Tag Archives: Human Rights Campaign

YouTube Sunday: Empire State of Mind

15 May

Standing on the Side of Love

12 May

Google Chrome made headlines last week when it premiered its “It Gets Better” commercial during a new episode of Fox’s ‘Glee’. Support and praise for the lucrative primetime TV spot was almost universal. Almost.

A cameo from Toy Story’s Woody stole the show. A childhood favorite and star of Pixar’s billion-dollar Toy Story franchise, Woody’s kind words of support were a hallmark moment for a company who has been providing same-sex couple benefits for its employees since 1996.

A few are less than thrilled, and that includes Alan Chambers of the now-infamous Exodus International. “Children all over the world, including my two children are fans of ‘Toy Story,’ and to see a character like that endorsing something that at this point children have no need to know about, it’s disappointing,” he says.

But as those remaining few who oppose gay marriage continue to dig themselves into a deeper hole and devolve into something of a self-parody, their plan of attack has grown increasingly flimsy and transparent. Their efforts to enforce an archaic and regrettable point of view on a generation of youth who are growing up in a world that has increasingly and overwhelmingly embraced love is terminally ill.

But as some continue to be blinded by their own fear, more and more are choosing to stand on the side of love. Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo has for some time been very open and honest about his support for gay marriage, a rarity in the world or sports. Following in his footsteps is Sean Avery, a New York Rangers player in the hyper-masculine sport of hockey who recently teamed up with the Human Rights Campaign to support marriage equality in New York.

Such a willingness to publicly call for change has made Ayanbadejo and Avery easy targets within the sports culture. But Brendon, recently appearing on ESPN’s ‘Outside the Line,’ spoke about why he has decided to step up and speak out. “This issue is really dear to me, being that I’m bi-racial, African American. If you go back to the ’60s, this same issue was current but it was about interracial marriage. Now today, fast-forward to 2011, the issue is equality in marriage and allowing same-sex couples to marry and love each other,” he says. “So to me it’s the same thing, it’s a barbaric issue. I think it’s just time that society continues to evolve and advance and it’s time to treat everyone fairly. That’s something we haven’t done in this country, but we’re getting better as time goes on.

If you’re homosexual, lesbian, or gay, that’s the way God created you, so why should you be treated any different?”

Ayanbadejo went on to say that Obama in 2012 has the opportunity to “emancipate 30 million Americans.”

Brendon’s passion for equality may rile up some, but it will also help him become a trendsetter and pave the way for others – such as Avery – to follow. As openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson said, “It is not enough for good people — religious or otherwise — to simply be feeling more positive toward gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Tolerance and a live-and-let-live attitude beats discrimination and abuse by a mile. But it’s not enough. Tolerant people, especially tolerant religious people, need to get over their squeamishness about being vocal advocates and unapologetic supporters of LGBT people. It really is a matter of life and death, as we’ve seen.”

It’s time to stand on the side of love. I do. Do you?

Reaching A Critical Mass

28 Apr

As goes New York, so goes the nation?

Advocates for marriage equality suffered a devastating defeat in 2009, when efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in New York fell eight votes short in the Senate after receiving strong support in the state’s Assembly.

Many may recall Senator Diane Savino’s powerful and heart wrenching testimony in defense of gay marriage prior to the bill’s defeat, stating for all to hear that “we have nothing to fear from love and commitment.”

“If there’s anybody threatening the sanctity of marriage,” Savino said, “it comes from those who have the privilege and the right, and we have abused it for decades.”

A renewed fight to grant marriage equality has resurfaced in New York, stronger than ever. And this time, it may have larger ramifications for the country and the world.

“A win in New York will provide significant momentum for the movement nationally and, quite frankly, internationally,” says Brian Ellner of the Human Rights Campaign. “New York is very significant.”

Why has the landscape changed so drastically in less than two years?

This time, it’s personal.

The true-life stories of decent men and women who have suffered first-hand the inequality of being denied the right to marry the person they love has struck a chord with citizens both in New York and across the country, resulting in many to switch sides.

