The current U.S. Supreme Court case Sebelius v Hobby Lobby is simply the most recent ploy by the religious right to superimpose their “family values” on the rest of us. According to their lawyers, Hobby Lobby is a “Mom and Pop craft supply business” owned and operated by “devout Christians” whose only concern is “saving the lives of the unborn.” More specifically, David and Barbara Green, Hobby Lobby’s owners, object to the Affordable Care Act’s regulation that forces a company to provide its female employees with health insurance that provides “morning after” pills and intrauterine devices, even if doing so would violate the strong religious beliefs of the family that owns the business. In other words, they are asking for a “religious exemption” to avoid complying with “Obamacare.”

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Outside the Supreme Court last month

Fallacy #1. The Greens believe that life begins at conception and because both contraceptives prevent embryos from implanting in a woman’s uterus, the Greens claim they will be “complicit in abortion.”Whenever you think life begins, it is difficult to understand how stopping a sperm from reaching an egg makes you an abortionist.

Fallacy #2. The Greens also believe that the contraceptive devices they oppose will cause abortion even after fertilization has taken place when real (not religion based) science proves the opposite. The contraceptives in question will not work (not abort) after the sperm and the egg are comfortably settled in.

It is difficult to believe that the Greens are sincere in their effort to “protect their employees” from “abortion on demand.” Three months after they filed their lawsuit, the Hobby Lobby 401(k) employee retirement plan held more than $73 million in mutual funds with investments in companies that produce emergency contraceptive pills, intrauterine devices, and drugs commonly used in abortions.[i] Sincere or not, this is another fallacy-based attempt by the religious right to undermine rights and protections guaranteed all Americans.

ImageAlso, is it possible that the Green’s don’t understand what might happen to corporate governance if the Supreme Court decides that a corporation can exercise religion? Imagine the chaos company executives will face if shareholders demand that their corporations live up to their religious beliefs. Already a staggering 25% of shareholder proposals made to Fortune 200 companies come from religious organizations. Do the Greens really mean to open that floodgate?

What happens when Southern Baptist shareholders demand that corporate executives put in place rules for employee hiring or deportment that reflect their literal understanding of the Ten Commandments? What happens when liberal (Episcopal) shareholders demand that a certain percentage of the profits be designated to help end global warming? Incorporating has always provided a wall of protection against the endless sectarian demands of shareholders whatever their religious beliefs. Do the Greens really want that wall to come down?

Here’s where it gets scary. Hobby Lobby is no “Mom and Pop” operation. With 28,000 employees in 602 big box stores across the nation, this mammoth corporation generates more than $3.3 billion in sales every year. Forbes pegs the Green’s personal fortune at $5.1 billion. In 2012, Forbes also discloses the ultimate goal of their charitable endeavors: “Hobby Lobby’s cash spigot currently makes [Green] the largest individual donor to evangelical causes in America.”[ii]

In 2004, while Gary and I were still living across the street from Jerry Falwell’s mega-church in Lynchburg, Virginia, Hobby Lobby donated an 888,000-square-foot Ericsson plant to Falwell’s Liberty University. With another $10 million gift to Liberty (currently with 50,000 students on and off campus) and a $70 million pledge to Oral Roberts University, the Greens have become the major financial force shaping a whole new generation of fundamentalist Christians in universities with strict anti-gay policies where students are taught that homosexuality is a sickness and a sin.

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Mel and Gary

Hobby Lobby also has funding ties to a network of activist groups “deeply engaged in pushing a Christian agenda into American law.”[iii] Here’s where the LGBTQ community needs to see the connection between Hobby Lobby and the religious right’s determination to reverse our gains and eliminate our rights.

