Win, lose, or draw: we still have work to do!

Dear families and friends:

This morning’s Supreme Court ruling in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case wasn’t a win, or a loss: it was a draw.

“Religious exemption” arguments may not be used to justify discrimination against LGBTQ people. And LGBTQ people in the 19 states who are currently protected – as in California – remain just as protected today as we were yesterday.

But the court missed an opportunity to strike down those “religious exemption” arguments once and for all. The larger issues remain unresolved by the court, so we still have a lot of work ahead of us to ensure nondiscrimination protections nation-wide.

For those unfamiliar with the case, here’s a thumbnail sketch from the ACLU:

“In 2012, Mullins and Craig visited the Masterpiece Cakeshop to order a cake for their wedding.  After the bakery turned the would-be customers away because they were a same-sex couple, Mullins and Craig filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The commission found that the bakery had discriminated against the couple in violation of Colorado law, a decision the Colorado courts upheld. The Supreme Court today found that members of the Commission had made statements evidencing anti-religious bias, and thus had not given a fair consideration to the bakery’s claims.”

So: the ruling was in favor of the baker, but in a very narrow, “case-specific” way. What does that mean?

We still have work to do: we must continue to vigorously oppose “religious exemption” arguments to justify discrimination, and  we must continue to vigorously advocate for federal-level protections for all LGBTQ people via the Equality Act. Our Family Coalition Emeritus Board member and nationally-recognized family law expert Deborah Wald underscores the need for this kind of legistation:

“While we respect every person’s right to practice their religion, we cannot be a country where businesses can choose to cater to only one race, one religion, or one sexual orientation or gender.  Each of us must have the right to walk into any store on any street in America with confidence that we will be treated with respect.”

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees we all have the right to pracice our own religion, or no religion at all. But it has never meant that religion can be used as justification to discriminate. Father Richard Smith, Vicar of St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in San Francisco, clarifies how important this is for all of us, regardless of faith:

“If it was morally reprehensible in the Jim Crow south for business owners to refuse to serve people who were black, it is equally reprehensible for them now to refuse to serve people who are gay. For too long, bogus theological and legal claims have justified discrimination. Let’s call this one what it is: sheer bigotry that denies the dignity of human beings created in God’s image.”

What can you do today?

  • If they don’t already, urge your representative to support the Equality Act, which amends the Civil Rights act to include LGBTQ people – and if they do, thank them!
  • If they don’t already, urge your representative to support Do No Harm Act, which amends the Religious Fredom Restoration Act to ensure it’s not used in a discriminatory way– and if they do, thank them!
  • Join our Speaker’s Bureau and help amplify the voices of LGBTQ family in all these issues affecting us.
  • Support Our Family Coalition’s ongoing efforts to ensure equity for all of us.

It was never about the cake. And: the baker’s win is not, in simple terms, our loss. But we still have work to do. We’re honored to do it together with you.

Yours in solidarity,

Renata Moreira
Executive Director

P.S. Our friends at the National Equality Action Team and the ACLU have made it easy to find a rally in your area to show your support of nondiscrimination protections and opposition to the use of religion as a weapon.

Oh, What a Night Out!

Dear beloved community:

What a night! Thanks to all who made this year’s Night Out gala an unprecedented success. Hundreds of community leaders, sponsors, and donors came together to honor leadership, celebrate, and give very generously to help ensure we can sustain and expand our critical work.

We kicked off the evening by honoring SalesforceAssemblymember Evan Lowand Abundant Beginnings, for their exemplary work as allies and champions on behalf of LGBTQ families and the broader LGBTQ community.

At Night Out, we also premiered our 2018 video Making History: Our Family Coalition and the FAIR Education Act. Please take a look and let us know what you think! I hope you’ll be inspired by our Coalition’s efforts to advance LGBTQ-inclusive education in CA.

