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Husband and Child of Hate Crime Victim Shut Out By Mississippi Laws

7 Sep

James Craig Anderson

On June 26th, a group of white teens beat and then ran James Craig Anderson over with their truck. A witness said one of the teens shouted out “White Power!” as they drove the truck over Anderson. Obviously the teens are being charged with a hate crime.

19-year old Daryl Dedmon is one of the teens being charged with the crime after bragging to friends later that night. In his description of the events to his pals, Dedmon used racial slurs. The Southern Poverty Law Center is reportedly working with the family and their lawyer to investigate whether some of the teenagers involved may have ties to a gang with white-supremacist leanings.

Anderson’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit agains the teenagers police say are responsible for the hate crime.

Ironically, under Mississippi law, Anderson’s partner of 17 years – who he was raising a 4-year old daughter with – cannot participate in the lawsuit. As their laws do not recognize same-sex partnerships, James Bradfield and his daughter will see no justice in the brutal murder of a beloved husband and father.

A More Perfect World: Celebrating Our Families in Provincetown

10 Aug

Pilgrim Monument, Provincetown, MA (photo by Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com)

I had been to Provincetown twice in my life – once as a 13-year old with a summer camp field trip and once in 2005 on Rosie O’Donnell’s R Family Cruise as a correspondent for BroadwayWorld.com. It was always an exciting place to be. A weird sort of Narnia where the world was upside down, straight was gay and gay was straight. But the Provincetown I saw last week changed my life.

Family Equality Council‘s Family Week is intended to bring together LGBT families from across the country for one week of sun and fun. But that’s not all it is. Throughout the course of the week, kids are in summer camp classes learning about photography, dance, playwrighting, nature and all sorts of other summer campy-type disciplines. Parents are taking part in “Parent Cafes” learning about the state of the movement and meeting with other LGBT parents struggling with a lot of the same challenges they face. The week is filled with teen dances, movie nights, clam bakes, and whale watches. In this magnificent Utopia, kids get to be kids instead of “that boy with two moms” or “that girl with two dads.”

Brent Wright (Family Equality Council), his daughter, Olivia (photo by Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com)

For three years, I was the camp director at Camp TLC – a summer camp for inner-city teens living with HIV and AIDS. Not since that time did I see the difference it made in a child’s life to feel like they weren’t alone. Like at Camp TLC, these kids got to spend one week out of 52 weeks a year where they weren’t “the other.” For this week, every kid they knew was in the same boat as them and the support they felt and gave each other was palpable. I like to think they’ll be able to carry that through the other 51 weeks a year.

Family Week Parade (photo by Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com)

Most of the families I met last week came from parts of the country where marriage equality is not the law and where bigotry and hatred is alive and well. One young girl told us the story of her school chorus singing a song where one of the lyrics was “gay.” The kids snickered as kids will do and the teacher explained that the word “just meant ‘happy,’ not the other kind of gay – the other kind of gay is just wrong.” This wasn’t the only time this daughter of two moms faced these kinds of comments. But not this week – this week, instead of finger-pointing and exclusion, these kids are literally celebrated in a special parade down the main street of town.

For this one week, these families got to see what life could be like in a place with no discrimination or hatred, where they were the “normal” ones. Also encouraging to see were a few straight families bringing their children to Family Week. I spoke with one Dad who told me that this is the world he wants his children to grow up in. His two boys were adopted and he said this was one of the only places he could take them where the majority of other kids are adopted as well.

I learned a lot this week – far more than I could ever teach or write about here – but more than anything, I learned that as cliche as it may sound – it’s not biology that makes a family… it’s love.

Please enjoy some of our photos from this week and check out the slideshow we put together with the Family Equality Council. And also drop by their site and make a contribution so that Family Week can continue and grow to include as many families as possible. (all photos copyright: Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com)

Would You Let Your Kids Play With Kids of Gay & Lesbian Parents?

2 Aug

photo by Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com

After posting a story regarding the census reports from the St. Louis area, finding that many gay and lesbian couples were raising children there, STLToday has posed the question: “Would you allow your kids to play with the kids of gay couples?”

As we’ve seen in recent stories like that of a Colorado Catholic School, or a Catholic School in Hingham, MA, children of LGBT parents are often discriminated against. So the questioned posed by the St. Louis publication is not that far a leap.

And while most readers of this blog are either LGBT themselves or allies to the LGBT community, it’s questions like this which shed light on the bigotry and hatred we face on a daily basis. You’ll find most of the comments already posted at STLToday find the very question to be offensive.

Brad Wolf commented:

“I will not allow my children to play with children of bigots because bigotry is actually a learned trait.”

Donna Savage wrote:

“why not let them play together. homosex— is not contagious.”

