Im­mi­gra­tion re­form tops key is­sues at LGBT Cre­at­ing Change.

Ac­tivists: LGBT com­mu­ni­ties must ally with oth­ers to en­sure equal­ity for all

GA Voice - - News - By Dyana Bagby dbagby@the­

When Pres­i­dent Barack Obama an­nounced Tues­day in Las Ve­gas that now is the time for “com­mon-sense com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion re­form,” he echoed a cru­cial por­tion of the na­tional LGBT Cre­at­ing Change con­fer­ence in At­lanta.

Now is the time for im­mi­gra­tion re­form and now is the time for LGBT peo­ple to ac­cept that im­mi­gra­tion re­form is part of their move­ment as well, said numer­ous ac­tivists through­out the Cre­at­ing Change con­fer­ence, held Jan. 23-27 at the Hil­ton Ho­tel in down­town At­lanta. The 25th an­nual con­fer­ence, which is held in a dif­fer­ent city each year, drew more than 3,000 ac­tivists from across the coun­try as well as China and Tai­wan.

While Pres­i­dent Obama didn’t speak pub­licly about LGBT fam­i­lies dur­ing his Jan. 29 speech on im­mi­gra­tion re­form, he in­cluded pro­vi­sions for bi-na­tional gay and les­bian cou­ples in his frame­work for re­form, as well as the prin­ci­ples of the DREAM Act — “leg­is­la­tion that pro­vides a stream­lined path to cit­i­zen­ship for young peo­ple who came to the coun­try as chil­dren and are go­ing to school or serv­ing their coun­try.”

Jose An­to­nio Var­gas, a gay Pulitzer-win­ning jour­nal­ist who “came out of a sec­ond closet” when he re­vealed to in a 2011 New York Times Mag­a­zine es­say that he was an un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grant, was pre­sented the Cre­at­ing Change Award dur­ing the Jan. 25 ple­nary. He urged at­ten­dees to pay at­ten­tion to the is­sue and to stand up for their friends and al­lies in the move­ment.

“As im­mi­gra­tion re­form be­comes the key is­sue of this year, we must ad­vo­cate for each other so no one is left out of the con­ver­sa­tion,”Var­gas said.

There are ap­prox­i­mately 11 mil­lion un­doc­u­mented peo­ple liv­ing in the U.S. and in the past four years, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has de­ported more than 1.5 mil­lion un­doc­u­mented peo­ple — in­clud­ing LGBT peo­ple.

Rea Carey, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of The Task Force, gave a State of the Move­ment speech on Jan. 24, and said while we can em­brace re­cent vic­to­ries on the mar­riage front as well as the re­elec­tion of Pres­i­dent Obama, there is still much to be done to en­sure all of those within the LGBT fam­ily are not left be­hind.

“If there is one mes­sage we can take away from Elec­tion Night 2012, it is that we are not alone. We are not alone as a move­ment, as a peo­ple, and we need to make sure no one else is alone ei­ther.

“Yes, this is our moment — an LGBT move­ment moment. But, if we are to be truly trans­for- ma­tional as a move­ment, we must use this moment to not only ben­e­fit LGBT peo­ple but the coun­try as a whole. That is our lead­er­ship chal­lenge as a move­ment,” she said.

What now?

Carey also sat in on a panel that dis­cussed na­tional LGBT po­lit­i­cal strat­egy un­der the next four years of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion with other top lead­ers: Jamie Ens­ley, vice chair of the Log Cabin Repub­li­cans, who lives in At­lanta and is also a board mem­ber of Ge­or­gia Equal­ity; Mara Keis­ling, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Cen­ter for Trans­gen­der Equal­ity; Sharon Lettman-Hicks, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Black Jus­tice Coali­tion; and Kirk Ford­ham, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Gill Ac­tion, a or­ga­ni­za­tion founded by phi­lan­thropist Tim Gill which funds state-fo­cused cam­paigns to de­feat anti-gay mea­sures as well as help pro-LGBT can­di­dates and poli­cies.