Hobby Lobby has donated tens of millions of dollars to the National Christian Charitable Foundation (nearly $65 million in 2009 alone). In turn, the NCCF donated much of Hobby Lobby’s money to anti-gay groups including organizations in Arizona working to pass a law [SB 1062] that would make it legal for businesses to refuse to serve LGBTQ customers. The bill may have been vetoed in Arizona but the same Green-backed attempt to deny service to LGBTQ Americans is spreading across the U.S.

In Kansas, for example, House Bill 2453 allows hotels, restaurants and stores in the state to refuse to serve gay couples if “it would be contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs.” The bill would also allow government clerks to refuse to sign same-sex marriage licenses without the threat of a lawsuit. The Human Rights Campaign is monitoring more than a half-dozen similar bills across the country, all introduced in 2014.[iv]

Sebelius v Hobby Lobby and Arizona’s SB 1062 are very similar examples of the clandestine misuse of the “religious exemption” by the religious right. Along with their highly visible national anti-gay-rights campaigns, their organizers are spending more of their seemingly endless resources waging war against us state by state. “Death by a thousand cuts” is their latest strategy.   Sebelius v Hobby Lobby is another shameless attempt to use the “religious exemption” to superimpose their values on the rest of us, this time in small increments hoping we will not notice until it’s too late.

The so called “religious exemption” is also a clear and present danger to our hopes for passing let alone enforcing the Employment Nondiscrimination Act. Senator Orin Hatch, not an ally of our community, decided to vote for ENDA during its successful passage in the Senate (Nov. 7, 2013) because the bill had a “robust religious exemption built in.”

Here’s the danger. The “religious exemption” will never be “robust” enough for extremists on the religious and political right. And if there is some kind of miracle that ENDA gets passed by the current sanity-deprived U.S. House of Representatives, there is a good chance that the religious right and their allies will find all kinds of creative ways to undermine its effectiveness.

The U.S. Supreme Court will announce its decision in Sebelius v Hobby Lobby in June, 2014. Supreme Court watchers are already predicting that the Greens and their religious and political allies on the right will win. I’m not so sure. I still have hope that once again Justice Roberts will show his courage and support the rights and protections of all Americans. But if Hobby Lobby wins its “religious exemption,” our battle for LGBTQ civil rights just might have to begin all over again.

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Rev. Mel White [photo credit: Gary Nixon]

 

* Guest Blogger: Mel White is Co-Founder of Soulforce and the author of Stranger at the Gate: to be Gay and Christian in America and Holy Terror, Lies the Christian Right Tells to Deny Gay Equality

 

 

 

 

 

[i] http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/04/01/1288906/-Hobby-Lobby-invests-in-contraceptive-abortion-drug-manufacturers

[ii] http://www.forbes.com/profile/david-green/

[iii]http://www.salon.com/2014/03/27/hobby_lobbys_secret_agenda_how_its_secretly_funding_a_vast_right_wing_movement/

[iv] http://time.com/5918/gay-marriage-kansas-colorado-wedding-cake/

 

Posted by: outandequal | December 23, 2013

Listening to You

by Teddy Basham-Witherington, Out & Equal CMO

Teddy Basham-Witherington, Chief Marketing Officer

Teddy Basham-Witherington, Chief Marketing Officer

One of Out & Equal’s strengths is as a convener, which is why events are such a key component of our strategy for workplace advocacy. The annual Out & Equal Workplace Summit is, indeed, a mountain top experience for us and so many of you. With over 130 separate educational offerings, three general sessions, an exhibit hall, a fun-run, ticketed lunches, hospitality suites, social events, special sessions and networking galore, there is an abundance of opportunities for enriching experiences.

Each year, we survey Workplace Summit attendees to see what they thought. On a scale of 1-5 we regularly score over 4 and in a good year, like 2013, around 4.5. But, lest we rest on our laurels, there is always a better job to be done.

One of my great pleasures is to read through the comments in the survey, noticing patterns and paying special attention to the minority opinion, lest we become the victims of groupthink. There was much to take away this year and, as always, the suggestions for future keynote speakers were an invigorating read.