And Cynthia Prior added:

“I have seen first hand that many people are afraid to let there children spend the night or hang out at the home of my grandson. I’m not sure why I just know there has been an affect. Perhaps they are not sure of what there children might be exposed to or they don’t know how to explain the difference in the parents.”

While the context of Cynthia’s post was not described, and we’re not sure if her grandson is gay or if his parents are a same-sex couple, it’s clear that whether people find the question offensive or not, it’s a legitimate question that should be addressed. One commenter even mentioned that since comments could not be made anonymously, those who are homophobic are less likely to respond truthfully. Could this be true?

How interesting to see moments like this, or like the National Organization for Marriage trying to hide the names of their major donors for fear they might be seen as the bigots they are? Those who discriminate against LGBT people are afraid of receiving threats, as Anti-Gay Senator Chuck Grassley said in the recent Senate DOMA hearings. He claimed one of his potential witnesses was afraid to testify because she feared for her and her family’s safety. I know very few LGBT people who have not felt threatened at some point – and with good cause considering the violence and murder that has been a part of our everyday lives for generations.

So…would you let your kids play with kids of gay and lesbian parents? And if you’re offended by the question, ask yourself why.

PHOTOS: DOMA Repeal’s First Senate Hearings

20 Jul

photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com

This morning, i had the distinct honor of joining the Family Equality Council at the very first Senate hearings on the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which was signed into law in 1996. This was my first time attending a Senate hearing and I wanted to walk you through what happened and my impressions along the way.

There was a long line of people waiting to get in to the hearing room, but luckily, we had reserved seats and were able to head in first. Looking around the room as it filled up was a who’s who in the LGBT rights movement – Joe Solmonese of the Human Rights Campaign, Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry, Rea Carey from the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and many other important names and faces in our movement.

Seated in the first row, in front of us were representatives from those who oppose equality for LGBT people. Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family, Austin Nimmocks of the Alliance Defense Fund and Ed Whelan of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Chairman Leahy (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

Chairman Leahy quickly called the hearings to order and the first panel spoke to their experiences with DOMA. The panel was made up of House members primarily speaking about their constituents. Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights legend – made several references to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as well as the comparisons between the Black Civil Rights movement and the LGBT Civil Rights movement today. he referred to DOMA as a “stain on our democracy.” He wrapped up by saying “These are our brothers and sisters, we cannot turn our back on them; we must join hands and work to create a more perfect union.

Over the course of the rest of the testimonies, I found myself listening more intently to the reasoning of those who stand against equality than those telling our stories. I think this is just because I’ve heard a lot of our stories in person (and even told a few), but to hear bigots spread lies in front of the US Senate was an experience I will never forget.

Rep. Steve King (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

Rep. Steve King, the only anti-gay member of the first panel reiterated statements we’ve heard before. He spoke of the number of states where anti-gay referendums were passed, where the rights of a minority were voted on by the majority. He said that marriage equality would “demean” the institution of marriage. Also stated that same sex marriage would eventually lead to marriage between family members. And he wrapped things up by saying no court has ever found DOMA to be unconstitutional – he apparently never heard of the 14 times it has been in court and has been found to be unconstitutional.

The next panel featured non-members of Congress and was the first to tell first-person accounts of how DOMA has negatively affected our families. The primary focus of testimony from our side was on healthcare and tax law – many cited that same-sex married partners are frequently left out of hospital visitation protection and that the federal tax laws do not protect legally married same-sex couple and their families.

Tom Minnery, Focus on the Family (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

Focus on the Family’s Tom Minnery complained about traditional marriage being destroyed. He kept referring to “mountains of evidence” that state children are better off with opposite-sex parents. I can’t help but note that while we tell our stories about how we are hurt by this bigoted law, during the entire hearing, no one mentioned how straight families are hurt by gays getting married. Minnery went on to complain about 8th graders who were “forced” to deal with the fact that gay people exist.

Now comes the good part. The members of Senate are now allowed to question members of the panel. The first question came from Chairman Leahy. He asked Minnery to answer a simple question. After Minnery’s claims that children are far better off with opposite-sex parents and that his most important reason for being there was to protect children, Leahy asked if children of same-sex parents are better off for not receiving the same benefits that children of opposite-sex parents? He needed to explain the question 4 times before Minnery finally agreed that DOMA is indeed hurting children of same-sex parents.

Sen. Al Franken (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

Following that, Al Franken asked for a specific example from Minnery’s “mountains of evidence” claiming that children of opposite-sex parents are better off than those of same-sex parents…in Minnery’s written testimony, he cited a study by the Department of Health and Human Services. Franken pulled out the study and let’s just say my favorite sentence of the day was – “I….checked the study out.” and instead of paraphrasing the whole thing here, please watch – and please keep in mind that ti’s fairly verboten for the audience to laugh, applaud, etc during these hearings:

 

So there was that.

