Archive for the ‘Equality Alabama’ Category

>A Gay weekend in Montgomery

February 27, 2011

>Last weekend was “Gay Alabama in Montgomery”. Two events took place that should have been better attended, but were meaningful and beneficial for those who did attend.

On Saturday Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out visited the capital of Alabama and spoke. Patrick McAlvey, a survivor of ex-gay therapy also presented his story. Equality Alabama sponsored this event. I got to spend a little time with Wayne on both Friday (in Tuscaloosa) and Saturday, and Patrick on Saturday.

If you haven’t seen Patrick’s video watch it. No one should have to go through this farce of therapy. Those who practice it should be prosecuted.

On February 20, 2011 the 13th Annual Vigil for Victims of Hate and Violence took place on the steps of the Capitol in Montgomery. Alabama needs a hate crimes law that includes sexual orientation and gender identity. Remember, Billy Jack Gaither and Scotty Joe Weaver were both killed, in gruesome and torturous (thank you Gwen) ways that might have been prevented had the killers thought twice knowing that what they were doing was a hate crime that could result in stiffer sentences for their actions. Of course, many other hate crimes against the LGBT community have been committed, pretty much ignored by the press, and certainly ignored by our elected officials.

The Shouting Stones provided music…


…while the people gathered.


Rev. Paul Britner of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Montgomery gave the opening words and welcomed all of us. UUF also provided the venue for Truth Wins Out the night before.


Dr. Paul Hard gave a short intro that reminded us why we were there.

Equality Alabama Chair Dr. Joe Openshaw (me) also gave a welcome on behalf of Equality Alabama and reminded those in attendance of how important is is that they follow up EA’s letters to the state legislators with their own letters regarding an inclusive hate crimes law. EA sent letters to all the legislators last month outlining the issues important to us and to the state: hate crimes law, anti-bullying legislation and employment non-discrimination.

Mr. Rocky Twilley read a message from Rev. Jo Crisco, pastor at New Hope Metropolitan Community Church.


The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Choir provided True Colors.

Nancy Dobson presented the Billy Jack Gaither Humanitarian Award, presented yearly to a deserving recipient based on their commitment to justice and equality for all people.

The award went to Robert and Jean Graetz. Read about their award here.

Equality Alabama board member Shirley Ann Rawls introduced the keynote speaker…

…Ms. Gwynedd Adelaide Thomas.

Ms. Thomas gave a wonderful presentation, but what struck me the most were her many reminders of hate crimes committed against members of the LGBT community here in Alabama and elsewhere, and her introduction of the label “torture” to those crimes. In reality, those victims actually are tortured, often being beaten, burned, urinated on. Remember Scotty Joe crying Chris, please stop” as his murderer tightened the rope around his neck? It’s torture, all right.

Equality Alabama believes this is not a Democrat v. Republican issue, but a humanitarian issue, a love v. hate issue. All legislators should be interested in adding sexual orientation and gender identity to our hate crimes law in Alabama, as this could help to reduce violence in our state.

My photographer did not get a picture, but Rev. Elizabeth O’Neill, pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Montgomery, gave the closing words.

A reception followed at the Ken Baker Center, which is managed by Equality Alabama.

This picture is from the day the center was dedicated.

I urge you to support the LBGT community in Alabama and the Ken Baker Center by joining Equality Alabama by getting on our email list and with a monetary contribution. A yearly contribution of $35 is suggested, along with a monthly contribution of whatever amount you can afford at this time. Our work is far from complete, and we need your support to continue. Click here to donate to Equality Alabama.

You don’t have to be gay to join or support Equality Alabama. We have many straight supporters, and if you believe in equality you should join too!

Our big weekend would not be complete without sharing our accommodations while in Montgomery.

While in the capital we stayed at The Lattice Inn and enjoyed wonderful accommodations and an enlightened and entertaining host.

I recommend The Lattice Inn when in Montgomery. I look forward to visiting again when the temperature is just a few degrees higher and the pool is open.

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>MLK, what do you say?

January 17, 2011

>Martin Luther King Jr. Day has been celebrated for 25 years, and I wonder what he would say today.

