Archive for LGBT issues
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
It was a contentious Buncombe County Commission meeting that led to the vote. Holly Jones made a motion to add sexual orientation and gender identity to Buncombe County’s Employee Non-Discrimination Policy. David Gantt seconded that motion. The Commissioners voted 3-2 against protecting Buncombe’s LGBT employees from workplace discrimination.
Details to come.
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
Two women from Asheville have an impassioned conversation, performance poetry style, about the civil rights and struggles of African American and LGBT people.
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
- 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.
The Campaign for Southern Equality is participating in a 24-hour online fundraising contest called Twive and Receive and representing the city of Asheville. We’re competing with 200 other non-profits from around the country and, on top of that, we’re the only LGBT organization in this contest.
Here’s the deal: If we win the contest Razoo will donate $15,000 to CSE. Second place is $10,000 and third is $5,000. This funding will go toward the WE DO Campaign and our free legal workshops for LGBT people in the South.
Here are a few ways you can help us get there:
- Give $10 or more right now.
- Email or call your friends and family and ask them to do the same.
- Update your status on Facebook and send a tweet urging your friends to help us finish in the top 3!
A little bit of background about CSE in case you’re not familiar with our work.
On May 9th, the Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE) launched the third stage of our WE DO campaign in Wilson, N.C. It was not a coincidence that we began our campaign the day after the Amendment One vote. Regardless of the outcome, we knew that LGBT individuals would still be second-class citizens in the state of North Carolina – unable to marry or complete second-parent adoptions, subject to employment and housing discrimination and lacking many other basic legal rights.
From May 9th to May 15th, 38 courageous LGBT couples applied for – and were denied – marriage licenses in their home towns, from small towns such as Wilson and Bakersville to population centers like Winston-Salem and Charlotte. Because these couples stood up to affirm their rights as fully equal citizens and to show what happens when a discriminatory law is enforced, the nation is beginning to hear a new story coming out of the South. The BBC and MSNBC interviewed us twice during the course of the campaign and CSE was quoted on the front page of the NY Times. WE DO was also covered by the Raleigh News and Observer, Charlotte Observer, Winston-Salem Journal, Asheville Citizen-Times and The Guardian (UK) among many other publications and blogs.
Please stand with these brave LGBT couples by giving a tax-deductible donation to the Campaign for Southern Equality and help us win an additional $15,000. That money will go towards the next stage of the WE DO campaign and towards offering legal workshops across NC to help people how to best protect their rights now that Amendment One has passed.
I couldn’t be prouder of Jasmine and Lindsey.
From Mountain Xpress:
Staff from CSE to attend reception with President Obama and meeting with Office of Public Engagement on June 15th
Asheville, N.C. (June 12, 2012) – Two staff members of the Asheville-based Campaign for Southern Equality will attend a reception on June 15th with President Barack Obama. Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Executive Director of the Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE), and Lindsey Simerly, Campaign Manager of CSE’s WE DO Campaign, will attend the annual White House LGBT Pride Month Reception on June 15, 2012.
Over the years, I have made an offbeat, sociological argument regarding same-sex unions: that supporters would have an easier climb in securing equal rights for same-sex unions if woman-woman and man-man unions had unique names for each. Something other than marriage. Recent events have got me thinking about that again. Tina Dupuy at Crooks and Liars posted Suzie Sampson’s (The Tea Party Report) on-the-street interviews in the wake of President Obama coming out in support of same-sex unions. Sampson hit on the same solution:
“The word marriage has a connotation,” an Amendment One supporter insists (more on connotation later). “They can have the same right, but not the same name,” says another man. When Sampson suggests pronouncing same-sex unions as “marry-äzh,” both are immediately fine with that. Why? When gay marriage opponents argue that “that’s not what it means,” or insist that marriage is between a man and a woman, it is often dismissed as a thin cover for bigotry. But is there more to it than that? What’s in a name?
North Carolina is in the news again, this time because of an anti-LGBT sermon preached by Pastor Charles Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, N.C. You can see footage of his sermon here.
Make no mistake: the violent theology animating Pastor Worley’s sermon is directly linked to the discriminatory animus at work in Amendment One or the North Carolina statutes that treat LGBT people as second-class citizens.
The violence of Pastor Worley’s message speaks to the evil at the heart of persecution, and it ensnares all of us, including him, including me. It is an evil that seeks to dehumanize people and that seeks to divide communities. It has long lurked in the shadows of religious and political discourse and, periodically, makes itself plainly visible and clearly heard.
What are we to do when such attacks occur? Each of us has an individual choice to make about how to respond.
I often need help cutting through the static of anger and sadness in moments like this. I need help getting to love and, in my own life, I turn to my faith for that help. My faith’s teachings on this point are clear and consistent: no matter how hard it is to do so, we are called to love those who oppose us. There are many reasons for this, not least of which is the fact that my existence is inextricably bound to my enemy’s, whether either one of us likes it or not.
The hard thing right now is to find a way to love Pastor Worley. To do so does not also imply condoning or supporting what he has said. But it does mean choosing to respond to spiritual violence with the only force that can overcome it: love. And it means seeing the violence of his words as an expression of how he too has been wounded by a persecuting system; his theology isn’t just plain wrong, it’s wounded.
But my faith also teaches me that the rhetoric of love is not enough. We must also act to directly resist unjust laws in public life and, as we take action, to express empathy and love towards all those we encounter. This is precisely why and how we take action with the WE DO Campaign and why this campaign will continue growing across the South until we achieve full equality under federal law.
Love has changed the world before and, we dare to believe, it can do so again.
Check out this new video about stage 3 of the WE DO Campaign, which took place across North Carolina – including Asheville, Bakersville and Marshall – from May 9th to May 15th.
In 8 towns and cities across North Carolina, 38 LGBT couples and hundreds of supporters stood up calling for full equality under federal law. Together, we made it clear that Amendment One’s passage was not the end of the story. In fact, we’re just getting started with this movement calling for full equality under federal law.