Let’s Talk about LGBTQIA+ Equality & the Democratic Caucuses

Dem 2016 South Carolina (5)Senator Bernie Sanders has been with us for years. As Mayor of Burlington, VT in 1983 Bernie signed the city’s first Gay Pride Parade proclamation and later he signed a city ordinance banning housing discrimination.

One can even look further in Bernie’s past and see that he supported equal rights. In the 1970s when he was a student and a member of a third party called the Liberty Union he wrote, “Let us abolish all laws which attempt to impose a particular brand of morality or ‘right’ on people.”

As a student in the 1960s, tumblr_nrl0q4Z4FG1tlu3kdo1_1280Bernie was an activist, he was a front-line champion for equality. Bernie was even arrested while protesting the segregation of schools, he organized against segregated housing in Chicago, and he marched on Washington, D.C. with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand was not on the same track. On the Senate floor in 2004, debating a marriage amendment which she voted ‘no’ on would have put a ban on marriage equality in the Constitution Hillary still said the follow:

the fundamental bedrock principle that marriage exists between a man and a woman, going back into the midst of history as one of the founding, foundational institutions of history and humanity and civilization, and that its primary, principal role during those millennia has been the raising and socializing of children for the society into which they are to become adults (Biddle).

Personally, I find her statement hurtful. First, it tells me that she believes that LGBTQIA+ individuals cannot have families and are not competent to care for children. Second, it tells me that she is a traditionalist and that means that no matter what is right on the basis of civil rights she will hold true to her tradition.

On the Rachel Maddow Show (RMS), Hillary said this while speaking about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) and “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA),

a line that was drawn that was to prevent going further.” She said this while attempting to tell us that these measures where passed to stop the Republicans (she says they are one of her enemies) from passing something worse (Johnson).

Hillary also had this to say,

I think that sometimes a leader in a democracy you are confronted with two bad choices and it is not an easy position and you have to try and think what is the least bad choice and how do I try and cabin this off from having worse consequences (Johnson)?

However, when Bernie Sanders served in the House of Representatives during the same time, he voted against both “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 1993 and the “Defense of Marriage Act” in 1996. Bernie stood up for what was right when he faced a fork in the road to do what was easy and go with the majority or take a stand. He chose to take a stand.

Recently, at the Iowa Democratic Party Jefferson-Jackson Dinner Sen. Sanders said this on the issue,

It was called the Defense of Marriage Act – brought forth by a Republican – led Congress. Its purpose was to write discrimination against gays and lesbians into law. […] I’m sorry to tell you that the bill won by an overwhelming majority of 342 to 57 in the House and 85 to 15 in the Senate.”

Senator Bernie Sanders is a fighter for the least of these and he has proven that throughout his lifetime. He is fighting for the working class and young adults. He continues to speak truth to power.

As he says,

I’m not running for president because it’s my turn, but because it’s the turn of all of us to live in a nation of hope and opportunity, not for some, not for the few, but for all (Johnson).

tumblr_nqlaao1CY21rk3xbfo1_1280Bernie knows that in many states you can get married in the morning and in the afternoon get fired for putting up a picture of your partner. He knows that in many states you can still be denied housing or public accommodations just for being transgender or gender non-conforming. Bernie believes that this is unacceptable and must change.

As Senator, Bernie is a cosponsor of the Equality Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He has even kept a lifetime perfect 100% score from the Human Rights Campaign and has consistently supported legislation that would guarantee LGBTQIA+ Americans would be treated as equal citizens (www.berniesanders.com)

As President, Senator Bernie Sanders will:

  • Sign into law the Equality Act, the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, and any other bill that prohibits discrimination against LGBTQIA+ individuals.
  • Work with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to ensure LGBTQIA+ Americans have access to comprehensive health insurance which provides appropriate coverage and do not have to fear discrimination or mistreatment from providers.
  • Continue the work of President Obama’s State Department’s Special Envoy (which was enforced by Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary) for LGBTQIA+ Rights and ensure the United States helps protect the rights of LGBTQIA+ individuals around the world.
  • Advance polices to ensure students can attend school without fear of bullying, and work to reduce suicides.
  • Require police departments adopt policies to ensure fairer interactions with transgender individuals, especially transgender people of color who are often targeted by police unfairly, and institute training programs to promote compliance with fair policies.
  • Bar discrimination against LGBTQIA+ individuals by creditors and banks so that people will not be unfairly denied mortgages, credit cards, or student loans.
  • Veto any legislation that purports to “protect” religious liberty at the expense of others’ rights (www.berniesanders.com).


