alabama I sat next to at the “Capitol Steps” during that same trip to D.C. Incredibly nice people, who laughed as much at the satirical group’s pot-shots at one political party as they did at those taken against the other. I did the same. And to me, bipartisan humor indicates a bipartisan perspective.

Those ladies were a lovely reminder that not everyone in Alabama, or anywhere else for that matter, thinks the same way. Which brings me back to one of my fundamental beliefs: No group is all good or all bad. No person, with rare exceptions, is all good or all bad. Does some of what’s happening in Alabama and other states — Southern and otherwise — make me worry for the future of tolerance and justice in this country? Absolutely.

But even more important, I believe that in the midst of hatred and bigotry and lies, there are people fighting for positive change. Just as there were in Parade and the tragic true story of Leo Frank, there are people everywhere trying to do the right thing.

I believe in the good in people, and I believe that the good in people will ultimately prevail. Even if every story doesn’t have a happy ending.

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