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Oct
11

WE DO Campaign in Asheville on October 15

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This fall, we are traveling North Carolina with the WE DO Campaign, standing with LGBT couples as they request marriage licenses in their home counties. We are actively seeking a Register of Deeds who will issue a marriage license as an act of conscience.

Our tour is bringing us home to Asheville next week, as we join local LGBT couples at the Buncombe County Register of Deeds Office at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, October 15. This will mark the fourth time that Carol McCrory and Brenda Clark have requested a license. Together for 25 years, Brenda and Carol have said they will keep going to the counter until they are served. We’d love to have supporters stand with them and other couples. Come to a Family Dinner on Monday to learn more and get trained for Tuesday’s action:

When: Monday, 10/14 | 6 – 7:30 PM

Where: Friendship Hall, First Congregational UCC, 20 Oak Street, Asheville

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/events/631628580202442/

Note: Please bring a dish or beverage

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Mary and Carole kiss after requesting a marriage license in Henderson County

 

So far this fall, we’ve been in Madison, Forsyth, Guilford, Henderson and Mecklenburg Counties. In Henderson County, Mary and Carole (pictured here) requested a license after 40 years together; they were denied, but, surrounded by 80 supporters, sent a powerful message that people are calling for full LGBT equality in Henderson County. Read about our action earlier this week in Charlotte here. Upcoming WE DO actions are scheduled for:

  • October 15: Buncombe County
  • November 1: Transylvania County
  • November 4: Cabarrus County
  • November 22: Rowan County

 

- Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara
Executive Director, Campaign for Southern Equality

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Tomorrow, we will stand with Amanda and Loraine as they ask the Madison County Register of Deeds to issue them a marriage license. With this action, they will be launching a new stage of the WE DO Campaign. In this stage, we are actively seeking a local elected official in the South who is ready to issue a LGBT couple a marriage license because it is the right thing to do. We will be traveling across North Carolina, standing with couples as they seek licenses in person. Couples across the South – from Texas to Alabama – are also writing to their local officials to ask if they will issue a license. We’re taking these actions because we believe that laws like Amendment One are unconstitutional and immoral. We believe it’s time to stand up to such laws in new ways.

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That’s exactly what’s happening in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, where Register of Wills Mr. Bruce Hanes began issuing licenses to same-sex couples a month ago. He believes that the Pennsylvania state law banning same-sex marriage  is unconstitutional and that enforcing it is inconsistent with his oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution. History tells us similar stories – of public officials and leaders who reached a point where they could no longer in good conscience enforce discriminatory laws. Will an elected official in the South stand up in this way? We’re going to keep asking the question and keep taking action to resist laws we know to be discriminatory.

Each elected official we ask to stand with us has a personal choice to make. Whatever their choice, we are committed to treating them with love and empathy. In an era of bitter partisan divides, we have a chance – and, I would say, an obligation – to treat each other differently. All of our work is based on empathic resistance, an ethic that calls for us to make two commitments as we seek equality. First, it calls for us to resist discriminatory laws by expressing who we truly are in public life. Second, it calls for us to express empathy – a recognition of the other’s humanity – in the very moments in which our humanity is denied. Sometimes it is hard to live this ethic out, but if we are seeking recognition of our love, we must also act with love.

That’s what Amanda and Loraine will be doing tomorrow. I’d invite you to read the letter that Amanda wrote to the Madison County Register of Deeds about why she wants to marry Loraine and have their marriage recognized in North Carolina. Her words made me stop in my tracks because they capture so much about what it is to be a LGBT person in the South, and what it means to ask others to stand with us.

Tomorrow, we’ll be sharing updates about what happens at the counter on our Facebook page and through Twitter.

Jul
12

WE DO Campaign: Across Mississippi right now

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I’m writing from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where we just wrapped up a WE DO Campaign action in which six area LGBT couples requested – and were denied – marriage licenses. This is the third action we’ve done in Mississippi this week and this new video tells the story of Jenna and Kristen’s requesting a license in Poplarville, Miss. earlier this week:

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We’re posting daily updates on the Campaign for Southern Equality’s Facebook page and Twitter feed and invite you to follow this story as we continue on to Jackson and Tupelo for more actions and more free legal clinics next week.

