Archive | Ali Forney Center RSS feed for this section

Salvation Army: Ringing Anti-Gay Bells

1 Dec

Our friend Bil Browning over at Bilerico.com has doubled-down on an important message this holiday season. He’s getting a lot of attention this year for a blog post titled “Why You Shouldn’t Donate to the Salvation Army Bell Ringers.” The now annual post receives thousands of hits on his popular blog and for good reason. He’s asking people to avoid the bell-ringing Santas outside every supermarket and mall across the country.

And with money as tight as it is this year, we can’t help but agree with him. The Salvation Army has long been a Christian missionary association. It would be one thing if they, like some Christians, practiced tolerance and equality towards the LGBT community, but as Bil points out, since 1986, The Salvation Army has been involved in at least 5 major assaults on LGBT equality:

  • When New Zealand considered passage of the Homosexual Law Reform Act in 1986, the Salvation Army collected signatures in an attempt to get the legislation killed. The act decriminalized consensual sex between gay men. The measure passed over the charity’s objections.
  • In the United Kingdom, the Salvation Army actively pushed passage of an amendment to the Local Government Act. The amendment stated that local authorities “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.” The law has since been repealed, but it led many schools and colleges to close LGBT student organizations out of fear they’d lose their government funding.
  • In 2001, the organization tried to extract a resolution from the White House that they could ignore local non-discrimination laws that protected LGBT people. While the commitment would have applied to all employees, the group claimed that it needed the resolution so it “did not have to ordain sexually active gay ministers and did not have to provide medical benefits to the same-sex partners of employees.” After lawmakers and civil rights activists revealed the Salvation Army’s active resistance to non-discrimination laws, the White House admitted the charity was seeking the exemptions.
  • Also in 2001, the evangelical charity actively lobbied to change how the Bush administration would distribute over $24 billion in grants and tax deductions by urging the White House deny funding to any cities or states that included LGBT non-discrimination laws. Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary, issued a statement saying the administration was denying a “regulation sought by the church to protect the right of taxpayer-funded religious organizations to discriminate against homosexuals.”
  • In 2004, the Salvation Army threatened to close all their soup kitchens in New York City to protest the city’s decision to require all vendors and charities doing business with the city to adhere to all civil rights laws. The organization balked at having to treat gay employees equal to straight employees.

While no one wants the services the Salvation Army provides to end for those they help, we must be cognizant of where are pennies are going when we drop them in the shiny red kettle. In addition to these anti-gay fights which the Salvation Army has participated in, they have also fought in court in defense of their virulently anti-gay hiring and employment practices. So please understand that the pennies you drop in those buckets may be going to lawyers which are defending bigotry in court and coming nowhere close to buying clothes for the homeless this winter.

Instead of putting your pocket change in the kettle outside the mall, why don’t you give one of these inclusive organizations a try:

  • Goodwill – doing much of the same work the Salvation Army does, but also focusing on the disabled and unemployed.
  • The Ali Forney Center – providing shelter for homeless LGBT youth in New York City
  • True Colors Residence – Cyndi Lauper’s new shelter for homeless LGBT Youth
  • Doctors Without Borders – providing medical and emergency relief all over the world
  • Urban Peaks – assistance for homeless LGBT youth in Colorado

And if you have things you’re getting rid of which you were considering donating to the Salvation Army, try the aforementioned Goodwill if there is one in your area, or in several cities there are thrift shops which assist those living with HIV/AIDS. Here are a few of those:

If you know of others, please email me at TalkAboutEquality@gmail.com and I’m happy to post them.

Advertisements

NY Marriage Equality: How Did We Get There? A Photo Retrospective

26 Jun

I moved from New York to Washington DC three weeks ago to be with my boyfriend. It’s hard not to still consider New York City home after nearly 13 years living there, but after last night – my struggle to move on became even more difficult. For the past several years, I’ve proudly fought alongside some incredible activists, lobbyists, politicians and allies in the struggle for equality. And last night in New York, we finally won.

I thought of writing a diatribe about how much we have to learn from this victory – how for one of the first times in our movement’s history, we worked together to accomplish something. I could be heavy-handed and speak endlessly at the incredible work done by this partnership of several organizations all working towards the same thing. I could even go so far as to reflect on the fact that even though we have this beautiful victory at long last, that there are still 1,138 rights not afforded to legally married gay and lesbian couples and that we MUST focus on equality on the federal level. But instead, I decided to post some photos.