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As you know, OFC is in a critical moment in our work and in our movement to advance equity for LGBTQ families and our children. We have accomplished so much in the face of a hostile political climate and know that our efforts are needed more than ever as we face daily threats to our hard won gains. We thank our generous Champions whose support helps make our work possible: Brio Financial Group, The California Endowment, Ettinger Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, Pacific Fertility Center, Pure Storage, and Target. We also express deepest gratitude for all of our sponsors and donors. Please visit our website to check out the stellar list of Teacher and Advocate-level sponsors as well as more details about our honorees.

Finally, we are excited to report that the donations in the room exceeded our goals, and we will honor this generosity through continued, vigorous advocacy, education, and community-building!  Your generosity and commitment has and will continue to help make all this difference.

Yours with gratitude and renewed determination,


Renata Moreira
Executive Director

P.S. If you were not able to join us at Night Out, please enjoy it vicariously by checking out our online Night Out 2018 photo album. And we invite you to give what feels good to you. All funds benefit LGBTQ families, our allies, and the millions of California schoolkids who will be learning LGBTQ-inclusive history because of your support.

New attacks against LGBTQ families & our community (under the guise of “religious liberty”)

Yesterday the Trump administration took another step toward conservative, evangelical theocracy.

Thanks to a sensational news day, this year’s declaration received less attention than last year’s “Executive Order Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty.” But it’s no less concerning, since it continues to embolden and empower those who would weaponize religion against constitutionally recognized protections, pointedly of LGBTQ people and our families.

In a thorough piece covering the announcement, Daily Beast journalist Samantha Allen sets yesterday’s Executive Order in context, and conveys statements from  our colleagues at the ACLU and Lambda Legal, who are watching this closely. Allen notes:

Much like the HHS Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, the new White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative does not amount to major new policy—although Trump promised in his remarks Thursday morning that it will “help design new policies that recognize the vital role of faith in our families, our communities, and our great country.”

Overlooked in so many treatments of this subject is the fact that 81% of Americans believe the law should not allow companies or other institutions to use religious believes to decided whether to offer a service to some people and not others (per the ACLU, here). Likewise overlooked is the fact that a majority of LGBTQ people nationwide consider themselves active members of a faith community, most of them Christian (13% Evangelical, per the 2014 Pew Religious Landscape Study here). That said, LGBTQ Americans are far more likely to be “unaffiliated” with a faith than other Americans. And too many of us have experienced exclusion from faiths in which we were raised. None of this dampens the vibrancy of the many open and affirming congregations that are home to so many of us.

The application of “religious liberty” arguments thus far have proved that these gestures are designed primarily to provide cover for unconstitutional denials of service (details in the recent report, Religious Refusals in Health Care: A Prescription for Disaster).  As always, we’ll remain alert along with our allies, and confident that our greatest power lies in our love. Please help us amplify the true stories about our families and our faiths. What do you believe in? What does freedom for and freedom from religion mean to you? Send us your words or join the Speakers’ Bureau; contact us at media@ourfamily.org.

Join us at Night Out to thank Salesforce for fierce advocacy

Night Out is a party with a mission.  Sure, it’s a night of festivity, food, and fellowship. But we’re also there to party with a purpose: we celebrate our wins over the past year, and we marshal resources for our work in the year to come. And perhaps most important, we express our deep gratitude to the people and organizations who have championed LGBTQ families over the previous year.

Salesforce Outforce members carry the Salesforce #EqualityForAll banner at San Francisco Pride.

We are honoring Salesforce as our private sector Ally this year, and for very good reason. The company is committed to equity and inclusion in the workplace, earning a number one ranking on Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” as well as Indeed’s “Best Place to Work” list and the Employee’s Choice award on Glassdoor’s “Best Places to Work” list. With approximately 20,000 employees, that adds up to a lot of LGBTQ parents and caregivers experiencing a strong, supportive workplace.