So, how do we choose a keynote speaker?

Our keynote selection process is just that – a process. It starts with some general principles about categories: politicians, sports and entertainment celebrities, community leaders and CEOs. We then overlay our desire to find a good mix of LGBTA folks, people of color and so forth so that we have a diverse mix of keynotes. This matrix results in an admittedly impossible goal, realizing that we only have five slots available: two on Tuesday, two on Wednesday (not including our CEO) and one for the Gala Dinner on Thursday.

We begin the invitation process in earnest in February, making our way through targeted prospects, again with additional layers of constraints – speaker availability, budget etc. All the while, we receive an abundance of suggestions from staff, board members, constituents and sponsors. These are carefully considered and, where the process described above allows, folded into the process.

Because we have more suggestions, and good ones, than available slots, we look at the Summit in total, identifying where prospects can contribute in a meaningful way as Featured Panel speakers, honorees and, in the case of our presenting sponsors, the champion of that sponsor’s message during the presented plenary session.

We do our best to accommodate ideas and suggestions within the parameters of the task. Sometimes the answer is “yes,” sometimes the answer is “not this year.” Rarely, is it a “no,” unless the suggestion falls outside of the scope described above.

We work with our speakers to tailor their remarks for our audience, but every once in a while we’re surprised. This year, the tragic circumstances around the murder of gender non-conforming teen, Lawrence King in 2008 were misstated, not intentionally, but the categorization of this as a “gay” hate crime came as a disappointment to many of our Transgender attendees and their allies. So, it is with all due sensitivity and humbleness that I get to say “sorry” and, “we’re committed to doing better.” In future we will work even more closely with our speakers to help them fact check and ensure that the underrepresented are not further marginalized.

We may never get a perfect “5” in the post participant survey, but my colleagues and I are committed to raising our eyes to that goal and walking steadily and with purpose in that direction.

Teddy Basham-Witherington

Chief Marketing Officer

Posted by: outandequal | August 27, 2013

Jobs & Freedom—All Pieces of the Picture

Selisse Berry

Selisse Berry

by Selisse Berry, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates | As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom, we celebrate the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream, and we celebrate the continuation of realizing that dream.

With the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) nearing the Senate floor, this anniversary of advocacy for equality is especially poignant. 50 years ago civil rights leader and march organizer Bayard Rustin, while less-than-closeted, did not live in a world where he could bring his whole and authentic self to a restaurant or to church—let alone to the workplace.

The great progress made around civil rights for people of color, for women, for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities is undeniable. However, there is still so much more to be done because it is also undeniable that today, in many places around the United States and around the world, Rustin would still be unable to bring his authentic self into the workplace. Half of a decade after the original March on Washington, inequality, economic subordination, racism and discrimination are still very much a reality for millions of our sisters and brothers. So while we celebrate and commemorate the March and the immense progress of the civil rights movement—as well as the great work of today’s leaders in equality, we acknowledge the ongoing need to create inclusive workplaces in the face of racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia.

2013 March on Washington to Realize the Dream

In 1963, Bayard Rustin suggested that the March on Washington was not a promise—but a new beginning. Today we recognize the truth of these words as well as their hope. Policy like ENDA is not a promise, but it is a start and each day presents a new beginning in the workplace. Each day offers a new opportunity to change the world one mind and one heart at a time, whether we do it by marching to the Lincoln Memorial or by having a significant conversation over the water cooler at the office.

This anniversary is about the basic rights toward which we are all still working. The lack of equality for any group affects every group, and our movement is a broad movement. It is a movement with many pieces, and we must remember that equality will only be a complete picture when all those pieces come together.

Please join Out & Equal on Wednesday, August 28th, to Let Freedom Ring. We will meet at Noon at Sutter & Market in San Francisco to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream. For more information, email bnelson@outandequal.org.