- Jasmine Beach-Ferrara

Executive Director, Campaign for Southern Equality

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The Campaign for Southern Equality has just released a new WE DO video:

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Ivy and Misha, who live in Piedmont, S.C. and are engaged to be married, show what it means to live with courage and dignity as an LGBT family in the South. And what it means to choose love.

Everyday LGBT people in the South face moments like this, against the backdrop of a political landscape that couldn’t be more dynamic. Buncombe County just passed domestic partner benefits. Next week, our country’s highest court will hear two landmark cases regarding LGBT rights.  Public support for marriage equality is at 58% according to a recent national poll.

- Jasmine Beach-Ferrara

Director, Campaign for Southern Equality

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The Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE) is excited to share that we joined an amicus brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court as part of the “Prop 8” and “DOMA” cases, which will be argued before the Court on March 26th and 27th. Filed today, the brief was authored by Paul C. Burke and Brett Tolman, lawyers representing the Utah Pride Center, with assistance provided by Meghann Burke, an Asheville-based attorney with Cogburn & Brazil, who leads CSE’s Legal Team.

Among its arguments, the brief asks the Supreme Court to extend the fundamental right to marry to gay and lesbian Americans, including those who live in Southern states where constitutional bans on marriage equality are in place. Using the case study of Utah laws, the brief speaks to the experience of lesbian and gay Americans in a majority of states – including the entire South – where systems of entrenched legal discrimination treat LGBT people as second-class citizens. The brief states “At every stage of life – from the moment a child has an inkling of being gay, through
adolescence, adulthood, and sometimes beyond the grave – gay Americans are haunted by laws that deny the existence of gay people, demean them as lesser human beings, deprive them of fundamental rights, and denigrate their lives and familial relationships.” The brief urges the Court to dismantle these systems of discrimination.

The brief submitted today to the Supreme Court outlines some of these harms. “The keystone of existing systems of [discrimination against] gay Americans is the denial of the right to marry. It is both the crux of the matter and the root of other forms of legal discrimination against gay citizens. The heartbreaking message to gay couples: Your love and commitment is unworthy of marriage. The deprivation of the right to marry harms gay citizens and . . . marks them with a stigma that has been used to justify other deprivations.”

A total of 28 LGBT advocacy organizations from 23 states, including Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, are signatories to the brief.  CSE is proud to stand with LGBT organizations from so many states.

The entire brief is available for download at: http://www.southernequality.org/doma-and-prop-8-amicus-brief/.

- Jasmine

Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara

Executive Director, Campaign for Southern Equality

www.southernequality.org

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Nov
13

En Route to Mississippi

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We’re driving through Tennessee right now (yes, I’m in the car writing this – the miracle of a wifi hotspot via Lindsey’s phone), heading down to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. This week, we’ll be holding WE DO trainings in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia as we gear up for Stage 4 of the WE DO Campaign. In January, we’ll be holding actions in seven Southern states and Washington D.C. as we continue to push for marriage equality.

Check out our newest WE DO video to learn more about what we’re up to:

To learn more about CSE visit our website  and check us out on Facebook to keep with our travels around the South.

- Jasmine

Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Executive Director

Campaign for Southern Equality

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Now that Amendment One has gone into effect, we’re hearing from lots of people with questions about what exactly it does – and doesn’t – mean. Ultimately the courts will have to weigh in on the measure’s precise legal meaning, but there is some basic information that LGBT people across NC need to know in the interim.

The Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE) is excited to share this video, which provides an in depth analysis of the issue. Recorded at a CSE “What Amendment One Means for You and Your Family” legal workshop, the video features Asheville attorneys Meghann Burke and Diane Walton:

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Here’s the short version, based on what we now know.

Amendment One does not impact your:

  • Health Care Power of Attorney
  • Durable Power of Attorney
  • Will
  • Hospitable Visitation Form
  • Child Custody Order

We have heard from many people who are afraid that these legal documents, agreements, or court orders have been invalidated by Amendment One. However, at this juncture, that is not the case. We strongly encourage every LGBT person in NC to take steps to complete these documents (as applicable). Additional information is available here.

If folks have any questions, I will check back in the comments section and be happy to answer as best I can.

- Jasmine
Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Executive Director
Campaign for Southern Equality

The Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE) continues to advocate for the implementation of equal employment policies in Buncombe County. Today, CSE released a white paper titled “Policy Recommendations for the Fair and Equitable Treatment of Buncombe County LGBT Employees.” The Executive Summary is below.