Senator Bernie Sanders believes that,

we need a political revolution to transform American politics. I am talking about bringing in the voices of millions who have given up on the political process. When that happens everything that I talk about will be passed. If it does not, virtually nothing will (Johnson).

Thus, I ask all of my fellow LGBTQIA+ sisters, brothers, friends, neighbors to join the political revolution and stand with Senator Bernie Sanders as he runs for the Democratic Party nomination for President!

Iowa Legislative Update: Iowans Facing Important Decisions

Iowa Senate

This legislative session in Iowa, I have found that the Iowa Legislature is taking up some important issues. Issues ranging from updating sexual assault policies to raising the minimum wage. Iowans are faced with many important decisions to weigh in on this session. Nevertheless, there are harmful bills that have been introduced that would harm families and strip people of their civil rights.

The following are bills that I support:

Senate File 79 – Introduced by Bolkcom and Dvorsky

  • This bill would update and strengthen college sexual assault policies.
  • It would include an affirmative consent standard, meaning that consent is an act that must be affirmative, conscious, and voluntary, in terms of sexual acts. 
  • It would also update policies to include domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.

LGBT-Teens-Equality-PetitionSenate File 31 – Introduced by McCoy

  • This bill prohibits mental health providers to engage in sexual orientation and gender expression so called “reparative” therapy for any person under the age of 18 years old.
  • It also provides disciplinary action for those mental health providers who violate this section.
  • Please sign my petition urging for the ban of Anti-LGBT reparative or conversion therapy in Iowa!

Senate File 18 – Introduced by Base

  • The bill would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to an employee based on medical conditions related to employee’s pregnancy or childbirth.
  • It also provides penalties for discriminatory actions.

House File 71 – Introduced by Hunter, co-sponsored by Kelly, Staed, McConkey, Gaskill, Keams, T. Taylor, Smith, Lensing, Anderson, Abdul-Samad, Winckler, Wessel-Kroeschell, Oldson, Dawson, and Steckman

  • The bill would raise the minimum wage to $8.20 by January 1, 2016, $9.15 as of July 1, 2016, and $10.10 as of January 1, 2017.
  • The wage would be indexed to the same percentage as the cost-of-living increase in federal social security benefits.

House File 76 – Introduced by Hunter, co-sponsored by Anderson, Abdul-Samad, and Oldson

  • The bill would prohibit the sale or transfer of semiautomatic assault weapons

House File 65 – Introduced by Meyer, co-sponsored by Winkler, Stutsman, Mascher, Brown-Powers, Wolfe, anderson, and Wessel-Kroeschell.

  • The bill would create the Iowa Death with Dignity law, for persons who qualify.
  • The bill would only apply to an adult of legal age of 18 years old and resident of the State of Iowa.

The following are bills that I am opposed to:

tumblr_lfe0onjnTd1qbpx9nHouse File 101 – Introduced by Heartstill, co-sponsored by Holt, Salmon, Gassman, Fisher, Sheets, Kooiker, and Watts

  • The bill would prohibit county registrars from granting civil marriages licenses where both persons are the same-sex until an amendment to the Iowa Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman is submitted to the electorate for ratification.
  • It would also establish that the Iowa Supreme Court has no appellate jurisdiction over any civil marriage licenses in the state. 

House Joint Resolution 4 – Introduced by Heartstill, co-sponsored by Holt, Wills, Baulder, Salmon, Gassman, Fisher, Sheets, Windshilt, Baxter, Kooiker, and Watts.

  • The bill would add an amendment to the Iowa State Constitution redefining civil marriage as being only between one man and one woman. 

In addition, Republican Senators and Representatives have introduced several anti-family and anti-reproductive health bills, all of which I am opposed to.