Ed Whelan, who believes polyamory is a "project of the Left" (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

The next panel came in, which featured the aforementioned Solmonese,  Wolfson, Nimmocks and Whelan. The information that came out during these testimonies were for the most part, things we have heard before from both sides…and then came Ed Whelan. This was the only time all morning where there was an audible laugh from the audience at the testimony of a panelist. His full testimony (which does not include random quips he made like the one I’m about to reference) can be found here. After referring to the terms polyamory or polygamy at least nine times in five minutes, he then referred to polyamory as “a current project of the Left.” Because ya know…multiple partners are never mentioned in the Bible or the Book of Mormon…we just made it up. I think it was Dan Savage actually who invented it (apologies for the snark, it was just a bit much to listen to).

Another interesting thing to note from Whelan’s testimony is that he claimed heterosexual taxpayers would be forced to “subsidize” same-sex marriages because of having equal protection under tax law. It astounds me that he doesn’t seem to see the irony that LGBT folk have been subsidizing heterosexual marriages since the government first got in the business of giving tax credits to married couples.

New York’s Sen. Chuck Schumer wrapped things up with a strongly-worded statement in support of the Respect for Marriage Act.

Sen. Charles Schumer (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

In closing, I’m very excited to attend another hearing like this. To see this at work and to see bigots called-out for their lies for the whole nation to see was empowering to say the least. I should also note that there were only two anti-gay Senators in attendance at this hearing – Sens. Grassley and Hatch (who didn’t say a word at the hearing). There were eight pro-equality Senators (Chairman Leahy, Sens. Feinstein, Franken, Schumer, Whitehouse, Klobuchar, Coons and Blumenthal) in attendance with one of our biggest champions (Sen Kirsten Gillibrand) sitting in the audience. If this was really so important to their constituents, don’t you think more Republicans would have shown up?

Enjoy some photos from today and thanks for following @TalkEquality on Twitter!

For an excellent blow-by-blow account of today’s hearing, check out Adam Bink’s Prop8TrialTracker.


HRC's Joe Solmonese (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

 

A family in support of DOMA repeal (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

 

Sen. Chris Coons (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

 

Sen. Durbin (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

Sen. Chuck Grassley (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

Sen. Feinstein (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

 

Rep. Nadler (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

 

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.

PHOTOS: Family Equality Council’s Night at the Pier and GLAAD’s NY TGIF

27 Apr

Last night, I had the opportunity to see what the Family Equality Council has been up to at their annual Night on the Pier. Outside of raising over $200,000 to continue their fight to change national and local policy to protect LGBT families, but they also managed to bring together a slew of Broadway celebs and some recently discovered heroes from the movement.

Most of you remember the 19-year old Iowan, Zach Wahls and the incredible speech he made before the Iowa House regarding his life as the son of two lesbian moms. The speech made him an instant youtube sensation and has garnered him a lot more attention than this engineering student ever thought he’d receive. He made his way to a few interviews during the day, including this one with MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts, and then showed up to the pier.

Also at the event were cast members from Broadway’s Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, Rosie O’Donnell, Broadway performers such as Kate Shindle, Audra McDonald, CAA’s Joe Machota, R Family Cruise’s Gregg Kaminsky and Kelli Carpenter and hundreds more. (Full disclosure: Talk About Equality Co-Founder Sean Carlson is the New Media Associate for Family Equality Council – and I was thrilled to share the evening with him!)

Another wonderful new event that is picking up speed in several cities is GLAAD’s TGIF ( Thank GLAAD It’s Friday) parties. I’ve been able to visit one in DC and now one in New York. The networking event has been set up by local chapters of GLAAD and seeks to expand membership and to educate about the important work GLAAD is doing throughout the US.

Please enjoy photos from these two events!

Miss New York Claire Buffie and Hugh Gallagher

Jonathan D. Lovitz from Logo's The Set-up Squad

Thomas Roberts, Claire Buffie and Patrick Abner

Family Equality Council's Jennifer Chrisler and Zach Wahls

Jennifer Chrisler and Kelli Carpenter

Kimberly Galberaith and Broadway's Jodi Capeless

Rosie O'Donnell and Jennifer Chrisler

Jack Mackenroth

Bishop Gene Robinson and Douglas Carter Beane

Tracy Kachtick-Anders and Rosie O'Donnell

Will Swenson and Audra McDonald

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn

Priscilla's Nick Adams

Wonderland's Kate Shindle and William Franzblau

Priscilla's Tony Sheldon, Will Swenson and Nick Adams

VA’s Gov. McDonnell Playing Politics with Children

7 Apr

The state of Virginia is known historically for leading the way among the southern colonies so that our country could declare our independence from a tyrannical King George.