Tony Prophet’s selfie with Salesforce staff at Pride in Hyderabad, India

But Salesforce’s allyship goes even further than this.  Their workplace equity advocacy is exemplary, with clearly articulated equality-driven values, and a record both of supporting LGBTQ relationship recognition and of fighting attempts to roll back protections of LGBT Qpeople in the states which have been doing so, signing a friend of the court brief in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, and going so far as to cancel all corporate travel to Indiana and subsidize LGBTQ employee relocations when it proposed its Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  

The leadership on this issue comes from the top: CEO Mark Benioff and “the other CEO,” Salesforce’s founding Chief Equality Officer Tony Prophet, who will be receiving the Ally Award on behalf of Salesforce.  In explaining his work, Prophet has said,

Naturally, companies are going to stand for equality and non-discrimination in the workplace. That is imperative. We are also dedicated to standing for equality in the communities where we serve not just our own interests but for the interests our customers, the interests of our partners and for the interests of our employees and their families.

Prophet’s own commitment to LGBTQ advocacy goes deep, and indicates that he’s every bit as devoted an ally as is Salesforce:

My son is a proud LGBTQ advocate and a member or the LGBTQ community. I’ve been on this journey with my son as a father and I’ve come a million miles on that journey with all the things that I have learned and seen through the eyes of my son how it feels to be LGBTQ. When you hear statistics, there are abstract numbers — thousands and millions. But when you see one person that you love and you’re putting yourself in their shoes, you see how they’re experiencing life and the things that they celebrate and the things that cause them great heartache, how it feels, those are things that change your life.

Allies like this indeed change our lives. Join us on May 11 to help celebrate and give thanks. And if you have even more to give: some sponsorships are still available: contact jenny@ourfamily.org or call 415-981-1960 for more information.

Guess who’s being honored in this year’s SF Pride Parade?

Hello, beautiful families and friends,

Our Family Coalition is honored to be among this year’s San Francisco Pride Community Grand Marshals and Honorees!

We will be accepting San Francisco Pride’s José Julio Sarria History Maker Award * on behalf of the FAIR Education Act Implementation Coalition, for which we’re the convening and lead agency.  We’re honored to accept the award on behalf of our many FAIR Education Act Implementation Coalition partners: The Committee on LGBT HistoryGSA Network,  the LA LGBT Center, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Equality California, the Safe Schools Coalition, and leaders such as Don Romesburg, Carolyn Laub, and Judy Appel, who worked hard in or alongside Our Family Coalition for years to get LGBT history into CA’s textbooks.

Fourteen individuals and organizations have also been recognized among this year’s Community Grand Marshals and Honorees for the inspiring work they have been doing on behalf of our community. We offer them our hearty congratulations, and invite you to check them out here.

San Francisco Pride’s José Julio Sarria History Maker Award is given to “Bay Area people who make extraordinary changes in the way society views the LGBTQ community.”  And what an honor for the FAIR Ed Act Implementation Coalition to be awarded it! Because that’s exactly the aim of our work.

Our goal, shared by the half-dozen-plus agencies we lead in this coalition, is to ensure that the six million students in California’s K-12 public schools – along with all our future generations – receive an education that includes knowledge about LGBTQ people, our families, and our contributions in history and social science.

It has taken more than a village and more than a decade to get this far, and the work is far from done to make this goal into a reality.  Please help us keep working county by county, district by district, to ensure that teachers are able to receive the training and support they want and need to deliver this curriculum effectively. For our kids, and for the generation that’s growing up alongside them.

And stay tuned for more! Because we just may be marching a little closer to the front of the parade this year. 😉

With pride and gratitude,

Renata Moreira,
Executive Director, Our Family Coalition

Join us at our Night Out Gala on May 11th! Announcing our 2018 honorees.

Hello, friends and families!

It’s time for another Night Out! For ten years, Night Out has been the only event exclusively supporting LGBTQ families with children in the Bay Area. Night Out brings together hundreds of the Bay Area’s most committed leaders and partners in the LGBTQ family justice and education movement. Elected officials, corporate sponsors, community partners, and major donors gather together to celebrate our families and our accomplishments, and marshal the resources for Our Family Coalition’s future.

On Friday, May 11, 2018, at 6pm, we’ll gather and celebrate at the InterContinental, San Francisco. Will you join us? Early Bird tickets are on sale through midnight April 15.

