Press

Equality Begins at Home: Day 3!!

Date: 
March 24, 1999

MEDIA CONTACT:
Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications
media@theTaskForce.org
646.358.1465

Participants were brought to tears in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, yesterday 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. The events in Harrisburg were part of Equality Begins at Home, one of the largest grassroots mobilizations in the history of the gay rights movement.

More than 350 events are taking place throughout the country during the week. The following highlights describe some of the many actions that took place yesterday and preview some of the many events to come.

A crowd of at least 500 people from all across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania convened inside the Capitol yesterday 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. After the high-energy rally, participants lobbied their legislators, the first time that some attendees ever approached their elected representatives directly. Organizers believe that the event's success will change politics in the state for a long time to come.

Also yesterday, 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.

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 saw its first GLBT 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.

In Lander, Wyoming yesterday 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.

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."

Events tomorrow include a lobby day in Delaware, where an employment non-discrimination bill will be brought to the floor of the House for discussion and a vote. Also tomorrow, Coloradans will rally against hate in Denver. The Kentucky Rainbow Tour continues with a stop in Bowling Green, and Hawaii's EBAH rally takes place at the capitol in Honolulu. In addition, Equality Begins at Home activities continue in Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, New York, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia. A full schedule of events is available online at http://www.equalitybeginsathome.org.

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.

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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.