Lori Fox

Lori Fox

by Lori Fox, President of Lori Fox Diversity/Business Consulting | This year will be my 15th year of attendance at the Southern Comfort Conference (SCC). Actively participating in this annual conference has changed my life over the past several years.

I struggled with Gender Identity most of my life. I struggled to come out as a Transgender woman to family, friends and co-workers, and was living deep in a closet, not knowing how or where to turn for help, especially in my workplace. Being very “closeted” at work, and without any Gender Identity policies, practices and benefits within my company, I felt unsafe and powerless to do anything; feeling that if I advocated for myself or for others too strongly, I would be terminated.

Sadly, this is what the power of fear and shame can do in a non-inclusive workplace culture. Not courageously standing up for what I believe in was one of the most painful and agonizing consequences of “living a lie” and being in the closet. Unfortunately, this happens in many workplaces throughout the country. It is unconscionable for someone to be fired simply for being their “authentic self” – whether that is identifying as Transgender, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, Gay or Questioning.

So today, I want to share exciting news about one of the premier lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) events in the country, with a specific focus on the diverse Transgender community. Entering its 23rd year, the Southern Comfort Conference will run from September 4th through 8th at the Crowne Plaza at Ravinia in Atlanta, Georgia.

Each September, the SCC hosts, not only members of the incredibly diverse Transgender community and their partners/spouses, but the entire LGBQ & Ally community, providing a professional forum for accessing unique resources, training and networking opportunities. This comes in the form of four days of professional seminars, speakers and entertainment. Many of the best doctors/surgeons, therapists, voice coaches, business professionals and vendors from around the world will be available, catering specifically to SCC attendees needs.

Lori Fox, Pat Baillie and Alexis Dee (left to right) at the 2012 Southern Comfort Conference

Lori Fox, Pat Baillie and Alexis Dee (left to right) at the 2012 Southern Comfort Conference

This year, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates is excited to be working with SCC to create a one-day program on Friday, September 6th that focuses specifically on issues of workplace equality impacting the Transgender community, an especially timely issue as the Employment Non-discrimination Act (ENDA) is set to return to the U.S. Senate floor this fall. The Out & Equal Workplace Equality Track at SCC will include a number of workshops throughout the day, in addition to general sessions that feature two of the leading voices in the LGBT equality movement from the Transgender community. The breakfast plenary session will feature remarks from Transgender Law Center Executive Director Masen Davis, while the luncheon session will welcome business executive and transgender activist Meghan Stabler.

Additionally, SCC is making the one day Friday program available as a separate registration option! For a discounted rate of $95, interested HR and Diversity professionals, Employee Resource Group (ERG) leaders, and Out & Equal constituents can register specifically for the Out & Equal Workplace Equality Track. This special registration not only provides a unique educational opportunity for LGBTQ employees and allies, but also will provide an affordable introduction to the SCC experience.

Learn more about the Southern Comfort Conference and the Out & Equal Workplace Equality Track online. The online registration deadline is August 24th.

Lori Fox is a member of the Out & Equal Workplace Advocates Board of Directors and a passionate advocate of the incredibly diverse LGBT community. As a Transgender woman and President of Lori Fox Diversity/Business Consulting, Lori works as a diversity/business consultant and personal coach, consulting with individuals and corporations on workplace issues, in particular, Transgender workplace issues.

J. Kevin Jones

J. Kevin Jones

by J. Kevin Jones, Chief Development Officer, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates | At the start of 2008, I had reached a crossroads in my life. I knew that the time had come for me to leave the corporate world in order to pursue work that was directly tied to a mission about which I was passionate. I was frightened by the prospect of leaving a secure position where I was comfortably compensated and where I had an established track record of success. And, I was afraid that I would always regret it if I did not take a risk for something that was important to me. I chose to trust myself (with unbelievable support from my spouse and colleagues). And I have to confess that I was fortunate to be able to volunteer for a severance package at the time – a luxury that eased the process, without question.