“That debate has been replicated hundreds and thousands of times over the Internet, emails and coffee klatches and over glasses of wine in New York’s suburbs that has rapidly changed – at an accelerated pace – public opinion.” says Bruce Gyrory, a political science professor at the University of Albany.

Even populations traditionally seen as reliably conservative, such as Catholics, have seen rising support for marriage equality.

Support for marriage has dramatically increased in New York, reaching as high as 58% in a recent poll. “I think at the point you cross 60 percent and approach 2:1 levels of support, the opposition loses its critical mass,” says Gyory.

And as overwhelming support among younger generations continues to make its mark, the realization that this fight is close to a tipping point has begun to dawn.

Law firm King & Spalding, who signed on defend the now defenseless DOMA on behalf of House Republicans, dropped a bomb earlier this week when it abruptly withdrew from the case. Reports of internal conflict and “mayhem” were rampant. “Management was divided, people were threatening to quit,” said one source.

Prior to King & Spalding’s exit, the response from the LGBT community had been strong and forceful. And while DOMA has already recruited fresh defenders in the wake of its latest setback, don’t expect public support to be on their side anymore.

In its latest episode, “Glee” reached new heights of fabulous when its cast belted out Lady Gaga’s gay pride anthem “Born This Way.” It depicted a high school coming together in a defining moment of unity.

Having already called the show a “disgusting gay teen sex romp”, Dan Gainor, a conservative media critic, was less than pleased, panning the show’s creator Ryan Murphy and calling the episode his “latest depraved initiative to promote his gay agenda.”

“This is clearly Ryay Murphy’s vision of what growing up should be, not most of America’s. It’s a high school most parents would not want to send their kids to.”

Hate to break it to you, Mr. Gainor, but you’re dead wrong. Your words have lost their power to persuade. Your hateful rhetoric no longer has a place in a country that is turning increasingly towards love and fairness.

You’re history.

In case you missed it…

16 Apr

Though it may be the second smallest state in the Union and home to less than a million people, Delaware took a giant step towards equality this week when the House of Representatives voted 26-15 to legalize civil unions for same-sex couples. Having passed the state Senate last week and with the Governor’s pledge to sign the historic bill into law, Delaware is set to become the eighth state to grant civil unions.

Lisa Goodman, the president of Equality Delaware who worked closely with the Human Rights Campaign to support its passage, praised the vote. “There are a lot of happy people here,” she said. “We made Delaware a fairer and better place for same-sex couples and all families today.”

Louis Marinelli released a statement following the vote, declaring “equal protection under the law is basic to the fundamental dignity of all citizens.”

If that name doesn’t ring a bell, consider this.

For years Marinelli championed his anti-gay marriage views and worked closely with the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), spreading intolerance and working to defeat proponents of gay marriage. Last year, he took his message on the road as part of a Summer for Marriage Tour.

Earlier this week, Marinelli made headlines when he publicly reversed course and endorsed marriage equality.

“Whether it is an issue of disbelief, shame or embarrassment, the one thing that is for sure is that I have come to this point after several months of an internal conflict with myself. That conflict gradually tore away at me until recently when I was able to for the first time simply admit to myself that I do in fact support civil marriage equality.”

In calling for marriage rights for gay couples, Marinelli says the Constitution “calls for nothing less.”

Marinelli’s defection didn’t go unnoticed. Following his change of heart and mind, the National Organization for Marriage’s Facebook group lost 290,000 supporters.

It’s never too late to start over.

Wrestling for Equality

11 Apr

Kudos today go out to Hudson Taylor, a college wrestler — now coach — who stood up for equality and justice when nobody else did.

Taylor, who is straight, found himself in a unique position while in school. A theater major, he was surrounded by an open and accepting network of friends and classmates who made others struggling with their sexuality feel more comfortable and at ease about who they are. On the wrestling mat, however, his peers weren’t so open minded.