Please be sure to visit the Iowa Legislature website to tell your Senator and Representative how you feel about these bills. Visit: Iowa Legislature

*Don’t forget to sign the petition demanding the ban on Anti-LGBT conversion therapy in Iowa: petition*!

Equality Pledge Network Holds Vigil @ MLK Jr. Memorial Monument

Credits Omar R. Clarke

Washington, D.C., Monday, June 30, 2014 – The Equality Pledge Network made a united call for full LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) equality at a vigil for LGBT civil rights at the MLK Jr. Memorial Monument. The vigil included a variety of speakers from, LGBT activists, African American leaders, and faith leaders, who gave speeches, prayers, and sang several songs in tribute to fallen LGBT people, all calling to “ADD 4 WORDS” to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. 

The vigil marked the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 2, 1964.

Those who are equal before God shall now be equal in the polling booths, in the classrooms, in the factories, and in the hotels, restaurants, and movie theaters, and other places that provide service to the public,” said President Johnson as he signed the Civil Rights Act.

The Equality Pledge Network is calling on Congress and the President to add four words to that Act, “sexual orientation and gender identity.” Adding those words would ban discrimination against LGBT Americans in housing, public accommodations, education, employment, and federally funded programs. 

It’s time for a sexual orientation and gender identity civil rights act. I loved visiting the President in the White House, sitting in a top White House official’s briefing for 3 hours. I totally loved it. I also loved holding a civil rights vigil at the MLK Jr. Memorial with the LGBT community. But, dream or imagine if you will a bill to address civil rights laws and adding sexual orientation and gender identity to them all? That, I’ll love most of all,” said Richard Noble, LGBT activist who walked across the nation for equality.

The inclusion of LGBT Americans in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is right and necessary. As an African American woman, I understand why only fully inclusive nondiscrimination laws meet the standard for basic human dignity in our nation,” said Veronic Eady, an Equality Pledge Network board member and human rights attorney.

Credits Omar R. Clarke
Credits Omar R. Clarke

Currently, there are no such federal laws.

  • In 29 states, you can be fired based on your sexual orientation and in 32 based on your gender identity. (ACLU)
  • In 30 states, you can be denied housing based on your sexual orientation and in 34 based on your gender identity. (HRC)
  • In 33 states, there is no law giving protection to K-12 students who are bullied and harassed based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. (HRC)

The Equality Pledge Network is a new nationwide campaign calling for full LGBT equality, it reflects a growing determination to press forward vigorously for full and equal human rights. The campaign is supported by over 240 organizations in 44 states and D.C., these organizations represent the full array of advocacy, direct action, faith-based, statewide, local, marriage, immigration, pride, transgender/gender non-conforming, community centers, and other community constituencies.

Everyone needs to get in the fight for full federal equality. Our youth should not have to grow up in a society where some are valued more than others,” said Stephen Zollman, Equality Pledge Network Northern California State Lead.

As queer people and as activists, the pledge means something to us on both a personal and organizational level. We believe every person deserves these rights, and ignoring them condemns LGBTQ people to live as second-class citizens,” Ashley Martian, organizer with the Black Cat House.

At the vigil, Rev. Dr. Dennis Wiley, a straight-ally African American leader on LGBT justice from Covenant Baptist UCC spoke about the interconnectedness of all struggles, as faith leaders proclaim the spiritual imperative to protect LGBT Americans from discrimination. Transgender rights advocate, Consuella Lopez, from the D.C. Mayor’s LGBT Advisory Board spoke about the horrific suffering of transgender Americans, from homelessness to suicide. Attendees also held pictures of LGBT children who committed suicide because of the anti-LGBT bullying and harassment during the vigil.

There were several other speakers at the vigil in addition, Cindy Bray, Treasurer of LGBT Democrats of Virginia; Dr. Robin H. Gorsline, of People of Faith for Equality in Virginia; Dr. Dana Beyer, a recent state Senate candidate in Maryland who spoke on behalf of Gender Rights Maryland; Rev. Abena McCray, co-founder of Unity Fellowship Church; and Richard Noble, who walked across the nation on foot for equality.