I attended the Martin Luther King Jr Unity Breakfast in Birmingham this morning. Several hundred people; black, white, male, female, straight, gay, were present. There was definitely diversity in the room. But was there equality? Would King be satisfied?

Those are easy questions to answer: No!

Years ago the buzz word for the gay community was “tolerance.”

But we quickly realized that tolerance still left room for indifference, even hatred, as one can tolerate the cold of winter, even if one hates the snow and ice. So acceptance was adopted as a goal, rather than tolerance.

Likewise, diversity was a concept that was aspired to, but just achieving diversity does not satisfy. One can place a diverse group of cookies; say, chocolate chip, raisin oatmeal, and peanut butter; on a platter and call the kids in and 9 out of 10 times the chocolate chip cookies will disappear first. The cookies are not treated equally. So, for people anyway, equality is what needs to be achieved, not just diversity.

At the MLK breakfast, a film documentary about King and his effects on our city was shown. Rev. Scott Douglas, executive director of Greater Birmingham Ministries was one of the people interviewed in the film. “Alabama has never voluntarily stepped into the future,” he said.

Douglas is a former member of the Board of Directors of Equality Alabama, so I am sure he would not mind me expanding his words to reflect the challenges confronting the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community in the state. The ultimate goal of equality for the gay community is seen to be marriage, and Rev. Douglas and others would agree that we don’t expect Alabama to voluntarily acknowledge that right.

Birmingham Mayor William Bell was the keynote speaker at the event. He urged the audience to “confront those in Montgomery (and elsewhere) who are holding you back.” This is precisely what Equality Alabama is going to do during the next year.

Mayor Bell also said that we may say, “Woe is us,” because Republicans have taken over the state legislature, or “Woe is us,” because Republicans have overtaken the House in Congress. But, he said, we should really be saying, “Woe is us,” if we sit and do nothing, which is often the case.

Many in the LGBT community “sit and do nothing” to help the cause of Equality. One thing you can do without having to become an activist or a political wonk is to tell your story. Tell your story to your family and to your neighbors and co-workers or fellow students. Let them know how discrimination has affected you, and how your life is not equal to theirs.

Here’s a start. You can be fired from your job for the simple reason that you are gay.

You can be kicked out of your apartment or denied a mortgage simply because you are gay.

You can be denied inheritance of your partner’s possessions simply because you are gay (including the home you might have shared for decades – you could be out on the street).

If you are a student, you can be harassed or bullied, simply because you are gay, or perceived to be.

If you are a parent, you can be denied custody or visitation rights simply because you are gay.

If you aspire to be a parent, you can be denied the right to foster or adopt simply because you are gay.

If you are partnered, you can be denied tax breaks worth thousands of dollars a year that a straight married couple enjoys, simply because you are gay.

The list goes on.

Equality Alabama
will be looking for LGBT people who are willing to share their stories. Watch for an announcement from Equality Alabama about this in the near future, regarding gay parents. (Also watch for changes to our web site, which we are in the process of updating.)

In the meantime, remember the words of Dr. King as we fight for equality.

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom.”

>Equality Weekend Gala with John Lewis

September 21, 2009

>What an evening the Equality Weekend Gala Dinner turned out to be. I was able to spend a minute or so with Congressman John Lewis and thanked him for all he has done for our country, and for our community.


There were several hundred people at the event, which featured a silent auction, awards presentation, performances by the Magic City Choral Society, a scrumptious meal and dessert and of course, the address by Congressman Lewis.

Seated at our table were Birmingham School Board candidate Elisa Burns-Macon and her partner Donna, congressional candidate Terry Sewell and two of her campaign staff members, Alabama Stonewall Democrats president John Smallwood and Congressman Lewis’s driver. Pretty good company, huh?

Decor was provided by Confero Productions. Thank you Christopher.


You can view the video of Congressman Lewis’s speech here. The speech is about 18 minutes long. Thanks Pam for sharing this.

He began the speech by reflecting on raising chickens as a child, and how he used to practice preaching to the chickens. Some would bow their heads, he said, some would shake their heads, but they never quite said “Amen.”

“But I am convinced that some of those chickens that I preached to in the 40’s and the 50’s tended to listen to me much better than some of my colleagues listen to me today in Congress. As a matter of fact, some of those chickens were a little more productive.”