“It’s tough being a college athlete. Guys like to bring each other down and use hurtful words. But I think you need to be conscious of your thoughts, words and actions.”

Taylor began speaking out when he noticed his teammates making disparaging remarks. In addition, he wore a Human Rights Campaign sticker on the side of his headgear during wrestling matches, drawing further praise and criticism for his cause.

“Certainly when I first stared this, I had a lot of arguments with friends, family, teammates, about the politics.”

But after being interviewed by OutSports, Taylor began receiving a wave of support from closeted athletes struggling to come to terms with their identity and fear of being labeled a gay athlete in an environment where tolerance can still be hard to come by.

“They told me that nobody was speaking out for them and letting them know they can feel included and respected. It really made me want to do more.”

Taylor founded and is a spokesperson for Athlete Ally, which advocates respect and welcome arms for all athletes, gay or straight, as well as providing tools to combat homophobia. The message seems to be connecting with many, Taylor says the outpouring of support from those who wish to help and get involved has been surprising.

“This is only about how we treat one another, how we speak to one another. It’s not about politics or religion or anything else. I just want to create a safe space for people.”

Taylor joins the likes of Gareth Thomas, a famous European rugby player whose own coming out has sent ripples throughout the rough ‘n tumble sport. “I don’t want to be known as a gay rugby player. I am a rugby player first and foremost. I am a man,” Thomas said. “I just happen to be gay. It’s irrelevant.”

Like Thomas, Taylor’s actions further illustrate the chain reaction that one act of kindness can have. How far it will reach and how many people it will touch, we’ll never know. But his example is one we should all aspire to, and as more allies — gay and straight — stand up for what’s right, there’s little we can’t accomplish.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won’t feel insecure around you. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Nelson Mandela

Serving More than Coffee & Happiness

28 Mar

Starbucks raised eyebrows in 2005 when they began publishing famous quotes on coffee cups as part of its “The Way I See It” campaign. Among those were Armistead Maupin, whose Tales of the Series profiled San Francisco’s homosexual community during the 1970s and 80s. “My only regret about being gay is that I repressed it for so long,” Maupin said. “I surrendered my youth to the people I feared when I could have been out there loving someone. Don’t make that mistake yourself. Life’s too damn short.”

Social responsibility has long been at the forefront of the world’s largest coffeehouse chain. Starbucks for years has been an ally and supporter of the community through diversity hiring programs and charitable donations. Their Starbucks Pride Alliance Partner Network works to “effect positive change and increase awareness of the LGBT community within Starbucks” and create an “equitable, dynamic, and supportive environment for LGBT partners, allies and customers.”

Their support for gay pride parades also extends into the workplace, where employees have the option of wearing a “Starbucks Pride” t-shirt while on the job. The Human Rights Campaign has repeatedly listed Starbucks among its Best Places to Work, having received a 100% Corporate Equality Index. Its non-discrimination policies are impressive, listing sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected class. Benefits offered to same-sex partners are equal to those offered to opposite-sex partners, even offering short-term leave following surgical procedures and mental health counseling for its transgender employees.

Starbucks’ most enduring legacy may be its partnership with Product Red, a campaign formed in 2006 to help raise awareness and funds to help eliminate AIDS in Africa. Beginning during the 2008 holiday season, Starbucks donated 5 cents of every holiday-themed drink sold to Project Red, raising enough money to provide AIDS medicine to 3,800 people for one year. Their involvement has continued ever since, and as recently as World AIDS Day on December 1, 2010, Starbucks donated 5 cents of every drink to Project Red.

Starbucks’ continued activism and philanthropy has helped raise millions of dollars for charity and invaluable awareness for a community it doesn’t take for granted. Starbucks remains a compassionate business, and in contrast to corporations such as Target and Chick-Fil-A, that’s something we can all feel good about.

So the next time you reach for your morning cup of joe or afternoon wake-me-up, you’re not only helping yourself, you’re supporting an ally.