Press

250 Events in 50 States, DC & PR

Date: 
March 11, 1999

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

Equality Begins at Home (EBAH), the first-ever campaign of actions in all 50 states for equality, is turning into one of the largest political actions in the history of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender movement. Activists in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have organized more than 250 events to address issues of anti-gay discrimination, violence, and prejudice. The actions will largely focus on state legislatures. 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 Political Organizations.

"The idea of participating in a national event that takes place in our home states and communities has struck a chord with people. State and local activists are seizing the opportunity presented by Equality Begins at Home to demonstrate where the power is in our movement — in our home states," said Paula Ettelbrick, NGLTF's Equality Begins at Home National Coordinator.

State governments across the country have increasingly become the battleground for the culture war over equality. In recent years, the number of gay-related bills introduced in state legislatures has steadily grown. While many seek equal treatment for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender citizens, many others are direct attacks. These bills would ban adoption, block domestic partner benefits, ban same-sex marriage, block gay/straight alliances in schools, exclude sexual orientation from hate crime laws, and more.

At least 24 states will have lobby days, 31 will have rallies or marches in the capitals, 12 will hold town meetings to discuss future statewide organizing, nine will hold statewide conferences, and nine states will hold stand-alone press conferences not related to other events. At least 15 states will have actions specifically to counter hate violence and pass hate crimes legislation. In addition, dozens of states will have exhibits and cultural, educational, and social events. In Connecticut the rainbow flag will fly above the capitol in Hartford for the entire week, and activists in North Dakota will announce the formation of that state's first GLBT political group — Equality North Dakota.

"How better to mark the 30th anniversary of Stonewall than to launch one of the largest organizing campaigns in our movement's history," said Kerry Lobel, NGLTF executive director. "Equality Begins at Home is spurring political organizations in states where there were none, building coalitions with other communities, and ensuring that we will ultimately be full and equal citizens in America," added Lobel.

While each state has determined its own agenda and legislative priorities, there are a number of consistent themes: hate crimes and non-discrimination legislation rank as the highest priorities among the states. Safe schools legislation and fighting backlash family legislation regarding marriage and adoption figure prominently as well. Conferences, exhibits, lobby days and educational forums focused on youth and families will take place across the country, with many states organizing youth rallies and displaying the love makes a family photo exhibit. Approximately one dozen states will display section of the AIDS Quilt in or near the capitol.

"If we are going to beat back the right wing and their relentless attacks, if we are going to end the hate violence and discrimination, if we are going to repeal sodomy laws, we must organize and mobilize in our home stated," state Gina Reiss of the New Jersey Lesbian and Gay Coalition and co-chair of the Federation.

The following is just a sampling of the nearly 250 events occurring during Equality Begins at Home, March 21–27. A full calendar of events is available from the Equality Begins at Home web site at www.equalitybeginsathome.org or by contacting NGLTF.

  • History will be made when the rainbow flag waves over Connecticut's capitol in Hartford during the whole week of Equality Begins at Home - the first time the rainbow flag has flown over a state capitol building.
  • In California, thousands will rally at the state capitol to fiercely defend a safe schools bill.
  • In Colorado, a photo of a GLBT family will sit on the desk of every state legislator.
  • In Florida, one thousand people are expected to attend a statewide organizing conference in Tallahassee. They will also rally at that state capital with Congressman Barney Frank.
  • In Georgia, the week will be filled with at least ten events, including a lobby day, a youth rally, a party honoring local movement heroes, workshops, and an interfaith action against hate violence.
  • In Kentucky, a rainbow bus tour through the state will galvanize support for the year 2000 legislative session — and the introduction of the state's first of pro-GLBT piece of legislation.
  • In New Mexico, a "Homos on the Highway" caravan will take people to the capital for a rally.
  • North Carolina will hold its first-ever statewide GLBT lobby day.
  • In South Carolina, a contingent for GLBT people will march behind an Equality Begins at Home banner in Columbia's Saint Patrick's Day Parade.
  • Three thousand people are expected to march in Austin, Texas to demand an end to attacks on our families.

In addition to these events, Equality Begins at Home has catalyzed the formation of Equality North Dakota - the first statewide political group in North Dakota. Equality Begins at Home has also prompted New Hampshire to reconfigure their statewide group and to lobby for the repeal of the state's 12-year-old law banning GLBT people from becoming adoptive or foster parents.

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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.