He want on to recount some of his experiences as a Freedom Rider and his thoughts as he sat and watched Barack Obama’s inauguration. John Lewis was the first person Obama greeted as he came out of the Capitol that day, and he asked for Lewis’s prayers. Lewis assured him.

He urged the LGBT community, just as Martin Luther King urged the black community in 1963, that “You cannot wait, you cannot be patient. You want your freedom and you want it now.”

“Discrimination is discrimination. No government, be it federal or state, should tell a person who they can marry or who they cannot marry. People have a right to fall in love and get married.”

“I do not understand. Two men, two women, fall in love and get married. Whose marriage is being threatened?”

He compared the fight for same sex marriage to the fight for interracial marriage.

Some day we will look back and laugh at ourselves, he said. “The stars didn’t fall over Alabama because people fell in love and got married.”

Thanks, Equality Alabama, for hosting this event. Like the congressman said, we will change the south, we will change America, and the country will be a better country.

>Congressman John Lewis headlining Equality Weekend

September 18, 2009

>Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) will be the keynote speaker at Equality Alabama’s gala tomorrow night.

Equality Weekend begins today and lasts through Sunday. You can still register for the event. The seminars and workshops on Saturday are free. Such noted speakers as blogger Pam Spaulding and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Mandy Carter and others will offer their insight for free. For some events, including the Gala, there is a fee.

Congressman Lewis, an Alabama native, is a hero to the GLBT community as he is to the Black community and for that matter, all of America. He was a participant in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march and has fought for equality all of his life.

Here is part of an interview of Rep. Lewis.

“It is unfortunate that a segment of our society fails to see that we all should be treated like human beings, that we all are citizens of the United States of America. I’ve taken the position and I’ve long held this position that I fought too long and too hard against discrimination base on race and color not to stand up and speak out against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

It doesn’t matter if someone is gay or straight or whether someone believes in a different philosophy or different religion. We’re one people, we’re one family, and we’re one house. There is not any room in American society for discrimination based on sexual orientation. It doesn’t matter whether someone is gay or happens to be lesbian or transsexual. We’re one people; we’re one family, the American family. You call it what you want, discrimination is discrimination and we have to speak up and speak out against discrimination.

You have too many people in this society saying they’re against same-sex marriage. If people fall in love and want to get married, it is their business. Martin Luther King Jr. use to say races don’t fall in love in love and get married; individuals fall in love and get married. So if two men or two women want to fall in love and get married it’s their business. Some people say it is a threat to the institution of marriage, and some of these people who go around saying that same sex marriage is a threat to the institution of marriage, which marriage or what marriage are they talking about? Some of these same individuals have had several marriages and I don’t think individuals that happen to be gay are a threat to anybody’s marriage.

Love is love. It is better to love than to hate, it is better to be together than to be divided.”

Congressman Lewis is a graduate of American Baptist Theological Seminary, and he gets it. Make plans now to hear this great man tomorrow.
PS. As a side note, Congressman Lewis has agreed to accept my pre-publication manuscript of my book, Those Others , which includes a great deal about the Selma to Montgomery march. It will be interesting to learn what he thinks of it. I plan to publish late this year or early 2010.

Three Topics (Smoking, Vivian Figures and $10,000)

April 21, 2008

I am working on two group presentations this week, and don’t have much time to think. But I want to share three things with you.

Bessemer passed a Smoking Ordinance which should be enforced at this time. However, as a reader let me know, at The Stadium Grill on 4th Avenue smoking is still allowed.

We went to The Stadium Grill on Friday night and had great hamburgers (one of us had an open faced sandwich) and milk shakes. Close to the end of our meal, a customer sitting at the bar and carrying on with employees lit up a tobacco product.

None of the employees, nor the person in charge (who might have been the owner, I don’t know) said anything to this man. While he was smoking, four Bessemer policemen came in and sat at a table next to him, where the smoke could not have been missed. They did not say say a thing. Aren’t the police supposed to enforce the law?

After a few minutes another customer asked the man to go outside and finish, which the smoker did.