The Task Force runs a coali­tion of 27 or­ga­ni­za­tions, most LGBT but not all, and be­fore Pres­i­dent Obama was elected in 2008 the coali­tion con­ducted an in­ven­tory of the fed­eral government to de­ter­mine where dis­crim­i­na­tion ex­ists, Carey ex­plained.

“We looked for things that did not need Con­gres­sional ap­proval and started out with 80 poli­cies and made them user-friendly for the ad­min­is­tra­tion,” she said, not­ing this can work at the state level as well.

“We’ve been able to change seven to 10 poli­cies a year. One of the most no­table is get­ting the De­part­ment of Com­merce to count our mar- riages,” Carey said.

The coali­tion was also a force in get­ting the ad­min­is­tra­tion to im­ple­ment a pol­icy that pro­hibits dis­crim­i­na­tion against LGBT peo­ple who ap­ply for pub­lic hous­ing.

For the sec­ond term, one of the chal­lenges is that the poli­cies be­ing ad­dressed by the coali­tion are not as high pro­file but will have a huge im­pact on LGBT lives, she said. For ex­am­ple, en­sur­ing LGBT ques­tions are in­cluded on ev­ery fed­eral sur­vey given.

“There are hun­dreds and hun­dreds of fed­eral sur­veys that col­lect data but LGBT peo­ple are not there at all. We want to make sure our lives are rep­re­sented,” Carey said.

Col­lect­ing this data will al­low for LGBT groups to ap­ply for fund­ing and di­rect pro­grams to the LGBT com­mu­nity, she said.

Keis­ling said trans­gen­der poli­cies have pro­gressed at “light­en­ing speeds” un­der the first term of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“What I love as a good government per­son and ide­o­log­i­cal per­son … is [the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion] hasn’t turned the keys over to the left wing. We’ve been say­ing here’s a prob­lem, here’s how to fix it, and we usu­ally win it,” she said, adding that the gay move­ment is now gen­er­ally trans in­clu­sive.

More than mar­riage

But in the fu­ture the LGBT move­ment has to un­der­stand it can­not be a one-is­sue move­ment — that one is­sue be­ing gay mar­riage.

Hav­ing Obama rec­og­nize mar­riage equal­ity in his in­au­gu­ral speech was a great feat, but it also sends the mes­sage that the LGBT move­ment had reached full ma­tu­rity even though there are still so many other is­sues to work on, Keis­ling said.

Ens­ley said that with a sec­ond term, there typ­i­cally comes a nine or 10 month span when real leg­is­la­tion can get passed — and this is the year to fi­nally pass the Em­ploy­ment Non-Dis­crim­i­na­tion Act, which would ban job dis­crim­i­na­tion based on sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion and gen­der iden­tity.

The Na­tional Black Jus­tice Coali­tion wants peo­ple to be mind­ful that it is a black pres­i­dent that has been the most LGBT-sup­port­ive pres­i­dent ever and that it is time to undo the “black ver­sus gay nar­ra­tive” that has played out for years.

“Gay peo­ple, you need to un­der­stand black peo­ple and lis­ten to them and reach out to them,” Lettman-Hicks said, adding that black LGBT peo­ple have a 36 per­cent un­em­ploy­ment rate com­pared to the na­tional 8 per­cent.

Mean­ing­ful jus­tice rec­og­nizes cul­tural dif­fer­ences, she added.

“When deal­ing with race and cul­ture and LGBT iden­ti­ties we are mul­ti­ple mi­nori­ties. Where is that in the scheme of things?” she asked. “Ev­ery­one has the data that is show­ing peo­ple of color who are LGBT are more out, poorer, and live in the South. But who is lis­ten­ing to it?”

Pulitzer-win­ning jour­nal­ist Jose An­to­nio Var­gas (far right), who made pop­u­lar the term ‘un­doc­u­mented Amer­i­can,’ leads a panel on im­mi­gra­tion re­form with DREAM ac­tivists at this year’s Cre­at­ing Change con­fer­ence. (Photo by Dyana Bagby)

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