Dear PFLAG Family and Friends,
America's 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, once said that, "The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present," and that when "the occasion is piled high with with difficulty, we must rise with the occasion."
Lincoln's words, and his uniting spirit, are returning to the nation's capital anew this month, as President-Elect Barack Obama - amidst a sea of turbulence and challenge in our country - prepares to take the oath of office as our 44th president. Indeed, the theme our next commander-in-chief has chosen for his inaugural - "Renewing America's Promise" - is borrowed from one of Lincoln's most inspiring speeches. We know from experience, however, that change does not arrive without challenge, and the cusp of history we now stand on is no exception to the rule.
All of us at PFLAG were disappointed to learn, in December, that President-Elect Obama has chosen Reverend Rick Warren, the controversial pastor of Saddleback Church in California, to deliver the invocation at the January 20th inaugural in Washington. Warren, who leads one of the largest evangelical churches in the United States, has stood against our families, comparing loving same-sex relationships to pedophilia. In October, just before the critical vote on marriage equality in California, Warren also endorsed Proposition 8, urging voters to strip away rights already enjoyed by lesbian and gay couples in the state. Just days after his endorsement, Proposition 8 passed, and countless couples were left without legal protections or the recognition they deserve.
On December 18, I joined PFLAG National President John Cepek and our National Vice-President, Rabbi David Horowitz, in signing a letter to President-Elect Obama, expressing our dismay at the Warren selection. "As people of faith, and as friends and family members of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender loved ones, we are disheartened and discouraged by your selection of Rev. Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inaugural ceremonies on January 20 in Washington," our letter said. "This historic moment in our nation’s history, and for our nation’s families, deserves the blessing of inclusive faith leaders who believe in, and practice, the universal call to 'love thy neighbor as thyself.'"
"All of us at PFLAG," we wrote, "have been inspired and empowered by your eloquent reminder that LGBT people are part of the fabric of our nation and that, as you so powerfully pointed out in 2004, 'we have gay friends in the red states, too.' Rev. Warren, however, has not been a friend to our families, and his selection for this prestigious role in your inaugural ceremony is unwarranted and unfortunate."
We delivered our letter directly to the President-Elect's transition team, imploring them to put away the dogmas of the past and stand with LGBT families and their allies as we begin a new chapter in the present. For this historic inaugural prayer, our new President could have, and should have, chosen better.
And just days before President-Elect Obama takes office, PFLAG will be on the road talking about other Prayers, too. We're proud to be partnering with Lifetime Television, our PFLAG chapters and stars from the upcoming film Prayers for Bobby on a number of public education events.
Prayers, which debuts January 24 on Lifetime, tells the true story of Mary Griffith, the mother of a gay son, and her journey toward embracing the LGBT community following his tragic suicide. Based on the novel by Leroy Aarons, Prayers highlights the important role PFLAG played in Mary's experience and empowers families to embrace their LGBT loved ones.
In the coming days, you'll be receiving information on several upcoming PFLAG events related to Prayers, including media appearances by PFLAG spokespeople . . . official PFLAG viewing parties in cities across the country . . . and live public events featuring cast members from the film, including award-winning actress Sigourney Weaver, and PFLAG parents and staffers. And be sure to check back on our official blog - at www.pflag.org/blog - for complete information on the film from PFLAG and Lifetime. Then, tune in on January 24 for this stunning and moving film, featuring a power-house performance by Weaver and an unforgettable script based on Aarons' groundbreaking novel.
In the meantime, be sure to check out the latest initiatives PFLAG is involved in:
In December, we officially launched Cultivating Respect, our expanded Safe Schools initiative. This comprehensive new program includes training seminars for local parents and allies, empowering PFLAG supporters at the local level to work directly with their community leaders and school administrators to protect LGBT students. PFLAG plans trainings across the country in 2009, following initial training sessions held earlier this year in Ohio and Tennessee.
Our public education campaign on transgender issues, This Is Our Love Story, continued to make news. Last month, Out magazine named our spokesperson for the project, Calpernia Addams, as one of its 'Out 100' for 2008, noting that earlier this year Addams was "selected by Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays as the spokeswoman for its This Is Our Love Story campaign." To read the full write-up about Calpernia's work, click here.
We applauded the selection of Arne Duncan as our country's next Secretary of Education, in a widely distributed HuffingtonPost column. Duncan, who has served as the head of the Illinois Public Schools, has been a long-time champion of Safe Schools initiatives in the state. As the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, the third largest school district in the country, Duncan has been attuned to the pervasiveness of homophobic bullying and harassment and its negative impact on students, families and personnel who are or are perceived to be LGBT. He has been a proponent of organizing and professional development efforts in support of Safe Schools initiatives, too. To read PFLAG's full column about Duncan's nomination, click here.
Also in December, we weighed in on recent comments by retired Joint Chiefs Chairman Colin Powell regarding the future of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on LGBT troops. Following an interview with CNN, PFLAG's communications director wrote that, "In answering inquiries about the military's ban, General Powell has raised more questions than he has offered answers about where he stands on the issue." To read our full response to Powell's column, visit The HuffingtonPost online. (And for PFLAG's analysis of the impact of an historic Ninth Circuit court decision about the law, click here.)
We responded to a controversial Newsweek cover story about faith and marriage equality, too. When reporter Lisa Miller's article, The Religious Case for Gay Marriage, came under attack by anti-equality advocates, PFLAG weighed in. In a letter to Newsweek, we noted that, "Lisa Miller’s superb analysis of the arguments surrounding scripture and same-sex marriage points to an unmistakable, common-sense conclusion: Marriage - both gay and straight - is about a fundamental respect for families, and families are rightfully both revered and respected by every religious doctrine." To read Miller's story, click here. And for PFLAG's response, visit our blog online.
We know that there are many challenges that lie ahead for our community and our families, but with your support, PFLAG will continue to stand up for those we love and speak out for the dignity, respect and rights we all deserve. From calling out our next president on an inappropriate messenger for our national prayer to spreading the word about love and acceptance via Lifetime's Prayers, we will never shy away from showing our leaders - both religious and political - how easy it is to do the right thing.
Thank you for being part of the PFLAG family.
Jody M. Huckaby
P.S.: If you plan to be in Washington for the inaugural on January
20th, be sure to join us at Out for Equality, the LGBT inaugural
commemoration. For more information, including tickets to this
historic event, click here.