Weeks of April 10–24, 2006

New York Leadership Awards a big success

Christine Quinn and Mayor Dinkins.

More than 320 turned out for the New York Leadership Awards honoring New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Cunningham. The April 20 event, held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in midtown Manhattan, was the Task Force's first full fund-raising dinner in New York in 16 years and raised just over $200,000.

Quinn is the new speaker of the New York City Council, making her one of the most powerful openly lesbian or gay elected officials in the nation. She has a long history of public service in this city, including leading the Gay & Lesbian Anti-Violence Project. Her award was presented by former New York City Mayor David Dinkins, who has always stood with our community, naming us an integral part of what he called the city's "gorgeous mosaic."

Michael Cunningham.

David Mixner gave a moving tribute to Michael Cunningham when presenting his Leadership Award to the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hours, A Home at the End of the World and other works. Cunningham spoke poetically about the possibility of a world where people recognize our common humanity and the gifts we each bring to one another, a world where we move beyond the artificial barriers that are created to divide us.

Kate Clinton emceed the evening and was her usual funny, irreverent self, proving once again that she who laughs, lasts. Broadway star Billy Porter opened the evening with his own composition, Time, noting that the song calls this a “time for change,” a theme that resonated with those in the room.

Midwest Power Summit attracts largest crowd ever

More than 140 LGBT activists and allies from 19 states and the District of Columbia converged in Milwaukee, Wis., April 7–9, for the 10th and largest-ever Task Force Power Summit, an intensive 3-day training designed to build the political power of our community from the ground up.

A canvassing debriefing drew a full house.

The summit was co-sponsored with Fair Wisconsin, the statewide campaign working to defeat a proposed constitutional ban on marriage and civil unions. Wisconsinites will vote on the measure this November, and 68 of the Power Summit attendees live in that state.

Other participants came from California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Idaho, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee and Virginia.

Task Force Field Organizer Jason Cooper welcomes a record crowd to the Midwest Power Summit.

Summit attendees received training on how to fight against anti-LGBT initiatives at the ballot box through strategic campaign work. They learned to develop a campaign plan; identify the voter base needed to win; build progressive alliances; craft effective messages; fund-raise; recruit volunteers; and build a door-to-door canvass operation and get out the vote on Election Day.

At the summit, activists identified nearly 500 new supporters of marriage equality via their door-to-door canvassing, and during a 75-minute fund-raising training, 85 participants raised $71,471 in donations and pledges. More than $25,000 of the total was raised specifically for the Wisconsin campaign, and an amazing 98 percent of the participants who got on the phone succeeded at raising money.

Milwaukee resident Lee Ann Seaholm (left) talks with Fair Wisconsin canvasser Pabitra Benjamin.


Fair Wisconsin already has a critical base of commitment, energy and work, thanks to a 2-year-old coalition led by Action Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center and Milwaukee Center Advocates. Over the last two years, the Task Force has supported this work to identify thousands of voters and volunteers. These state and local organizations working for equality have trained hundreds of advocates; organized local committees that are operating in every part of the state; and secured the commitment of numerous state health, labor and legal organizations to work against the ban.


What attendees had to say about the Midwest Power Summit:

  • "I had never done fund-raising at all and it never occurred to me that I could, especially asking friends and family. Now I have more confidence and count myself as a fund-raiser for our campaign. Even though I was still a little nervous going into the phone bank I felt great afterwards and am proud of the $210 I raised from friends and family."
  • "I had never canvassed before so was apprehensive. After the training I had such a feeling of empowerment."
  • "Realizing the necessity for a disciplined approach and proper planning has been an eye-opener for me — I usually go on impulse but it’s not always enough!"
  • "I learned I can do more if I ask what and why … with real curiosity about this human being in front of me. I can do these things with practice!"
  • "It was crucial for me to learn the need for constant 1-on-1 meetings and how to spread responsibility to people and match their interest to the needs of the campaign so they don’t burn out. This is a structured, effective way to build leadership and I will use it!"

Chicago forum focuses on black and Latino families

Mary Morten presents findings from the Policy Institute studies.

About 120 mostly black and Latino LGBT people and their families and friends gathered on April 18 at the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum to hear former Task Force board member Mary Morten present the research from the Policy Institute studies on black and Latino same-sex couples from the 2000 Census. The Task Force and Lambda Legal convened the forum in Chicago's West Side with a number of local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender black and Latino organizations, including Amigas Latinas, Alma, the Committee on Sexual Orientation Education, the Center for Race, Politics and Culture at the University of Chicago, and others.

Task Force Policy Institute Director Sean Cahill, who helped organize the forum, was there on hand to field questions about the reports. Other similar forums have been organized by the Policy Institute in Seattle, Wash., and Newark, N.J., and another will follow in New Jersey in the coming months.

Both the Windy City Times and the Chicago Free Press, Chicago LGBT weeklies, attended.

Task Force grieves loss of activist Julia Pell

The Task Force mourns the loss of former board member Julia Pell, a longtime advocate for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, who died earlier this month at age 52. The daughter of the former U.S. senator from Rhode Island Claiborne Pell, Julia Pell served as president of Rhode Island Alliance for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights and was instrumental in that state enacting a nondiscrimination law. We send our condolences to her friends and family.

A letter to Jay Leno

Jeff Whitty, author of the hit musical Avenue Q, has posted an open letter to Jay Leno on his Web site, www.whitless.com. Whitty takes Leno to task for what he sees as gay-baiting jokes and an overall "Stepin Fetchit as channeled by Richard Simmons" depiction of gay people.