Saturday, April 26, 2014

HRC Launches $8.5M Campaign To Advance LGBT Equality In Deep South

The largest LGBT political advocacy organization in the United States has announced the launch of Project One America, an $8.5 million, 3-year project to advance LGBT equality in the Deep South states of Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas.

There are nine specific goals of Project One America:

  1. Empower LGBT people (and straight allies) to come out.
  2. Raise the visibility of LGBT people and issues with the general public.
  3. Create safer environments for LGBT young people.
  4. Build partnerships with faith communities, communities of color, business communities, and conservatives.
  5. Create a more inclusive workplace for LGBT people
  6. Build support for enduring legal protections that ensure LGBT equality.
  7. Expand participation in HRC’s Municipal Equality Index in these three states.
  8. Create a more inclusive healthcare environment for LGBT people
  9. Equip LGBT people and non-traditional allies as spokespeople

ABC News reports:
The aim is to first change hearts and minds so that people hiding their sexual orientation will be more comfortable about coming out publicly. As that occurs, organizers believe, communities and states will be more likely to adopt laws to prevent discrimination. 
"You overcome all of the objections by having conversations and getting to know your neighbors," Chad Griffin, an Arkansas native and president of Human Rights Campaign, said in an interview with The Associated Press. 
With a checkered history in race relations, Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi resisted civil and voting rights for blacks in the 1960s. And unlike other Southern states, the three still haven't enacted legal safeguards to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation in areas like housing and employment. 
Yet surveys have shown the states have roughly the same percentage of gay residents as other states, Griffin said, and Human Rights Campaign has a total of 57,000 members and supporters in the states, which have a total population of 10.7 million people. 
Organizers hope to accelerate change that already has included four Mississippi towns passing non-binding resolutions against LGBT discrimination. In Alabama, a civil rights museum is currently showing a photo exhibit of LGBT youth aimed at promoting acceptance. 
"The pace of progress really has been fast, but you can't leave anyone behind," said Griffin.
As Vice President Biden would say, this is a BFD. I am curious as to what the local LGBT groups in those states feel about HRC coming in and essentially becoming the statewide LGBT group in each of these states. On one hand, they will build capacity for LGBT equality in the targeted states, but I
find it hard to believe that there was no organizing going on in those states (Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi) before this.

This is a risky but encouraging move for HRC. The South is also the region with the largest African-American fraction of the population and HRC is not known as the most racially diverse or
progressive of organizations so there are bound to be some complications and fractures along race and class lines while the work advances.

But I give them much props for trying, and putting their money where their mouth is.

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