Seven months later, I accepted a role at Out & Equal Workplace Advocates in San Francisco. I could not have asked for a better opportunity. I worked with Out & Equal as a volunteer (including a member of the Board) for nearly a decade. I was clearly passionate about the organization that Selisse Berry had grown to be an important part of the LGBT movement, and the chance to locate to the Bay Area and work full time with Selisse was all I that I could have hoped for when I began my search.

Kevin at the Out & Equal Workplace Summit 2012 in Baltimore, with the team who brought you "Out & Equal at Work: From Closet to Corner Office".

Kevin (far left) at the 2012 Out & Equal Workplace Summit in Baltimore, with the team who brought you “Out & Equal at Work: From Closet to Corner Office”.

It is hard to believe that it has been four and a half years since! I have had the tremendous pleasure to work for LGBT workplace equality – in collaboration with a dedicated team of colleagues at Out & Equal and alongside dozens of LGBT leaders and allies at companies across the US (and beyond). I am very proud to be associated with this organization and its work. We have made wonderful progress to advance LGBT equality – and much exciting and challenging work remains.

And I find myself at another crossroad in my life’s journey. Among the unexpected discoveries in my relocation to California has been falling in love with Sonoma County – and Petaluma, in particular. My now husband Tony and I (thank you to the Perry and Windsor teams!) are building a life in our new community. Getting to know the community and be involved locally has become a priority for us. That commitment includes exploring the process to become licensed foster parents, in addition to supporting the efforts of local community organizations. It is an exciting time in our lives, and one that calls for taking a new risk.

Kevin working behind the scenes at the 2011 Out & Equal Executive Forum.

Kevin behind the scenes at the 2011 Out & Equal Executive Forum.

As of August 15th, I will be leaving Out & Equal to pursue work that will keep me closer to Petaluma and reinforce my desire to invest my time locally (I will have more time to give without three hours of daily commuting…). I do not know what that looks like in terms of my professional career yet – but I once again am choosing to trust myself (with some praying) to figure it out. No doubt, I have more learning and new surprises in store.

Of course, moving on to this next chapter in my life is as exciting for me as it is sad. I will certainly miss the people with whom working is a privilege each and every day. I know that Out & Equal’s good work will continue because of your commitment. Thank you for everything that you have given to me by being a part of Out & Equal’s mission of LGBT workplace equality – whether we have had the chance to work together for years or for hours. I am truly grateful. You have my best wishes as each of us continues to make whatever piece of the world that we touch more equal.

I can always be found on Facebook – and definitely intend to stay connected.

Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

by Tom Johnson, vice president of Finance, Global Business Services, The Clorox Company | When I joined Clorox in 1988, coming out as a gay man was the furthest thing from my mind. The company didn’t have domestic partner benefits, a GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) employee resource group or openly GLBT employees in leadership positions. I wanted to progress in my career, but I saw no one like me in the management or leadership ranks. I concluded that the safest option for my career was to stay in the closet.

I stayed in the closet at Clorox for nearly five years before coming out to a very few trusted co-workers. At about the same time, the company offered me a role as the finance leader in London for our European and Middle Eastern businesses. I’m sure they thought they were signing up a low-cost, hard-working single guy for this international assignment. But — surprise! — I came out to my manager and let them know I’d accept the assignment, but my partner needed to go with me. Without missing a beat, my Clorox manager and human resources created a package that enabled us to relocate to London. That experience was the very beginning of a journey that has led Clorox to become a visible champion of workplace equality around the world for GLBT people. In 1998, Clorox was one of the first consumer products companies to implement domestic partner benefits, which is just one indication of the company’s support for its GLBT employees and their advocates.

Before coming out at work, it took an enormous amount of energy to hide who I was. A question as simple as, “Hey, what did you do this weekend?” left me worrying I might use the wrong pronoun or otherwise reveal I had a partner. After coming out, I was able to take the energy I used to hide in the closet, and instead channeled that energy into driving business results.

