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Update: Largest Grassroots Mobilization in Gay History

'Equality Begins at Home' Events Get Wide Publicity

States Developing Effective Political Infrastructures

Compiled By GayToday

equalityhome.gif - 8.85 KBetween March 21 and March 27, more than 350 activist gatherings took place throughout the United States. These events were part of Equality Begins at Home, to date the largest grassroots mobilization in the history of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) movement. The following highlights are an update of GayToday's earlier coverage:

Pennsylvania

Participants were brought to tears in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, as the Harrisburg Gay Men's Chorus stood on the steps inside the State Capitol and sang for the freedom of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.

A crowd of at least 500 people from all across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania convened inside the Capitol for a rally and lobby day. Attendance was so much greater than expected that police had to move the crowd outside.

People of faith communities were a large contingent at the rally, and Rev. Marcus Pomery, pastor of the Central Baptist Church in Wayne, delivered an inspiring speech, as did Sydell Payne, a 19-year-old African-American lesbian from Penn State University. Harrisburg native Candace Gingrich was also on hand to address the crowd.

Related Stories from the GayToday Archive:
Tens of Thousands to Attend More Than 350 Events

Rallies Across USA: Political Infrastructures Manifest

Equality Starts at Home Campaign (Update)

Youth Activists Stepping Forward Across America

A Youthful Turnout to 'Fight the Right'

Related Sites:
Equality Begins at Home
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After the high-energy rally, participants lobbied their legislators, the first time that some attendees had ever approached their elected representatives directly. Organizers believe that the event's success will change politics in Pennsylvania for a long time to come

North Carolina

North Carolina activists held their first GLBT lobby day ever and rallied in Raleigh around the introduction of a hate crimes bill and a sodomy repeal bill. People from every corner of the state, state legislators co-sponsoring the hate crimes measure, and openly gay judge Ray Warren attended.

California

More than 700 young people cheering, "We want 222! We want 222!" rallied and lobbied in Sacramento, California, in support of the Dignity for All Students Act, AB 222.

Speakers at this year's youth rally, the largest in the California event's history, included youth victims of hate crimes, out lesbian Assemblywomen Sheila Kuehl and Carole Migden and Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa.

The young people chanted, "Sheila! Sheila!" in support of Kuehl, the sponsor of the bill numbered 222 because 22.2% of gay and lesbian youth reportedly skip school each month in fear of their safety on school grounds.

Michigan

engler.jpg - 9.51 K Gov. Engler Michigan saw its first such lobby day in 15 years. People from virtually every region of the state representing a cross-section of the community--people of all ages, people of color, women, people of faith, rural and urban residents, Republicans and Democrats--gathered in Lansing .

Some lobbyists even entered Governor John Engler's office and presented an EBAH t-shirt to his staff. Citizen lobbyists logged 90 visits, and many more people from across the state called, wrote, emailed, and faxed correspondence in support of hate crimes and non-discrimination legislation.

Wyoming

In Lander, Wyoming the city council defeated a resolution for equality. However, Lander EBAH facilitator Debbie East proclaimed the vote a victory for awareness:

"A week ago this town, a big family, found out that it includes lesbians and gays. When a nuclear family finds out that a child is gay or lesbian, there is an awareness process the family goes through. Lander will go through the same process and it will learn to support and care for its family, for all of its diversity."

East said that Equality Begins at Home events have moved the understanding and dialogue in Lander and Fremont County into open and public settings. "The closet door is no longer tightly closed," she added.

Wisconsin

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, activists won a number of demands from the university regarding the Reserve Officers Training Corps' anti-gay policies, which bar gays from receiving financial aid and job opportunities.

The university agreed to the creation of an alternative leadership training and certificate program with scholarships offered to attendees. The university also agreed to add a footnote to all printings of UW-Madison's anti-discrimination clause to read: "ROTC and the Department of Defense, who maintain departments and/or recruit on the UW-Madison campus, discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

The UW-Madison acknowledges that this is contradictory to the UW mission, and urges the ROTC and Dept. of Defense to change its policies on these issues."

Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender "citizen volunteers" mixed in Madison with school groups, lobbyists and legislators at the State Capitol on Tuesday as Action Wisconsin conducted "Sweeten 'Em Up,"

Wisconsin's first-ever GLBT lobby day. Volunteers carrying plates laden with homemade cookies, bars and breads stopped at legislators' offices to deliver letters which announced Equality Begins at Home and thanked legislators "for doing the often challenging work of representing all the people who reside in [their] district[s]."

Attached to each letter were names of GLBT people and people who support equal rights for GLBT people.

Also in Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Equal Rights Commission passed a resolution earlier in the month calling on the city to create a domestic partnership registry.

Maryland

In Annapolis, Maryland, the state's civil rights bill, HB315, passed out of committee last week and went to the floor of the House of Delegates, where Wednesday it passed on its third reading and will be considered by the Senate.

Activists with the Free State Justice Coaltion are heavily lobbying the Senate's Judicial Proceedings Committee, where a vote is expected later this week.

The bill has gained national attention because of the unprecedented lobbying effort by Governor Parris Glendening, who will join local officials at an Equality Begins at Home reception Friday night.

Arizona

Openly gay representatives Steve May and Ken Cheuvront introduced more than 100 participants at Arizona's lobby day into the House gallery. May read a petition supporting homosexual equality into the official record and spoke eloquently about the importance of Equality Begins at Home efforts in that state. kcheuvront.jpg - 5.12 K Rep. Cheuvront

Sitting nearby was Representative Karen Johnson, who has earned a reputation for mean-spirited anti-gay actions and verbally attacked May on the House floor several weeks ago.

Citizen lobbyists delivered more than 1,000 petitions from every legislative district in Arizona demanding that the legislature repeal the state's sodomy law, pass non-discrimination legislation, and stop a bill that would strip local governments of their ability to enact domestic partnership policies.

Illinois

In Springfield, Illinois, more than 300 people attended the state lobby day and rally at the capitol. Earlier in the week, the Illinois House had fallen just one vote short of passing anti-discrimination legislation.

In Champaign-Urbana, an Equality Begins at Home luncheon united local elected officials and corporate executives who are allies.

Activists educated participants about gay issues in an effort to pass municipal civil rights ordinances and domestic partner policies at local companies.

Organizers in Illinois used their $5,000 Equality Begins at Home grant from NGLTF to support the work of local groups in the state, which resulted in ads in Champaign, billboards in Decatur and many other projects.

Massachusetts

In Boston, Massachusetts, 60 people participated in a lobby day for two key issues: the passage of a statewide domestic partnership benefits bill for all public employees and the defeat of that state's first anti-marriage bill.

Ohio

Nearly 60 activists attended a lobby day in Columbus, Ohio, where hate crimes and employment non-discrimination legislation are top priorities. Representatives met with every member of the Senate and half of the House.

Connecticut

afleischmann.jpg - 5.37 K In Hartford, Connecticut, the rainbow flag continued to fly above the state capitol despite objections from conservative legislators who likened the rainbow flag to the symbols of other groups, including the Ku Klux Klan. State officials have stood firm in their support of the flag.

"To take that flag down would be a mistake," said Rep. Andrew M. Fleischmann. "For many individuals who have known a lifetime of oppression, the raising of the rainbow flag was deeply meaningful. Removing it would be a slap in the face to those individuals."

New Mexico

In New Mexico, 50 activists attended an AIDS vigil at the state capitol. About 60 NAMES Project Quilt panels were hung this week in the Capitol. Speakers included Rabbi Malka Drucker, who prayed the Kadish, and Rev. Dick Murphy of St. Bede's Episcopal Church, where the rainbow flag flies year round.

Kentucky

In Lexington, Kentucky, hundreds attended a cultural event followed by a vigil against hate crimes. The events were part of the Rainbow Tour traveling throughout the state of Kentucky during Equality Begins at Home.

New York

In New York City, 75 people attended a SpeakOut on Ageism, co-sponsored by Senior Action in A Gay Environment (SAGE), the NGLTF Policy Institute, the Hetrick Martin Institute, and Gay Men of African Descent.

Panelists spoke about their personal experiences with ageism, and then audience members also shared their experiences. Another meeting was set to establish an ongoing dialogue on ageism in the GLBTmovement.

Washington, D.C.