This year we’ll be honoring three powerful advocates for our families. We’re proud to announce:

  • Tony Prophet, founding Chief Equality Officer at Salesforce,  will be receiving our Ally Award on behalf of Salesforce for their work advancing gender, LGBTQ, and racial equity at Salesforce and beyond.
  • Evan Low, California State Assemblymember representing 28th District, will receive our Luminary Award for his work advancing equity for LGBTQ Californians as the co-chair of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus.
  • Shayna Cureton, of Abundant Beginnings, will receive our Community Partner Award on behalf of their team for Abundant’s amazing activism work to create social change in our schools and our communities.
  • At Night Out this year we’ll also be launching a thrilling new Emeritus Board that will harvest the brain trust of OFC’s over twenty years of change-making and support. Stay tuned!

We offer our thanks to the dozens of leading companies, organizations, and individuals who have already committed to making this year’s event a huge success, including Brio Financial Group, Ettinger Foundation, Pacific Fertility CenterPure StorageTarget, and many more.

Sponsorship opportunities and benefits are still available! Please email Jenny@ourfamily.org by April 20 if you’d like to join these visionary advocates for LGBTQ families.

It’s an evening of inspiration not to be missed. I’m looking forward to welcoming you on May 11th.

Warmly,


Executive Director

      [downloads PDF]

Tell us what you want – what you really, really want

Hello, beautiful community!

We at Our Family Coalition are taking a long look at the local and national landscape, the work we’ve been doing locally, and the work that’s ahead of us. For over 20 years, we’ve been guided by a mission to ensure that LGBTQ families in the Bay Area and beyond get the resources, training, support, and advocacy they need to enjoy legal and social equity, visibility in our culture and our schools, strong bonds within our communities and with our allies, and strong families – regardless of who we are or where we live.

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The Spice Girls, imploring as only they can.

So, tell us what you want – what you really, really want! To help us focus this vision and set our course.

What direction do you think we should take? What issues, projects, resources should we put our efforts into, to make your family’s life fuller and more free? What matters to you most, what transformations in LGBTQ and LGBTQ family community feel the most pressing to you?

WE’VE GOT JUST THE SHORT SURVEY FOR YOU!

It’s short and sweet (an episode of your favorite show would take longer), and though it’s anonymous, you can choose to enter to win a $50 VISA gift certificate if you share your email and are open to follow-up questions.

What do you say?

[survey will be open through the end of the first week of April]

New GOP “license to discriminate bill reintroduced.” Act now.

The GOP is bound and determined to use the calamity of Trump’s presidency and their current House and Senate majorities to do as much damage to our communities as possible.  Yesterday brought another very consequential threat, and it must not go unnoticed.

Republican senators just re-introduced the so-called “First Amendment Defense Act” (FADA). This news remains out of the media limelight today, but it’s huge: this bill would weaponize a narrow spectrum of conservative religious beliefs about marriage and sexuality, granting agencies across the country even more widespread license to discriminate against LGBTQ families, LGBTQ individuals, unmarried folks of all kinds, and a host of others. For example:

  • government employees could refuse to serve married same-sex couples and their families in critical ways such as not processing tax returns, visa applications, or Social Security checks;
  • employers could refuse to grant employees family or medical leave to take care of their same-sex spouses;
  • employers could fire an unmarried female employee for getting pregnant;
  • hospitals could refuse to allow visitation to same-sex partners and spouses;
  • social services like homeless shelters, drug treatment programs, and adoption agencies could turn away anyone who has had sex outside of a man-woman marriage; and
  • commercial landlords could refuse to provide housing to a single mother.

They’ve been at this for years, but ramped up big time when Trump took office. With last year’s Justice Department guideline on “religious freedom,” anti-LGBTQ discrimination became more than tolerated: it’s receiving tax advantages. The recently established federal “Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom” is meant to accomplish the same aims.

So now, GOP senators have re-introduced First Amendment Defense Act. It’s a body blow to LGBTQ people, to the separation of church and state, and to our constitutional democracy.

We at Our Family Coalition join with hundreds of partners across the state and nation to push back against ill-informed leaders who use religion as a weapon to hurt LGBTQ families and communities.

What can you do?

We cannot allow our communities’ rights to be rolled back to medieval times. Let us take action, let us pool our resources,  and let us be guided by our love – of our children and of justice.