There is no bill in the U.S. House or U.S. Senate at this time to move forward full LGBT equality. There are several bills that would provide LGBT equality piece by piece.

If you would like to join the cause or take the Pledge for Full LGBT Equality please go here: Join the Cause! 

If you would like to volunteer in Iowa or Nebraska please email me: mika.j.covington@gmail.com



Vote Blue in 2014! Vote for Change!


This election coming up in the fall is important. There is a lot at stake! The election is all about giving America a chance to move forward or backwards. We as Americans have a choice. Do we want to continue on the path where our nation continues to do nothing and go from brink of shutdown to brink of shutdown because the Republican controlled U.S. House refuses to work? Do we want to continue to let the radical Tea Party Republicans block common sense immigration reform, increasing the minimum wage, and universal background checks? If yes, then vote for the Regressive Party (Republicans). If no, stand with me and vote for the Progressive Party (Democrats) who want to move our nation forward for our children and future generations.



Bruce Braley for U.S. Senate

I will be supporting Bruce Braley for United States Senate because we cannot let our nation fall back, we cannot let down our military and veterans, and we cannot let down the hardworking middle class. In addition, we cannot let radical Republicans tear our nation apart and destroy civil rights. I know Bruce Braley will be a leader in the U.S. Senate to stop the radical Republican agenda.

Bruce has represented Iowa in the U.S. House since 2007, where he worked to promote policies that strengthen and expand the middle class and help create the environment for job creation. Bruce wrote a tax cut for businesses that hire unemployed workers; helping an estimated, 100,000 Iowans get back to work. He worked to create a job-training program for Iowans who wanted to get a new job in the field of renewable energy.

  • Bruce supports raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour and tying it to the rate of inflation.
  • Bruce is a cosponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which will strengthen protections against wage discrimination.
  • Bruce is a huge supporter of LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual) equality. He supports ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) along with many other equality bills and is a member of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus. 
  • While in Congress, he voted to repeal the discriminatory policy, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
  • While in Congress, he voted for an amendment that would ban the federal government from preventing states from legalizing the use of medical marijuana.
  • While in Congress, he voted to ban the National Security Agency (NSA) from collecting records under the PATRIOT Act. 

Staci Appel for U.S. House

I will be supporting Staci Appel this fall for United States House of Representatives for Iowa Third Congressional District. If Staci wins, she will make history as being the first woman to represent Iowa in Congress. Staci’s opponent is a radical Republican who is against all things progressive, which is complete opposite of Staci.

Staci Appel has fought for the middle class in the Iowa State Senate. She had a steadfast commitment to the people she served and Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (my current State Senator) took notice,”I have never seen a freshman legislator come to the capitol and work as hard as Staci Appel.” Staci worked on legislation that included Iowa’s statewide smoking ban, preschool for every 4 year old and she even championed the bill making Iowa the first state in the nation to require equal pay for equal work. Staci even has the endorsements of EMILY’s List, Women’s Campaign Fund, and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. 

Staci Appel voted to pass many progressive bills in the Iowa State Senate:

  • (HF 2539) Health Care Expansion Plan – Allows people under the age of 25 or enrolled as full-time students to be covered by their parents insurance and requires every child 12 years or under who receives medical assistance to receive dental assistance. (Before Obamacare)
  • (HF 653) Election Day Voter Registration – Allows Iowans to register to vote on the same day as the election using identification including driver’s licenses.
  • HPV Vaccination Coverage Bill  – Requires health insurance to cover vaccination or immunization for the human papilloma virus (HPV)
  • (SF 427) Full State EqualityBans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in public accommodations, education, employment, and housing, and includes creditors and insurance companies.

It is important for progressives to take back the U.S. House from the radical Republican Party and keep the U.S. Senate. If we don’t our great nation will head down a dangerous path where the wealthiest Americans and corporations will continue to buy America and control where our nation goes. They believe in exclusion and elitism. They believe in speaking and working for the interests of the corporations and the wealthiest Americans and not as the nation as a whole. They stand for cuts to programs that help the middle class  and working poor. They especially stand for cuts to social security, medicare, and food stamps. They also want to further cut funding to live-saving research like stem cell research. they believe in amending our nation’s constitution to ban equal human rights for LGBTQIA people. They want to take women’s reproductive rights away and give those rights and choices to the politicians. This what you are letting happen if you don’t vote for progressives like Bruce Braley and Staci Appel. 