In Washington, D.C., about 100 people attended a town meeting with Mayor Anthony Williams. The mayor acknowledged Equality Begins at Home as an important action for the rights of D.C. residents. He pledged to address a number of concerns raised, including an investigation into the D.C. government's appeal to dismiss the Tyra Hunter judgment.

In 1998, the D.C. Fire Department was found guilty of negligence in the wrongful death of Hunter, a transgender person, who was denied care after paramedics discovered her transgender status.

Mayor Williams also pledged to assist with lobbying Congress to stay out of District matters on same-sex adoption, medical marijuana, needle exchange funding, and the implementation of D.C.'s domestic partnership registry.

Because the District of Columbia is controlled by the U.S. Congress, the U.S. House and Senate must approve all D.C. laws.

Historic Firsts

Midweek activism garnered historic firsts. For the first time, a Colorado House Committee released a GLBT civil rights bill for floor debate; Delaware organizers staged a lobby day; and activists in Iowa met with leaders of the House and Senate, as well as with Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack.

Colorado

Wednesday's vote by Colorado's House Appropriations Committee in favor of a civil rights bill marks the first time ever that local activists have been able to get the bill to the House floor, and they are optimistic about its chances for passage.

The vote came on the heels of a rally at the State Capitol for hate crimes legislation, also pending in the state legislature. A town hall meeting immediately following last night's rally focused on protecting GLBT families, and a tremendously successful community forum Tuesday, entitled "Who put the ėT' in my GLB?" confronted transgender inequality.

Equality Begins at Home in Colorado was also marked at a number of religious services at which GLBT people were celebrated.

The Rev. Georgia Humphrey of St. Barnabas Church in Denver reminded her congregation that "saying 'I believe' in diversity and the tolerance of all people is just not good enough. You can't sit. You have to stand. You have to be ready to reach out and do something."

Delaware

Delaware's GLBT civil rights bill failed on a close vote in the House. Delaware activists consider the attempt nonetheless to have been a crucial stepping stone to the eventual passage of the bill.

The vote was held in conjunction with yesterday's EBAH lobby day, Delaware's first-ever for GLBT issues, which was attended by more than 80 people.

A number of religious leaders and the House and Senate sponsors of the civil rights bill participated in a press conference at Legislative Hall with representatives from Equality Delaware and NGLTF.

Iowa

There were many firsts in Iowa during Equality Begins at Home week. For the first time in memory, a group of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender activists and allies were invited to visit with the Governor in his office.

mkramer.jpg - 8.46 K Iowa Senate President Mary Kramer In an unprecedented lobbying effort, 130 people from all over the state met with and lobbied the Senate's president, majority and minority leaders, and the House's minority leader.

Senate President Mary Kramer presided over the Senate wearing GLBT-supportive buttons. For the first time in the Capitol's 115-year history, an openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender choir sang in the rotunda.

Virginia

Several hundred people gathered Thursday for a hate crimes vigil in Norfolk, Virginia, site of the still unresolved murder of Henry Edward Northington.

Northington, a gay homeless man, was murdered earlier this month, and his severed head was left near an area known for gay cruising.

Although anti-gay bias may have played a role, the motive of Northington's murder remains unclear; several other murders of homeless men in the area have yet to be solved.

In Richmond, a "March and Rally for Equal Justice" converged on the State Capitol, where activists held hands in a circle around the building.

African-American State Leaders Contacted

African-American state legislators from around the country were contacted by the National Black Lesbian and Gay Leadership Forum as part of Equality Begins at Home.

Willa J. Taylor, chair of the Forum's board of directors, told legislators in a letter: "not all African Americans are straight and not all gays and lesbians are white.

"In your district alone, there are hundreds of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered people of African descent you are not fully serving when you ignore the concerns of the queer community.

"During this week of Equality Begins at Home, when the LGBT community will be concentrating our efforts on state houses around the country, the National Black Lesbian and Gay Leadership Forum calls on you, as African American legislators, to remember that the fight for civil rights and social justice is not the exclusive domain of any one group.

"As a race of people who has known - and continues to experience--the bitter taste of inequality, we must embrace all of our people in the struggle for freedom or none of us will ever be free."


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