The journey of coming out is intensely personal and unfolds on a timeline that is only right for the individual. So people need to come out to co-workers when they are ready – not when others want them to. It’s an incredibly liberating experience that is consistent with our company value of doing the right thing and demonstrates a core leadership trait of integrity. I consistently see the dramatic increase in self-confidence, impact and performance of people after they come out.

What can you do to help foster an environment where GLBT employees can do their best work? Imagine being a new GLBT employee at the company. What signs would you look for to know it’s OK to be out? A really simple sign is, well, literally a sign. The Clorox Pride employee resource group (ERG) offers decals in the rainbow of colors that say “I support Clorox Pride.” You can display the decals prominently in your workspace to broadcast your support. Additionally, celebrate and be open about your own differences, especially those that may not be apparent. Tell your team about your GLBT family member, or your spouse of a different ethnicity, or the film you saw last weekend that made you think differently about someone who is different from you.

Clorox Pride plays an important role in defining the company’s culture and its commitment to diversity and inclusiveness. It demonstrates the company’s belief that inclusiveness is integral to driving business results, as shown by our perfect score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index.

This month, Clorox Pride is leading the company in its celebration of Pride Month 2013. By fostering a unique culture of acceptance and inclusiveness, Clorox celebrates the diversity of all our employees, who should feel proud of who they are each and every day.

NOTE: Tom Johnson is co-founder of Clorox Pride and president of the Board of Directors for Out & Equal Workplace Advocates. Tom and his partner, Bruce, celebrate their 29th anniversary this month. They enjoy spending time hiking, skiing and practicing yoga. Read more about Tom’s story and the coming-out stories of other Out & Equal business professionals in the book Out & Equal at Work – From Closet to Corner Office.

Reproduced with permission from The Clorox Company. Originally published in The Colorox Company’s blog Corporate Responsibility Matterson June 21, 2013.

Posted by: outandequal | June 21, 2013

Pride: Vive La Différence!

Teddy Witherington, Director of Events at Out & Equal

Teddy Witherington

by Teddy Witherington, Chief Marketing Officer, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates | For me, one of the tragedies of our movement is that the very thing we offer to the rest of society – the ability to create community across barriers – is so often sabotaged from within. LGBT Pride is defined by the unique experiences of the full spectrum of our communities, so when we’re tempted to define Pride in our own terms we, by definition, attempt to limit the limitless: we disrespect our glorious differences and impose our self-hood.

A community that receives disproportionate criticism is the one that is made up of those who identify with their employers. The first Pride events took place in 1970. It wasn’t long – 1972 – before cries of commercialization arose. This is no recent phenomenon, no product of our age, but a necessary product of our richness as a community – one without borders: no borders to membership, identification and freedom. It is the price, and a price worth paying, to embrace our diversity.

Those who would decry the participation of sponsors in LGBT pride events ignore the fact that the workplace is society’s melting pot. Ideas that influence the values and beliefs of all are the raw material of the conversations in boardrooms and at water coolers across the nation. Workplace Equality, inclusion, marriage equality, benefits diversity programs, immigration and parenting are the topics that swirl in cafeterias, and HR departments. These conversations, one mind and one heart at a time, are the stuff of societal change.

So, the next time you see the folks on the Parade proudly flying the flag of their employee resource group, applaud them – loudly – for the part they are playing in creating a more inclusive society and allow yourself to embrace the spirit of Pride; it’s a wonderful feeling.

***
Note: Teddy Witherington served as Executive Director of San Francisco Pride 1997-2006 and as the Co-President of InterPride (the global association of pride organizations) 1997-2000 and 2002-2003.

Out & Equal would love to see how you and your company embrace the spirit of Pride. Tweet your ERG Pride pics @OutandEqual or share them on our Facebook page.