Jack Hatch for Iowa Governor

This fall I will support Jack Hatch for Iowa Governor because I believe Iowa needs a fresh start and I believe Jack Hatch will bring that to the Governor’s office. Jack served five terms in the Iowa State House, served as U.S. Senator Tom Harkin’s State Director, and this year completed his third term in the Iowa State Senate.

Jack Hatch has been a leading progressive voice in Iowa from health care reform to environmental protection and has written some of the most significant legislation of the past three decades in Iowa, including the following:

  • Writing Iowa’s first and toughest environmental protection legislation (underground storage tank cleanup)
  • Leading statewide health care reform
  • Improving Iowa’s mental health system
  • Fighting to expand access to Medicaid
  • Creating the country’s largest minority scholarship program

Jack Hatch supports raising the Iowa minimum wage to $10.10, because he believes no one who works full-time should live in poverty. Jack also recognizes that most Iowans who are in minimum-wage households are women and children. Jack wants to give Iowa’s hardworking middle class families a tax break.  Jack also feels strongly about reducing college debt and creating vocational training in skilled occupations. His plans would allow students to cut debt by finishing school in three years and would provide a low-interest loan to the neediest families. 

Brad Anderson for Iowa Secretary of State

I will support Brad Anderson this fall for Iowa Secretary of State. I support Brad Anderson because Iowa needs a change in the office. Iowa needs someone who will do the job instead of focusing on partisan politics. 

“Iowa has a proud reputation for civic participation, but there is always room to improve when it comes to voter turnout. I believe the time has come for Iowa to take the reins as number one in the nation in voter turnout, and I have a plan to get us there within the next decade.” – Brad Anderson

  1. Simplify the Vote by Mail Process: Anderson supports allowing voters to sign up to vote-by-mail and check a box to automatically receive a ballot in the mail every election.
  2. Online Voter Registration: Online voter registration has proven to be secure and save local auditors’ time and taxpayers money.
  3. Create and Promote an Election Info Hub: Work with local auditors to provide a one-stop Election Information Hub for voters to check on accurate dates, times and polling locations for local and statewide election.
  4. Reduce Number of Elections: Reduce voter fatigue and apathy by reducing the number of elections. Combining many small elections into larger elections.
  5. Do No Harm: “Rather than chipping away at our voting laws and passing expensive, unnecessary bills that would make it more difficult for Iowans to vote, as Secretary of State I will devote our time and resources to finding ways to strengthen the integrity of our elections and get more Iowans to turnout for our elections.” – Brad Anderson

“New Businesses created in Iowa will help us grow our economy and bring jobs to our state, so it is incredibly important that we have a business filing system that is welcoming, affordable and efficient. My goal is simple – a new business should be able to log into the Secretary of State’s website and easily file their paperwork and pay the filing fee in under ten minutes.” – Brad Anderson

  1. Create an Online Checklist to help New Business Owner Determine which Filing is Needed for their Business
  2. Create an Online Filing Template for New Business Owners
  3. Pay Online

Sherrie Taha for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture

52c75f753e546.preview-620I am supporting Sherrie Taha for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture this fall. Sherrie was elected and currently serves as a Commissioner for the Polk County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD). She has served as the Recording Secretary/Treasurer for ATU Local 441 and on the Board of the League of Women Voters Metropolitan Des Moines.

Sherrie Taha believes as I do that it is Iowa’s responsibility to manage and care for our natural resources for future generations and ourselves. She recognizes that soil and water are fundamental to our lives and we cannot live without them. This is why Sherrie believes that it is vital we protect our water and soil from polluters.

Sherrie Taha also recognizes that Iowa agriculture is heavily focused on feed and fuel, which is why she believes we need to include food production in Iowa instead of importing our food.

Jon Neiderbach for Iowa State Auditor

DSC_9117I am supporting Jon Neiderbach this fall for Iowa State Auditor because Iowa needs an Auditor that actually does the job.  The current Auditor for some reason did not see any of the corruption in the Governor’s offices.