VA Gov. Bob McDonnell

A few centuries later, the great state of Virginia is now behind the times with the actions of bigoted Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who tried to force VA’s colleges to rescind their LGBT-inclusive policies and now GOP Gov Bob McDonnell is set to stop VA’s adoption policies from including lesbian and gay families.

Family Equality Council is leading the fight to educate the Governor on some terrifying statistics. 1 in 3 youth in Virginia’s foster care system wind up aging out of it before ever finding a permanent home. Nearly half of the kids in the system have been in 3 or more homes. Research shows us that youth who age out of foster care without ever finding permanency are at a high risk for poverty, homelessness, incarceration, and early parenthood.

McDonnell is claiming that his decision is to “protect” Catholic charities and other faith-based adoption agencies from being “forced” to give gay parents children. One should note: the current adoption laws include single parents who could be gay or straight.

Family Equality asks the important question: With all of these problems facing the Virginia foster care system, why is the Governor intentionally limiting the number of loving families ready and waiting to adopt?

Please take a moment to visit Family Equality Council’s website here, sign this urgent petition to help these kids and pass it along to your friends.

Gay Grandma Tells Her Story

31 Mar

Sandy Boucher

From Salon.com tonight comes the story of a Gay Grandma.

Sandy Boucher, who lives in Oakland with her partner Marth Boesing, has written a poignant and important essay about the unexpected joys of being a grandmother. While her partner is the children’s “blood” grandma, Sandy couldn’t be more a part of these kid’s lives.

Previously in a heterosexual marriage, she never imagined or desired children. She and her husband were quite happy to live their lives without progeny. But after meeting her partner, she slowly but surely became used to the idea of having young ones in her life.

While you should read her story for yourself, as she tells it far better than I could, take a moment to recognize that those children are growing up in a world where they think of gay and lesbian people as no different from straight people:

“And finally, the 4-year-old boy who several years ago stood at my elbow, fixed me with a grave look, and announced, “You are a person, right?” Yes, I answered. And he said, touching his narrow chest, “And I am a person.” Yes, I agreed. He seemed relieved.”

And that’s what it boils down to, right?

Virulently Homophobic Lawmaker Inspires Gay Blogger

25 Mar

Homophobic Lawmaker Eugene Delgaudio

Okay, so I’m one of those people who signs up for the mailing lists of the people who hate me because I’m truly interested in reading the arguments others are using to fight against my equality.

The most offensive and idiotic of the-eblasts I get, are from a man named Eugene Delgaudio. Eugene is a Virginia lawmaker frighteningly enough, and once in a while, his lunacy gets some attention. His homo-erotic pulp fiction once included the following:

“One stormy night I drove to a mailshop hidden deep in a nearly deserted stand of warehouses. I’d heard something was up and wanted to see for myself. As I rounded the final turn my eyes nearly popped. Tractor-trailers pulled up to loading docks, cars and vans everywhere and long-haired, earring-pierced men scurrying around running forklifts, inserters and huge printing presses. Trembling with worry I went inside. It was worse than I ever imagined. Row after row of boxes bulging with pro-homosexual petitions lined the walls, stacked to the ceiling. My mind reeled as I realized hundreds, maybe thousands, more boxes were already loaded on the tractor-trailers. And still more petitions were flying off the press.”

I’m sure if we look at the un-edited version, we’d find moments where the earring-pierced men pushed him against a forklift, grabbed the back of his head and forced their tongue into his plump lips past his teeth. But I digress…

Most recently, he spoke up about the recent changes in the TSA security checks at airports. While many viewed these changes as extreme due to the “intimacy” involved in the pat-downs – Eugene announced via his website, that the new enhanced security measures were “part of the homosexual agenda.” Apparently, gay TSA employees are getting their jollies by feeling up male passengers.

Today, he sent out the shortest message I have ever received. While most of his emails begging for cash rival War & Peace, this email was simple, short, and to the point. Eugene warned “Watch at your own risk” and included links to a video from a school in Cambridge, MA. After some research, I discovered this was filmed more than 15 years ago. While the video is titled “Homosexuals Brainwashing Public School Children,” a simple Google search will show that the first school featured in the video is a private school.

I felt ready to be offended when I pressed play – prepared to see a propaganda film from the homophobic movement. But then I went to youtube and watched both parts of the video. I found myself crying. The two-part “documentary,” though offensively titled on youtube, features educators talking with grade school kids about acceptance for their fellow students and citizens. The children are being educated properly and though I’d assumed it might be edited to make LGBT families look terrible it is actually a beautiful piece of journalism. The things being taught to these young children gives me hope that our next generations will have less hate.

So once again, I would like to thank wingnut Eugene Delgaudio for giving me some hope that the right thing is happening in this country.

Please watch the following videos (ignoring the addendums by whatever homophobic person posted) and watch them quickly as I’ve notified the filmmaker of the copyright infringement that is clearly taking place and they could be pulled from youtube soon.