Sam Thoron - Headshot

Sam Thoron

by Sam Thoron, PFLAG National President Emeritus | My story begins in January 1990 when my daughter, aged 19, the youngest of three children, came out to her father as a Lesbian woman. My wife, Julia, and I quickly realized that Liz had not changed. She is still the same wonderful person that we brought into the world and nurtured through her childhood into her emergence as an adult. We needed to learn what this new information meant for us and for our lives. We needed to understand the implications for her in her life.

We soon joined the local chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and there found support for our new journey. I was able to put into perspective my fears about Liz’ future. I also gained an understanding of some of the discrimination she would face. I went to PFLAG for support for my journey and learned that that journey included support for Liz. That means more than just a hug, it means being an advocate for her full equality, and that cannot happen without being open about being the parent of a Gay child.

If you had asked me before Liz came out what I wanted for my children I would have told you that I wanted them to be whole, healthy, happy adults on their own terms. I confess that having one of them identify as LGBT was not in my plans. I was forced to let go of those plans, to tear up my scripts for Liz.  The gift of this process is that I also gave myself permission to tear up the scripts for her two older brothers. This is enormously freeing.

Sam and Julia in Washington D.C.

Sam and Julia in Washington D.C.

I have long been deeply committed to the principle that Liz deserves to be afforded the same respect and dignity as flows so naturally to her two straight brothers. She deserves all the same rights, privileges and obligations of full citizenship in this country. She deserves the freedom to marry the person of her choice and to have that marriage recognized everywhere. She deserves full equality in every aspect of her life, in healthcare, in education, in public accommodation, and especially in the workplace. Bringing this about demands open advocacy.

Over the years I have many times been asked to take actions that, at first look, seemed to be way outside the envelope of my comfort zone. Each time I have had to ask myself if I valued full equality for Liz and for the LGBT world. The answer has always been yes. As a result I have had the privilege of meeting and working with a host of wonderful and inspiring people. When Julia and I agreed to make the lead television ad for the No on 8 Campaign, ‘comfort zone’ ceased to be a useful concept. We are out.

I have come to understand that the very best tool for changing hearts and minds that any of us have is our own story, our own experience, strength and hope. It is vital for parents, allies, family members and all members of the diverse LGBT Communities to tell our stories at every opportunity, and even to create opportunities. We can change the world, one person at a time. Each of us must do our part. Full equality will prevail!

For more resources and prespectives on LGBT and allied parenting, you can check out our Town Call podcast LGBT Parenting: Our Children Speak. We’ll also be hosting a fantastic panel on “Straight Talk from Teens on Having Not-So-Straight Parents” at the 2013 Out & Equal Workplace Summit in Minneapolis, October 29-31. You can take a look at the complete list of confirmed Summit workshops online.

Posted by: outandequal | June 10, 2013

What’s Next for Equality in the US Northwest?

Northwest Regional Affiliates at the 2011 National Out & Equal Workplace Summit

by Michael Mattmiller, Out & Equal Seattle Regional Affiliate | What an amazing year we’ve had for workplace equality in Washington state. Since last January, we’ve seen our community rally together to help our legislature pass marriage equality. When a signature-gathering effort referred the legislation to voters, our r corporate leaders joined us to contribute to the pro-marriage campaign, and these leaders proudly took strong, visible stands in support of LGBT professionals. This campaign helped our executives understand how issues like marriage affect our families and our success in the workplace.

So what’s next?

For many of our corporate LGBT professionals in Washington we’ve got engaged leaders, great benefits and diversity programs, and inclusive state laws. Are we feeling the benefit of those laws and programs? Too often we assume that all corporate citizens benefit when an employer announced a great new policy granting same-sex benefits or a new diversity initiative. For many of us that work at corporate headquarters and have the opportunity to interact with our leaders and employee resource groups, we forget that our colleagues in field offices, subsidiaries, or working on factory floors may not feel the benefit of these well-intended gestures.