Are the police not aware of the law? These were guys in black police t-shirts and camo pants, with lots of guns and all, not your typical anti-smoking cops, but still, they drove Bessemer Police cars.

Next:

State Senator Vivian Figures has announced that she is running for Senate to replace Jeff Sessions. This may not be an easy task, but it is certainly a worthwhile endeavor. I wish her much success. Here is an email I recieved from her.

As a lifelong committed Democrat and an Alabama State Senator for the past 11 years, I have announced my candidacy for the United States Senate. I Believe that it is time to give this seat back to the people by putting our children, our seniors and our veterans first, providing affordable health care to all Americans and working for a stable economy.

I have been very active over the past few months speaking to many audiences across this great state spreading my message of inspiration and unity. To win the Democratic nomination on June 3, it is imperative that I have the support of people like you who Believe that Alabama deserves better.

Our polling data shows that my campaign will be successful if we are able to raise the necessary funds to get my message out to the voters via literature, yard signs, advertising and other media. Our goal is to raise $500,000 by May 31, 2008. If you can contribute $25, $50, $100 or whatever you can afford, we would be most appreciative.

I ask you to Believe with me that together we can make a difference and give Alabama what it deserves, bold, visionary leadership. Please go to actblue.com/page/figures08 and you will be able to donate to my campaign today.

If you, like me, believe Sessions has used his alloted time, please support this effort.

Third:

Do you want $10,000? Equality Alabama is giving it away. But you must buy a ticket, and only 400 are being sold. Tickets are $100 (which also will get you 2 seats at dinner). The deadline for buying tickets is tomorrow, and the event is on the 25th. Here is the info: Equality Drawdown Hoedown. You do not have to be present to win.

>Three Topics (Smoking, Vivian Figures and $10,000)

April 21, 2008

>I am working on two group presentations this week, and don’t have much time to think. But I want to share three things with you.

Bessemer passed a Smoking Ordinance which should be enforced at this time. However, as a reader let me know, at The Stadium Grill on 4th Avenue smoking is still allowed.

We went to The Stadium Grill on Friday night and had great hamburgers (one of us had an open faced sandwich) and milk shakes. Close to the end of our meal, a customer sitting at the bar and carrying on with employees lit up a tobacco product.

None of the employees, nor the person in charge (who might have been the owner, I don’t know) said anything to this man. While he was smoking, four Bessemer policemen came in and sat at a table next to him, where the smoke could not have been missed. They did not say say a thing. Aren’t the police supposed to enforce the law?

After a few minutes another customer asked the man to go outside and finish, which the smoker did.

Are the police not aware of the law? These were guys in black police t-shirts and camo pants, with lots of guns and all, not your typical anti-smoking cops, but still, they drove Bessemer Police cars.

Next:

State Senator Vivian Figures has announced that she is running for Senate to replace Jeff Sessions. This may not be an easy task, but it is certainly a worthwhile endeavor. I wish her much success. Here is an email I recieved from her.

As a lifelong committed Democrat and an Alabama State Senator for the past 11 years, I have announced my candidacy for the United States Senate. I Believe that it is time to give this seat back to the people by putting our children, our seniors and our veterans first, providing affordable health care to all Americans and working for a stable economy.

I have been very active over the past few months speaking to many audiences across this great state spreading my message of inspiration and unity. To win the Democratic nomination on June 3, it is imperative that I have the support of people like you who Believe that Alabama deserves better.

Our polling data shows that my campaign will be successful if we are able to raise the necessary funds to get my message out to the voters via literature, yard signs, advertising and other media. Our goal is to raise $500,000 by May 31, 2008. If you can contribute $25, $50, $100 or whatever you can afford, we would be most appreciative.

I ask you to Believe with me that together we can make a difference and give Alabama what it deserves, bold, visionary leadership. Please go to actblue.com/page/figures08 and you will be able to donate to my campaign today.

If you, like me, believe Sessions has used his alloted time, please support this effort.

Third:

Do you want $10,000? Equality Alabama is giving it away. But you must buy a ticket, and only 400 are being sold. Tickets are $100 (which also will get you 2 seats at dinner). The deadline for buying tickets is tomorrow, and the event is on the 25th. Here is the info: Equality Drawdown Hoedown. You do not have to be present to win.