For the past 3+ years, I’ve discovered a love for photography and in my own way, I’ve been documenting some of the movement from my perspective as a New Yorker. So please enjoy these photos which reflect some of my favorite moments and people involved in the recent part of our struggle for equality. Please note: there are photos here from swanky cocktail parties, from pride marches, from rallies, protests, political speeches, phone banks and even a living room or two. New York Marriage Equality happened because of ALL of it, not some.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All photos copyright Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com

WATCH AND SHARE: The Kids Are Listening

4 May

With the non-stop influx of social media nowadays, it takes something really special to break through and make you take more than a glance at something. And today, this little video popped up on my facebook feed and I knew I had to do more than take a glance:

I followed through to the website listed on the video and I discovered what looks to be a moving and desperately-needed campaign aimed at improving the lives of LGBTQ foster youth. This is quite clearly the most underserved portion of our community and we must do more to include these kids in our conversations around equality.

According to the campaign running The Kids Are Listening website:

The Opening Doors Project works to make life better for LGBTQ youth today. The project is dedicated to training and supporting the legal and social service professionals on the front lines to ensure that LGBTQ foster youth have the support they deserve and the rights they demand.

Through on-the-ground trainings, local task forces and comprehensive research and training material The Opening Doors Project provides the legal community with the advocacy tools they need to successfully represent LGBTQ youth in foster care.

Also on the site, you can sign up to receive more information from the campaign. The pledge you sign is also linked to the It Gets Better Project.

So many organizations and campaigns come and go and I truly hope to see more from the people who put together this stirring video. Please share the video wherever you can and visit their site to find out more.

NY Gov Cuomo Kicking LGBT Homeless Youth to the Curb

29 Mar

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (Photo by Jamie McGonnigal, TalkAboutEquality.com)

It seems that New York City’s LGBT homeless youth are under attack again. The most vulnerable of our community are facing further budget cuts – this time from the Governor’s office.

Just in time for Christmas last year, Mayor Bloomberg announced major budget cuts, including most of the budget of the Ali Forney Center. Ali Forney caters specifically to LGBT homeless kids, providing enough beds for just a fraction of the kids out there who need them. At the last minute, City Speaker Christine Quinn and others on the City Council saved the day and restored the funds.

Now, as part of the Governor’s budget cuts, he is planning on sending thousands of homeless youth back to the streets. This includes LGBT kids who are at drastically higher rates of risk when it comes to drug use, STD infections including HIV, depression, violence and suicide.

Change.org has issued a petition to Governor Andrew Cuomo to send him a message that these kids need our protection and care. They do not deserve to be kicked to the curb so that we can give larger breaks to millionaires. Please sign the petition and send the message to Governor Cuomo that our kids are our first priority.

What Do a Playgirl Model, Miss New York and the Village People Have in Common?

2 Feb

Ronnie Kroell (photo by Melissa June Daniels)

Tonight, I was glad to be on the host committee for the birthday party of my supermodel, playgirl coverboy friend, Ronnie Kroell. Now…Talk About Equality is not here to chat about a birthday party – but when that birthday party is attended by Miss New York, Claire Buffie – the first Miss America contestant to choose LGBT equality as her platform, Village Person Randy Jones, Friends Project Founder David Raleigh and the whole thing benefits the Ali Forney Center for Homeless LGBT Youth – you can bet Talk About Equality had reason to go.

I had a wonderful conversation with Carl Siciliano, the Executive Director of the Ali Forney Center. He’s had a long year with lots of ups and downs. For several weeks, the center was in real trouble when Mayor Bloomberg announced enormous cuts to their budget, leaving LGBT homeless kids in the streets. Shortly after Bloomberg’s plans were announced, the Mayor released an “It Gets Better” video. Siciliano released a scathing response calling the Mayor out for his hypocritical message claiming New York is a wonderful place for LGBT kids to move to, while at the same time slashing the budget for the kids who move here without a home. The funds ended up being restored by Speaker Christine Quinn and the City Council and in the meantime, a light has been cast on this important issue.

Ronnie Kroell, In Between Men and In Between Woman, Michelle Clunie

The party was also a reason to watch the new online series, In Between Men featuring TAE friend, Nick Mathews. The series is a sort of “Sex in the City” for white gay men. Sure sure…we already have that…and it’s called “Sex in the City,” but, according to the creator of the show, Quincy Morris, he was looking to bring characters to life that he related to. He wanted to bring to life some multi-dimensional gay characters who were more like the gay men he knew. Though a male actor of color would certainly be welcome in the hit online series – it was great to see the cast show up for this wonderful evening.

We hope to see more attention being paid to our homeless youth this year. As I discussed with Carl, it’s wonderful to teach LGBT kids that It Gets Better, but more needs to be done to reach out to educate parents. So many kids are kicked out of their homes upon coming out to their parents. Maybe that’s the next step – maybe we need an “It Gets Better: PFLAG Edition” to educate the parents and families of kids that are coming out.

A quick shout-out to MS Apothecary, who was selling products to benefit the Ali Forney Center – I’m excited to light my soy candle!

