One Equal World

Earlier this week the Mormon church held an unexpected press conference at the church headquarters in Salt Lake City, in which the leaders publicly pledged to support anti-discrimination laws for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) people. The one hitch is they want the laws to also protect the rights of religious groups. There’s always a catch, isn’t there? LGBT Bible

“When religious people are publicly intimidated, retaliated against, forced from employment or made to suffer personal loss because they have raised their voice in the public square, donated to a cause or participated in an election, our democracy is the loser,” said Elder Dallin Oaks, a member of the church’s Quorum of Twelve Apostles. “Such tactics are every bit as wrong as denying access to employment, housing or public services because of race or gender,” he said.

Over the past several years the Mormon church along with some Catholic bishops and Southern Baptists have complained about religious freedom, linking it with myriad social justice issues to further their own cause. Even though the church alleges to support rights and protections for LGBT people, the Mormon Apostle D.Todd Christofferson made it clear from the beginning, “We are announcing no change in doctrine or church teachings today.”

The Mormon press conference was much less detailed about its support of LGBT protections and more focused on the steady erosion of treasured freedoms for the Morning church and other forms of religion. They did not acknowledge specific examples of their support, much less say “bisexual” or “transgender,” two of the most marginalized factions of the “LGBT alphabet soup.” Many believed that the press conferenced seemed more like a strategic business move than an actual commitment to acceptance from the Mormon church.

The Mormon church has proven time and again that it’s not above co-opting a civil rights framework in order to get what it wants. Only time will tell if the inclusion of LGBT people in the press conference had a genuine intent behind it.

2014 was an important year for marriage equality progress in the United States. Finally, after increased activism and visibility for the cause, same-sex marriage proponents tipped the scale in favor of the freedom to marry, which is now legal in more than half of the country.  Gay Marriage

According to Freedom to Marry, as of December 4, 2014, “In 35 states […] plus Washington, D.C. and some counties in MO – same-sex couples have the freedom to marry. In MO, the marriages of same-sex couples legally performed in other states are respected. In 4 states (KY, MI, OH, TN), marriage supporters are seeking review from the U.S. Supreme Court of an out-of-step pro-marriage ruling from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.” All of these victories mark a much greater shift towards an acceptance of marriage equality in the United States.

Momentum in the fight for marriage equality increased exponentially earlier this week when a federal judge in Florida ruled that same-sex couples will be able to wed starting January 6. Marriage equality advocates in Florida have had an extremely difficult time combatting state officials like Attorney General Pam Bondi (R). Bondi and others fervently pushed back against U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle’s August pro-marriage equality ruling, which has delayed the process for same-sex couples.

Back in 2013, Miami-based lawyer Kendall Coffey predicted that same-sex marriage is unstoppable. A little more than a year later, with Florida finally moving forward with the freedom to marry, remarkable progress has been made in the fight for marriage equality in all 50 states. USA Today’s Richard Wolf notes that “Despite this year’s breathtaking string of lower court victories, the battle for marriage equality hasn’t been swift or easy. To the lawyers who devised the legal strategy decades ago, the journey has been arduous, the setbacks plentiful and the battle scars deep,” of the long and tiresome fight for marriage equality. Still, with so many victories for the gay and lesbian community in 2014, Wolf echoes Coffey’s earlier sentiment that the time has come for the freedom to marry to be accepted universally across America.

As we enter 2015, it appears that the momentum needed to bring marriage equality to states like Florida will prove invaluable to marriage equality advocates and same-sex couples across the country. Learn more about each state’s current stance on marriage equality by visiting Freedom to Marry’s full breakdown of state laws.

The second annual Out on the Street Summit saw hundreds of senior LGBT and ally business leaders from across Asia convene in Hong Kong. Hosted by Stuart Gulliver, the Group Chief Executive of HSBC, the global LGBT business advisory firm Out Leadership brought together executives from leading financial institutions to share ideas and discuss issues vital to LGBT equality. lgbt-out-on-the-street

Gulliver began the December 9 summit with a keynote speech addressing the opportunities that LGBT equality creates for business. Said Gulliver, “There are sounds business reasons for promoting diversity and inclusiveness in the workplace but this is more than just financial return—we need to do this because it’s right.”