Jon Neiderbach graduated from Grinnell College with a B.A.  in Political Science in 1978 and went to the University of Oregon. Jon worked for 15 years at the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, which provides fiscal, and policy information and analysis for legislators. He also worked for 15 years as a Management Analyst for the Iowa Department of Human Services.

Jon Neiderbach plans do to do thorough audits, complete audits, fight for transparent government, and listen to Iowans.

“Iowa law requires that every audit address not just finances but also assess a government entity’s efficiency, effectiveness, and whether it operates in a business-like manner, yet the current State Auditor rarely does this. As your State Auditor, I will ask tough questions about spending and efficiency, and will require every unit of Iowa government to develop and report on real measures of program effectiveness.” – Jon Neiderbach

Michael Fitzgerald for Iowa State Treasurer

I am supporting Michael Fitzgerald for Iowa State Treasurer. Michael is the current State Treasurer. He is active on several national organizations including the College Savings Plans Network, National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers, and Treasurers, National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, and State Debt Management Network.

Michael Fitzgerald was born in Marshalltown, Iowa. He went to the University of Iowa where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. Prior to being elected State Treasurer in 1982, he worked as a marketing analyst for Massey Ferguson Company in Des Moines for eight years.

Tom Miller for Iowa State Attorney General

Tom.MillerI am supporting Tom Miller for Iowa Attorney General. Tom is Iowa’s current Attorney General and has done a great job! He has a reputation for integrity, high quality legal work and strong work on behalf of ordinary Iowans. 

Tom Miller was born in Dubuque, Iowa. He went to Loras College in 1966 and received his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1969. After law school, Tom served as legislative assistant to U.S. REpresentative John C. Culver (D-IA). He has served as legal education director with Baltimore Legal Aid, and taught part-time at the Maryland School of Law. In 1973, he returned to Iowa, opened a Law practice and served as city attorney of McGregor and Marquette, Iowa, and first ran for Attorney General in 1974.

Tom Miller is serving his eighth four-year term as Iowa State Attorney General. He has a long record of achieving results through cooperation with other State Attorneys General and with Attorneys General (NAAG) committees and led major multi-state working groups working on tobacco issues, antitrust enforcement, agriculture, and consumer protection. He is well known for his work to prevent crime and assist crime victims to protect consumers, and to be an advocate for people. 

Marti Nerenstone for Iowa State House

531fc7a20dbe1.imageI am supporting Marti Nerenstone for Iowa State Representative House District 16. Marti is a Veteran and she is an attorney who emphasizes on the rights of children and adults who may not otherwise have access to legal representation. Marti has served as the president of the Iowa Organization of Women Attorneys, and in 2011, she became president of the Pottawattamie county Bar Association.

Marti Nerenstone will promote economic opportunities for every Iowan. She supports education at all levels. She is an advocate for access to affordable quality health care, especially mental health services. She will promote and protect Iowa’s natural resources and environment. She is an advocate and defender of equal rights for every Iowan.






[All messaging in this post is not authorized by any political party, candidate, or candidates committee.]

*All pictures were not taken by www.mikacovington.com*

New Nationwide Campaign Demands: LGBT Rights Be Added to 1964 Civil Rights Act.

New Nationwide Campaign Demands that LGBT Rights be added to the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Vigil June 30th @ MLK Memorial Will Launch Campaign.

Add-4-WordsThe LGBT Equality Pledge Network – a new nationwide campaign for full LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) equality backed by over 240 organizations – will officially launch with an LGBT Civil Rights Vigil at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in D.C. beginning at 8:30pm, Monday, June 30th. the event theme is “Add 4 Words” reflecting a call for four words to be added to the 1964 Civil Rights Act: “sexual orientation – gender identity” (SO-GI). The event also celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the Act, on July 2nd, marking 50 years and counting until the day LGBT Americans are equally protected from the scourge of discrimination.