This morning, I had a productive meeting with county staff, sharing this white paper as a resource as they continue to consider county employment policies. We have also shared this white paper with each County Commissioner, inviting them into dialogue about these policy issues. We remain hopeful that as county leadership closely evaluates research and best practices about inclusive employment policies as well as case law about employment discrimination, they will take concrete steps to ensure that Buncombe County LGBT  employees are treated fairly and equitably.

- Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Campaign for Southern Equality

Policy Recommendations for the Fair and Equitable Treatment of Buncombe County LGBT Employees

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As a resident of Buncombe County, I want to share an update about an issue that doesn’t get a lot of attention – employment discrimination. In North Carolina and 28 other states it is currently legal to fire employees simply for being gay or being perceived as gay. In 34 states, you can be fired for your gender identity.

If this surprised you, you’re not alone. Many people I talk with about equality issues are shocked to hear that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in North Carolina can be fired simply for being who we are.

Hopefully we will be able to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) at the federal level soon, but in the meantime we can take action right now in Buncombe County.

On the agenda for the County Commissioner’s August 7th meeting is a lengthy ordinance regarding county employee policies, including its non-discrimination policy*. However, sexual orientation and gender identity are not included in the county’s current non-discrimination policy.

According to the Citizen-Times, Commissioner Holly Jones will offer an amendment to the current non-discrimination policies to include sexual orientation and gender identity as classes that are covered. If it passes, Buncombe County employees could no longer be fired simply for being LGBT.

Members of the Coalition for Equality, which includes over fifteen LGBT equality groups from our region, will be in attendance at the meeting to advocate for the passage of this amendment.  Please join us in showing your support for employment equality by contacting your Buncombe County Commissioners and asking them to pass the amendment at tomorrow’s meeting.

Doing so would communicate that employees will be evaluated on the basis of their performance not on the basis of who they are. Research shows that implementing non-discrimination policies and extending equal benefits to LGBT employees helps employers attract and retain a talented workforce. In response to this research, growing numbers of employers large and small are taking concrete steps to treat LGBT employees equally, or as close to equal as is possible under current laws. For example, Mission Hospital, Western North Carolina’s largest private employer, began offering domestic partner benefits last year.

Including sexual orientation and gender identity in our county’s non-discrimination policy is the right thing to do – from a human resources perspective and from a fairness perspective. Beyond this, there is widespread support for employment equality for LGBT people. A full 73 percent of likely 2012 voters support laws that protect LGBT people from employment discrimination according to recent polling conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research.  Tellingly, the poll also found that “[t]his support cuts across political party affiliation, with 81 percent of Democrats, 74 percent of independents, and 66 percent of Republicans supporting” such measures.

In the future, it will be common practice for non-discrimination policies to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Passing Commissioner Jones’ amendment is a step in the right direction for Buncombe County.

*You can download a PDF of the county personnel policies here. Check out page 27 for the current non-discrimination policies.

- Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara
Campaign for Southern Equality

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Now that Amendment One has gone into effect, many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people across North Carolina have asked the Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE) what it means for them. To answer these questions, CSE is holding a series of free Community Law Workshops across North Carolina this summer and fall and has launched a new section of its website dedicated to Amendment One updates.

Please join us in Asheville on Wednesday, July 11 from 6:30 – 8 p.m. for a free legal workshop hosted by CSE titled, “What Amendment One Means for You and Your Family.”

The purpose of the workshop is to provide clear, accessible information to LGBT individuals regarding their legal rights and options now that Amendment One has gone into effect. The workshop will be led by Asheville-based attorneys Meghann Burke and Diane Walton and will take place at the First Congregational United Church of Christ at 20 Oak Street in Asheville. Free childcare will be provided during the event.

Right now, there are still many questions about what Amendment One means legally; it is likely that we will not know definitively until the courts weigh in. Until that time, here is some basic information about your rights.

Amendment One does not impact your:

  • Health Care Power of Attorney
  • Durable Power of Attorney
  • Will
  • Hospitable Visitation Form
  • Child Custody Order

We have heard from many people who are afraid that these legal documents, agreements, or court orders have been invalidated by Amendment One. However, at this juncture, that is not the case.

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