Todd Sears, the founder and principal of Out Leadership, introduced new data drawn from the organization’s research detailing how ally executives can drive change for LGBT employees within their companies, teams, and industries.

“We already know that senior LGBT leaders are most likely to be out at work when their peer executives identify and act as allies, and we know that diverse teams come to market more creatively,” said Sears. “We’re in Hong Kong today to share actionable insights with today’s leaders of the financial services industry so they can help build the infrastructure that will allow tomorrow’s executives – on every continent – to pursue their highest and best uses, instead of expending valuable time and energy hiding their true selves.”

Founded in 2011, Out on the Street is comprised of 28 member organizations such as Bank of America, Bloomberg, Goldman Sachs, KKR and HSBC. The organization looks to connect leaders across the world’s most influential industries to create business opportunities and cultivate new talent and drive LGBT equality forward.

Ken Mehlman, member of KKR, was recently appointed to Out Leadership’s Global Advisory Board. Said Mehlman:

“My time in business and government convinces me that teams with a broader array of voices are better equipped to address our complex world. I’m proud to stand with the other members of the Global Advisory Board in support of Out Leadership’s important work, driving business and equality forward hand-in-hand.”

For more information about the work that the organization does to leverage professional opportunities for LGBT people, visit Out Leadership’s official website.

When it comes to gift giving, you want to give a child something they really want, and not just what the toy industry thinks is appropriate for young boys and girls. Gifts are supposed to add to a child’s happiness, regardless of what kind of toy it is you find for them. This holiday season, step outside of the box for the young people in your life. If a younger sibling, coworker’s child, or cousin’s preference for playthings doesn’t fit the over-gender-stereotyped marketing of toys, even better. Holiday-Girl

If you’re having trouble finding a gift for a gender nonconforming child, first, ask the parents. Chances are they know exactly what their child wants most, (even if that means the kid wants a pink Barbie Porsche). If you don’t feel comfortable getting mass-produced toys because you don’t want to support that industry, opt for supporting local toymakers or secondhand stores, which often carry quirky, fun toys that are in good condition.

Toys shape the way a child sees the world, so it follows that stereotyping play limits a child’s growth. Consider finding a toy that stimulates creativity, hands-on learning, teamwork, social skills and problem solving. Some ideas include building toys, puzzles, board games, musical toys, stuffed animals and even science kits. There’s always the option of getting the child something that they can create with, such as art supplies and kits.

If you don’t want to get a toy, you can never go wrong with a book. Reading stimulates a child’s imagination and opens them to new worlds, ideas and understanding. Every child should have a well-stocked library. You can do an Internet search for best books for children by age or ask your local bookseller. Best of all, there are now tons of books out there for gender nonconforming children!

This holiday season, beware of the gendered marketing of toys. There’s usually a pink aisle and a blue aisle at stores, but try to find a local shop where toys are more likely to be grouped by play category. The same caveat applies to online shopping. May your holiday shopping be merry and bright.

Actress Kristin Chenoweth doesn’t find her commitment to her faith to ruin her support for the gay community. She gave an interview to Huffington Post earlier this month stating that all she cares about is people being authentic and doesn’t find faith in God and gay rights mutually exclusive.

Kristin Chenoweth s_bukley / Shutterstock.com

Kristin Chenoweth
s_bukley / Shutterstock.com

“I think what I do — it’s very Pollyanna, it’s very funny to say this — [I think] that thing, what would Jesus do? What would He do? He would love,” she told HuffPost Live’s Ricky Camilleri in an appearance to promote her new live album “Coming Home.”

The Broadway star emphasized in the interview her love for all people and all her fans regardless of their race or sexuality. Chenoweth did say, “unless they’re just hateful, and then I don’t like them. […] The greatest gift we can give ourselves is to love each other,” she said. “I happen to not think being gay is a sin, [and] I have a really tough time with people who judge people for their sexuality.”