A new organization, www.LGBTequalityNOW.org, has been created to facilitate the Network, led by a wealth of veteran experience and diversity, including Erica Keppler, Chair of the Arizona Stonewall Democrats; Cathy Marino-Thomas, former chair of Marriage Equality USA; Veronica Eady, a straight-ally and African-American civil rights attorney currently at the Conservation Law Foundation; Josef Pons de Jesus previously with ACT-UP New York, Human Rights Campaign, and the National Latino Lesbian & Gay Organization; Pablo Colon, former community outreach and advocacy director at the Gay Men’s Health Crisis New York; Attorney Yetta Kurland, former candidate for City Council in New York City and a human rights advocate; Michael Miller, formerly with the AIDS Action Committee of Boston and Harvard AIDS Institute; and Executive Director and Board Chairperson, J. Todd Fernandez, Esquire, former Ombudsman to the Governor and General Council and Legislative Director for Economic Affairs of Massachusetts.

Building a powerful team, the new network is uniting the grassroots and state groups like never before, breaking the corporate insider mold with direct empowerment of local expects. Over 40 activists in 22 states are serving as volunteer state leads, including Attorney Peter Sergienko working with his gay son Eugene in Oregon; Richard Noble, from the Walk Across America; Attorney Stephen Zollman of the National Equality March; Jeff White-Perkins from Mississippi Gulf Coast Rainbow Center; straight-ally Jean Kryean of Pennsylvanian, and Mika Covington and Ken Riter, who have joined forces in Iowa and Nebraska (quotes below).

The unifying statement of principle for the over 240 groups in 44 states is the Pledge for Full LGBT Equality, which calls on the LGBT Caucus to file a one-bill strategy to add SO-GI to all the civil rights laws at once. The breadth of this community mandate spans sixteen statewide equality organizations from Equality Hawaii to Equality Illinois to Equality South Carolina; transgender groups such as Gender Rights Maryland and the Tennessee Trans Political Alliance; People of Color groups including LGBT Caribbean and the NYC Black Justice Alliance; PFLAG chapter from Pasadena to Ann Arbor; the ACLU of Mississippi, the Unitarian Universalists Association; Metropolitan Community Churches; the United Church of Christ; LGBT Democrats of Virginia, Palm Springs and Florida, 23 LGBT Community Centers from New York to San Francisco; LGBT Pride groups from New Orleans to Los Angeles to the Outer Banks; and InterPride, and over 11 City Council Proclamations from West Hollywood to New Orleans and Tallahassee.

The new strategy is in sharp contrast to the Human Rights Campaign’s push for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, now embroiled in community dissent because of the religious-exemptions that would leave our most vulnerable children behind. Groups including the ACLU, Lambda Legal, Equality California, Queer Nation, Equality Illinois, and others, strongly oppose the Senate version of ENDA, which would ensconce in federal law anti-LGBT discrimination in taxpayer-funded programs, as a concession for Republican votes, that entirely misses the point of organizing for social change.

“Seeking full equality is not just a legislative agenda, but is the antidote to the vast harm LGBT Americans endure under discrimination, which causes children to commit suicide, and keeps 53% of LGBT workers in the closet, living in daily fear,” said Todd Fernandex, campaign manager for the Equality Pledge Network. “The ENDA compromises are a sign of our movement’s strategic weaknesses, and they should not be accepted until we have first united in full force nationwide. We won this debate in Arizona with Republican Senators’ support, and it’s the debate we need to have as a nation to heal homophobia and transphobia in our culture.”

The Network’s information-filled website advances two main arguments: 1. That international law requires Congress to outlaw SO-GI discrimination, and 2. that the vast harm caused by discrimination, known as “minority stress,” makes this a public health emergency. As support, the site includes the United Nation’s Free & Equal campaign, the historic speech by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton proclaiming “gay rights are human rights,” and congressional expert testimony of Dr. Illan Meyers of the Williams Institute, backed by official reports of the United States Civil Rights Commission, the American Psychological Association, and others.

The 2014 Campaign goals include 1. Increasing Pledge support from 245 to 500 organizations, 2. Establishing state leads in all 50 states, 3. Conducting a 2014 Equality Poll to map support in Congress, and 4. Mounting a PSA campaign about “minority stress” impact including suicide and mental health disparities, such as depression, anxiety, and hypervigilance. LGBT Americans are suffering from these, unaware that societal discrimination is the cause, and this simple awareness could save lives and prevent suffering, while changing hearts and minds.