All photos copyright Jamie McGonnigal, TalkAboutEquality.com

As delicious as they look, they are actually "Bath bombs" by MS Apothecary

Miss New York, Claire Buffie

Birthday Boy Ronnie Kroell

Randy Jones and In Between Men's Nick Mathews

Actor and Birthday Boyfriend, Taylor Proffitt

Ali Forney Center Executive Director, Carl Siciliano

The In Between Men and Village Person Randy Jones

Happy Birthday Ronnie!

City Funds Restored to LGBT Homeless Youth Center

6 Jan

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (Photo by Jamie McGonnigal, TalkAboutEquality.com)

With many thanks to the dozens of organizations in NYC and around the country who have helped, in addition to Lew Fidler, Speaker Christine Quinn and the New York City Council, it has been announced that the $35 million in cuts made by Mayor Bloomberg and his administration have been restored.

These cuts included major cuts amounting to a majority of the operating budget for homeless youth organizations such as the Ali Forney Center, which caters specifically to LGBT homeless youth.In recent weeks, there has been an outpouring of very vocal support for the Ali Forney Center, including videos from Alan Cumming and Friends as well as the Talk About Equality-sponsored A Very Mary Holiday, presented by Broadway Speaks OUT!

Carl Siciliano, Executive Director of the Ali Forney Center (Photo by Jamie McGonnigal, TalkAboutEquality.com)

This news comes just a few days after Mayor Bloomberg released what many saw as a hypocritical video message to LGBT teens telling them that “it gets better.”

These cuts would absolutely not have been restored were it not for the hundreds who have stood up and told their story. So, congratulations to all of you who have stood up and spoken up about who you are. This is a victory for all of us.

Please read the following statement from The Ali Forney Center:

“This morning City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and Finance Committee Chair Domenic M. Recchia Jr. announced that the Council and Administration have reached a budgetary agreement on the Fiscal Year 2011 financial plan, that fully restores the spending reductions to homeless youth programs proposed by Mayor Bloomberg in the November financial plan.

This is wonderful news for the homeless youth of our City, particularly for homeless LGBT youth who would be disproportionately hurt by the proposed cuts.

I am profoundly grateful to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and the Council Assistant Majority Leader and Youth Services Committee Chair Lewis Fidler for their strong and dedicated leadership in seeking to have these cuts restored. Thousands of homeless youth have been protected by their compassionate leadership.

I am also deeply grateful to many members of the broader LGBT community who stood up and demanded that our most vulnerable youth be protected from these cuts. Many, many people called, wrote, and e-
mailed the Mayor’s office and expressed their concern and outrage. I do not think that the Mayor, in proposing the cuts, anticipated the depth of the commitment of the LGBT Community to protecting our youth who have been thrown out to the streets, and I am deeply moved by the caring that our Community revealed in fighting the cuts. I want to especially thank David Mixner, Mike Lavers and Joe Jervis for their
efforts in bringing the harmfulness of the cuts to the attention of the LGBT Community.

Finally, I want to thank the homeless youth of NYC for their courage and caring for one another in standing up against the cuts. Two weeks ago dozens of youth joined advocates and providers and Council members on the steps of City Hall speaking out against the cuts. It is not easy for young people to put  a public spotlight on the suffering and hardship they endure, and I am more proud than I can say that they
were willing to do so to protect each other. I particularly want to thank Ali Forney residents Jaden Peterkin and Raciel Castillo for their efforts. They each spoke out at every hearing and on the City
Hall steps, and each wrote op-ed pieces, courageously offering their own experience of homelessness and family rejection to help others understand the hardships endured by homeless LGBT youth.

Today is a great day for the homeless LGBT youth of our City, and for the LGBT community. The cuts to street outreach and drop-in centers would have been catastrophic. But the fight is not truly over until
there are safe beds for the 3,800 youth who are without shelter every night in our city.”

Alan Cumming Speaks Out For Homeless LGBT Youth

4 Jan

After some devastating budget cuts from Michael Bloomberg’s administration in NYC, organizations such as The Ali Forney Center and others that help homeless LGBT youth are suffering greatly.

David Raleigh and The Friends Project have put together a beautiful video with celebrities ranging from Alan Cumming to Project Runway’s Austin Scarlet to Billy Porter to Ally Sheedy speaking out in support of our kids. 25% of kids that come out to their families are rejected by their families, and many of those kids end up on the streets. With the budget cuts and increasing numbers of homeless LGBT youth in NYC and around the country, it’s our responsibility to do something about it.

Please watch and share this video and make a contribution, as small or large as you can – and take it a step further. If you know anyone with an extra $10 while starting out this new year, please send them this video and ask them to make a contribution.