Equality Begins at Home: Day 5!!
Civil Rights Bill Clears Colorado House Committee; Wisconsin Legislators Sweetened Up; Equality Begins at Home Sweeps Into Iowa Senate
Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications
Midweek activism garnered historic firsts for supporters of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality in states across America. 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.
The legislative happenings, and dozens of other events, were part of Equality Begins at Home, one of the largest grassroots mobilizations in the history of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) movement. More than 350 events are taking place throughout the country during the week. The following highlights describe some of the actions that have taken place:
Today'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. Today's vote came on the heels of a rally yesterday 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 ‘T' 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."
In other legislative happenings during EBAH week, 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. In Maryland, the House of Delegates passed a civil rights bill Wednesday. However, the bill was amended to exclude transgender people. The Maryland State Senate is expected to vote on the bill soon.
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. 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.
Today in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, an Equality Begins at Home luncheon united local elected officials and corporate executives who are GLBT allies. Activists hope to educate the participants about GLBT issues in an effort to pass municipal civil rights ordinances and domestic partner policies at local companies.
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 tomorrow, a "March and Rally for Equal Justice" will converge on the State Capitol, where activists will hold hands in a circle around the building.
In Madison, Wisconsin, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender "citizen volunteers" mixed 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.
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."
Dozens of events slated for this weekend will mark an enthusiastic climax to a week of unprecedented activity throughout the country.
Equality Begins at Home is coordinated by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and organized by the Federation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Statewide Political Organizations.
The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movementís premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.
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