The vigil will feature pictures of LGBT Americans lost to suicide and murder, also honored on the website, to prevail upon the greater conscious of our nation to outlaw this societal abuse. Activists and religious leaders will carry rainbow falgas and herald the contributions of LGBT civil rights heroes Eleanor Roosevelt, who led the way on the Universal Declaration on Human Rights,  and Bayard Rustin, the gay human rights leader who was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work leading to the passage of the 1694 Civil Rights Act, which his community yearns to join.

Statements of Network State Leads & Board Members

Massachusetts: Veronica Eady, Board Member, LGBTequalityNOW.org, Civil Rights Attorney

“As an African American woman, I understand why only fully inclusive nondiscrimination laws meet the standard for basic human dignity in our nation. The inclusion of LGBT Americans in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is right and necessary.”

Mississippi: Jeff White-Perkins, President Mississippi Gulf Coast Rainbow Center

“We in Mississippi support this pledge because throughout the history of our state, we have learned the lesson of how inequality can cause the destruction of the human spirit and how that can last for hundreds of years within the hearts and minds of our citizens. We hope to end that here and now.”

New York: Cathy Marino-Thomas, Board, LGBTequalityNOW.org, former Board Chair, Marriage Equality USA

“Marriage equality, although important for our families, is not full federal equality. The time to be fully equal is now!”

Nebraska: Ken Riter, Nebraskans for Equality

“Nebraskans for Equality is proud and excited to be part of a new dialogue for LGBT equality. It is time LGBT people learn about other areas of their rights as Americans that deserve full equal attention under the law.”

Louisiana: Marcino Savant, Entertainment Chair, Equality Pledge Network

“The Pledge [LGBT Equality Pledge] is a no-brainer. There is no gray area, in equality. Either we are EQUAL, or we’re not. The constitution has already answered in the letter and the spirit of the document. I choose equality. Equality now.”

California: Attorney Stephen Zollman, formerly of the National Equality March

“As Northern CAlifornia’s State Lead for the Equality Pledge Network, and Founder of Guerneville’s Next Steps Towards Full Legal Equality, I would like to say that everyone needs to do this for your youth! None of our youth should ever feel lesser than. Full Federal Equality Now!!”

Arizona: Erica Keppler, Chair, Arizona Stonewall Democrats, Board Member, LGBTequalityNOW.org

“For too long we have settled for pursuing piecemeal solutions to systemic cultural bigotry. It is time to deal with the entire problem head on. It is time for full federal equality.”

Texas: Joyce Arnold

“With the state of inequality the reality for millions of us, residing in every state (including here in Texas), full equality at the federal level is crucial to advocacy efforts.”

Florida: Keri Kidder, Florida State Pledge Lead

“Jacksonville, Florida is still behind in Equality and we will continue to fight until everyone is equal.”

Iowa: Mika Covington, Iowa State Pledge Lead

“As an new Iowan, I have come to experience equal rights here in Iowa. They are awesome. However, they are constantly under attack and we have to constantly fight to keep them. This is why it is more important than ever to get full federal human rights for everyone no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity. The fight forward is not over until all humans have full and equal human rights.”

New York: Pablo Colon, LGBT Activist, Board Member, LGBTequalityNOW.org

“We LGBT people, your sons, daughters, brothers and sisters demand to be equal under the law as we are under God! Join the Equality Pledge Network and be on the right side of history.”

Pennsylvania: Jean Kryven, Pennsylvania State Lead

“Friends and family suffering discrimination and violence inspired me to volunteer with Equality Pledge Network. As a middle-aged straight ally, I was alive when Americans were killed while working for Civil Rights. From child labor laws at the turn of the century to the EQual Pay Act, mobilization and legislation are what expand good health, joy, and prosperity for all Americans.”


The Equality Pledge Network
Website: www.LGBTequalityNOW.org
Twitter: @EqualityPledge
Facebook: http://bit.ly/Add4WordsDCjune30