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Gay Labor Day
Sep 1, 2006

Answer:  You can be legally fired for being gay in 36 states.  If you're transgender...you have no job protection in 46 states.

I'm sharing Jody Huckaby's message for two reasons. 

  1. It's Labor Day weekend and Jody's thoughts help us keep the journey in mind.
  2. Because of Jody's message, more people now know about Bradley Schmeling's upcoming trial in the ELCA.  The more who know about injustice, the closer we get to the day of justice.

Who can ever know when a tipping point comes? 
Until then, storytelling matters.

To Do List:
Read and distribute Pastor Paul Johnson's story of his 1991 expulsion from the ELCA.  Knowing the history can help stop trials of gay pastors.


A Message from PFLAG's Executive Director,
Jody M. Huckaby

As we come to the end of the summer and move into the long Labor Day holiday weekend, it will be an opportunity for many to get in a final vacation before the start of Fall, and people will give little thought to the meaning of Labor Day at all.

As I planned my Labor Day weekend, I got a message from my friend Lars Clausen that interrupted thoughts of get-togethers and barbeques.

For anyone who isn't familiar with him, Lars and his wife, Anne, and their two kids live in the Pacific Northwest on the east side of Washington State. He is an ordained Lutheran pastor, a unicyclist, and a straight ally in the GLBT movement who has struggled with the bigotry that he has witnessed in organized religion in general and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in particular. This year he wrote and published the book Straight Into Gay America, a tale of his journey across the nation on his unicycle.

Lars shared with me that Pastor Bradley Schmeling of St. John's Lutheran Church in Atlanta, Georgia, has been charged by his bishop of being in violation of ELCA guidelines for ordained ministers. What is the offense? Pastor Schmeling is in a committed relationship with his partner, a former ELCA pastor.

He has refused to resign his position as pastor. His church council and congregation have rallied behind him, welcoming his partner into their church family, and publicly celebrating their commitment to each other. But none of this has any significance to the bishop.

I don't know Pastor Schmeling, but I cannot help but think of how much his story flies in the face of what we are celebrating this weekend-Labor Day. Here, an obviously educated and well-respected pastor who is, by all accounts serving his congregation well and wants to work hard to follow his calling as a pastor, may be forced to stop working, simply because of being honest about who he is-gay.

If Schmeling's bishop is successful, Bradley will join the ranks of the countless other religious leaders who have been tossed out of their faith community leadership positions for the same reason.

Schmeling will share the tragic and totally unnecessary fate of the thousands who have experienced a similar treatment in the military and been removed from honorable duty simply because they are gay. Talented people who want to work and want to serve our country and our communities with the very spirit that Labor Day intended in its origins are constantly being denied the simple right to work.

Far beyond the work of pastors and military service members, GLBT people still can be fired in 36 states in America simply for being gay and in 46 states because of their real or perceived gender identity. There is no federal law that provides GLBT people with protection from discrimination in employment, leaving many to feel the need to hide who they are for fear that they will be harassed, demoted, abused and even, fired.

So as you go out this Labor Day weekend and make the most of the last bit of summer, think about all of the GLBT people who continue to live in fear of losing their right to work. Think about what you can do to help change that reality.

If you are a straight ally like Lars Clausen, talk to your other straight friends about the GLBT people who are in your lives, working in every capacity possible to better our communities and the world. Talk about why inequality for GLBT people is simply wrong - and in a time when so much rhetoric centers on the issue of national security this inequality is breathtakingly foolhearty as we witness what is happening to dedicated gay and lesbian military personnel willing to serve, particularly highly skilled Arabic linguists.

If you are GLB or T, have one of those difficult conversations this weekend with your straight friends, family members and colleagues about what it's like to feel different at work, in your faith community, in the grocery store, where ever you feel reluctant to be open and honest about who you are- help them to understand that inequality of any kind just doesn't work well. These conversations change minds.

This is what we do best at PFLAG. We tell our personal stories. We are parents, family members, friends, straight allies, and we are GLB and T too. We have those difficult conversations. We can't assume that everyone around us already "gets" it. Time and again, research tells us that people - particularly straight people who don't have (or know they have) GLBT family and friends - need to hear personal stories about why inequality hurts people and hurts families if their hearts and minds are going to change. If we really want to alter the laws achieve true equality, we must reach more straight people and help them understand why inequality is not acceptable for anyone.

On this note, stayed tuned for more information in the coming months about PFLAG's exciting and innovative national program, Straight For Equality, which will help to engage more straight allies in advancing GLBT equality!


Gay Into Straight America is coming to Chelan, Washington!

Two women who've done a labor of love this year are Dotti Berry and Roby Sapp.  On September 20th, they'll conclude a year long journey right here in my little town of Chelan, Washington.  The next morning they'll drive 5 hours and return to their home in Bellingham.

Dotti and Roby are traveling throughout the United States, traveling by car and camper, creating authentic connections wherever they go. They've talked and listened with thousands of individuals and spoken to dozens and dozens of groups.  Their purpose is to engage the conversation with people wrestling with lgbt equality.

They'll be speaking at our local bookstore at 7 p.m. at Riverwalk Books.  I'll be signing Straight Into Gay America books.  Come find out where the names, Straight Into Gay American and Gay Into Straight America came from. Visit www.gayintostraightamerica.com  to learn more about Dotti and Roby.


Labor Day Wishes,

Lars


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