We also need to think about our colleagues who were left behind during these recent wins. While Washington and five other states have been added to the marriage equality map  in the past year, our neighbors in California, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, and Alaska did not. What knowledge can we impart to the inclusion-minded corporations and professionals in those states who have more work to do? We also need to think about our transgender coworkers who in some cases were excluded from corporate policy and benefits changes. How many of our companies widely-lauded for their leadership on marriage equality still do not offer inclusive transgender healthcare?

These are just a couple of the challenges remaining for us to tackle in our corporates. This list doesn’t include the challenges on which  executive sponsors are now engaging us, such as how their investment in employee resource groups are returning value to the company through increased revenue, retention, and other metrics.

And we thought we were done. Creating a sought-after culture where all professionals feel like valued members of their workplace is still an attainable goal, and through our conversations with ERGs across the Northwest we have found innovative programs that not only tackle these challenges but do so in a way that makes their companies an employer of choice. In the process, many of the LGBT professionals and allies who have developed these programs gained valuable leadership skills, visibility in their companies, and are seeing the benefits in their career.

The Out & Equal Regional Affiliates in Seattle and San Francisco have been working hard to plan a Northwest Regional Summit where together we can discuss “What’s Next” – the challenges, the successful models employed by others, and how to get energized for the road ahead. We have 12 amazing workshops presented by innovative employers from Boeing to Accenture, Starbucks, Ernst & Young, and others. Keynote speakers from Alaska Airlines and Concur Technologies will provide us with executive perspective. Leading organizations in our community including Lambda Legal and Pride Foundation will help us understand the rapidly changing legal and civic landscapes.

I hope you will join us on Friday, June 28th to be part of the Regional Summit. Together, we can be “What’s next”.

Visit the Northwest Regional Summit website to learn more about event programming and to register. Connect with both the Out & Equal Seattle Affiliate and the San Francisco Affiliate on Facebook.

Posted by: outandequal | May 22, 2013

The Voice of Harvey Milk…

Milk-Day-FB-Graphic

by Daniel Lawrence Smith, Senior Development Manager | This impassioned plea, by Harvey Milk, was recorded with the instructions that it be played upon the event of his assassination. Today, we honor Harvey’s legacy on the anniversary of his birthday, Harvey Milk Day.

Thirty-five years after his death, the voice of Harvey Milk resonates with resounding clarity and foresight. At Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, we believe that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) professionals must be able to come out of the closet to bring their most authentic and productive selves to work. That is why we are committed to ending employment discrimination for LGBT employees.

Harvey Milk envisioned a day when we all share the same civil rights in our lives and our workplaces. Please join us in honoring Harvey’s vision for equality by supporting the work of Out & Equal.

The reality is that millions of LGBT employees across the nation and around the globe are forced to conceal their sexual orientation and gender identity or risk putting their career on the line. In countries like Spain and France, workplace climates are so conservative that being “out at work” could mean being “out of a job“.

In the United States, it is still legal to fire someone simply for being gay, lesbian or bisexual in 29 states across the country and 34 states for being transgender. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) which has, once again, been introduced to Congress, would create fully inclusive national legislation to protect LGBT employees.

Now more than ever, we must continue to educate, build allies, strengthen our Regional Affiliates and be a visible resource for those most at need against prejudice and unjust workplace treatment.

The voice of Harvey Milk lives on within each of us. We believe that Harvey would be proud of the many advances our community has made toward this vision, but he would also remind us not to be complacent – we still have a lot of work to do. And of course, we have hope!

Please join us on Harvey Milk Day with your generous gift of support. Together, we can share Harvey’s message of hope as we work to achieve a world free of discrimination for everyone.

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P.S. For more on ENDA, listen to our Town Call Series recording Moving Forward on the Federal Non-discrimination Act. While you’re visiting the Out & Equal website, please honor the legacy of Harvey Milk with your tax-deductible donation.

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