Earlier this year, the Tony and Emmy-winning actress joined many celebrities in the Human Rights Campaign Americans for Marriage Equality effort. The 46 year-old shot a video in support of the campaign and also sang with composer Andrew Lippa in “I Am Harvey Milk” at New York’s Lincoln Center. Her support for the LGBT community was shared by other public figures including Anthony Bourdain, Tony Hawk and Susan Sarandon.

“If it was a sin to be short, what would I do? Well, I’d be right on the hell bus. I don’t believe God makes mistakes, and that includes a person’s sexuality,” she told Piers Morgan. Chenoweth has a very honest and candid attitude towards her appreciation of her gay fans. As The Huffington Post points out, “Kristin Chenoweth doesn’t find her commitment to her faith and her support for the gay community to be mutually exclusive.”

It’s very refreshing when a person with a strong public image can proudly stand by human rights and the LGBT community.

Okay, LGBT Pride month is way gone, I get it. But being reminiscent of summer and all the courageous and inspiring LGBT people I have in my life, I found some interesting facts about LGBT Pride and the community at large that may be new news to some of you. The formation of LGBT Pride has more roots than one might expect. Here are five facts you may have never heard about LGBT Pride: gay-pride-parade

  1. In the early morning hours of June 28th in 1969, police raided New York’s Greenwich Village bar, the Stonewall Inn. Although the NYPD was raiding many places at this time, it was the first time queer people stood up to them. With the entire bar’s patronage and over a hundred spectators outside, they decided that was enough.
  2. Stonewall Inn, like a majority of the city’s gay bars, was owned and being run by the New York Mafia. Because any place that sold alcohol to gay customers was at risk of having its liquor licenses revoked, mobsters would pay off the police so they could monopolize this lucrative niche market.
  3. Another great thing came from a gay bar but in LA two years earlier. Police raided the Black Cat Tavern and the patrons fought back and eventually began to protest. But two of the patrons were so enraged they started up what became one of the largest LGBT magazines, The Advocate.
  4. The Greek Lambda symbol was also a commonly used Gay Rights symbol prior to the Rainbow Flag.
  5. The first ever rainbow flag made its debut at the San Francisco Pride Parade in 1978. San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker designed it. The colors represent: Hot Pink (sexuality), Red (life), Orange (healing), Yellow (sunlight), Green (nature), Turquoise (magic/art), Blue (serenity/harmony) and violet (spirit).

GLAAD, formerly the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, released its second annual Studio Responsibility Index (SRI) over the summer, and the results were less than stellar. The Index, which “maps the quantity, quality and diversity of LGBT people in films,” showed that out of 102 major Hollywood films released last year, only 17 were considered LGBT inclusive. That is only 17% of the movies studied, however an improvement on 2012’s meager 14%. Ellen Page

To be “inclusive” a movie only needs one LGBT character in it. Of the 17 films deemed inclusive, only seven had LGBT characters that weren’t solely defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity and were important characters in the overall plot. There were no gay leads in any of the films.

All the films that didn’t pass the test are deemed offensive. The report states, “Hollywood film reveals much about who we are as a society,” in regards to the homophobia and exclusion of LGBT people in daily life. It can be disappointing to see these results, however the test is just in it’s second year and there still has been improvement just from the first to the second.

Each of the seven studios studied – 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures, Sony Columbia, Universal Pictures, The Walt Disney Studios, and Warner Brothers – are rated on a scale from “Failing” to “Good” (the highest accolade given so far). Hopefully this study will encourage more films to feature LGBT actors and not just as the flamboyant token gay that happens to be the butt of every joke. Those sorts of representations just foster the prejudices against these people. Start a new normal.

The Studio Responsibility Index was started because according to GLAAD, “Despite consistent conservative labeling of Hollywood as a liberal propaganda machine, GLAAD found that LGBT representations in contemporary Hollywood films tend to be far more scarce and regressive than those on television.”

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