Increasing LGBTQ family visibility & support for our diverse communities

This past weekend, the 2nd Annual LGBTQI+ Family Formation Symposium was held in Santa Rosa, California, where Our Family Coalition Executive Director Renata Moreira delivered the keynote address.

The family formation symposium was hosted by North Bay LGBTQI Families, a parent-led, volunteer-led organization aimed at serving and supporting LGBTQI families in Sonoma County. Their impact, however, reaches far beyond the North Bay.

It was a welcome invitation to participate at this year’s symposium and a message Executive Director Renata Moreira made clear to all in attendance: “We are thrilled to be supporting LGBTQ parent leadership on the ground in Sonoma county and hope to see many more groups popping up across the state to continue increasing LGBTQ family visibility & support for our diverse communities.” Event organizer Leslie Wiser described what it meant to her in moving terms: “The Symposium was the culmination of a 3-month labor of love by 5 committed Sonoma County parents to build community in a rural and isolated area. We wanted to streamline the information needed in the family formation process, raise awareness of the hoops we have to jump through to build and protect our families, amplify the voices of QTPOC and their families, and bring issues of justice, diversity, and school safety to North Bay parents, educators and administrators. It was a smashing success for the 2nd year in a row. Ana Flores-Tindall, Zahyra Garcia, Sara Flores, Emily Gaines and I look forward to continue to uplift the voices of the most oppressed in our queer community of families at our next annual events – the Sonoma County Queer Family Campout and Pride Parade March the first weekend in June.”

The symposium was split into three blocks, Build, Protect, and Advocate: panel discussions and information surrounded topics such as family formation options for prospective parents or existing families wanting to expand; legal considerations for both existing and prospective families; and advocacy to create safe and welcoming schools for our children and LGBTQ youth.

Education Director Tarah Fleming led a workshop during the all-day symposium outlining practical ways local schools can foster a more inclusive classroom environment and school community. With recent wins for the State of California in the implementation of the FAIR Ed Act, enacting change in school curricula is an essential step in creating safer, more inclusive schools and changing the climate in which our children learn and grow.

Moving into the second year of the Trump administration’s leadership and oftentimes, wanton abuse of power, as an organization at the forefront of LGBTQ family equity and justice, Our Family Coalition understands the ever-pressing urgency in advocacy, education and support for our communities, both locally and nationally. With recent findings showing a drop in LGBTQ acceptance across the States, it is imperative that we continue to create and foster extant LGTBQ community organizations, especially in areas where accessibility to resources and support are harder to come by. Thanks to the hard work of the folks in Sonoma, Napa, Marin, and Solano counties, that is changing. One symposium and one family at a time.

 

OFC Condemns Trump Administration’s License to Discriminate

Our Family Coalition joins the many reproductive rights, LGBTQ, and civil rights groups in strongly condemning the Trump Administration’s new “Conscience and Religious Freedom” division in the U.S. Department Health and Human Services, announced yesterday.

Directing federal resources to provide additional protections for health care providers “who refuse to perform, accommodate, or assist with certain health care services on religious or moral grounds” is a de facto license to discriminate, plain and simple.

Debates about medical ethics and freedom of conscience refusals have been around long before this administration. But according to the American Medical Association’s own Principles of Medical Ethics, the medical profession has never undermined physicians’ right to “choose whom to serve and whom to associate with, excepting emergencies.”  However:

conscientious objection must be tempered by the statements of principle 8; which states when caring for a patient, physicians must regard the interests of the patient as “paramount;” and principle 9 which states that physicians shall support access to medical care for all peoples.

And over ten years ago, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Committee on Ethics made clear:

In an emergency in which referral is not possible or might negatively affect a patient’s physical or mental health, providers have an obligation to provide medically indicated and requested care regardless of the providers moral objections.1

The establishment clause of the Constitution’s First Amendment also makes it clear: the federal government has no business in the religion business. Neither in prohibiting the free exercise of it, nor in elevating one in particular.  

We’ve already seen the impact on LGBTQ families of this federally promoted religious conservatism. In their brief to the Supreme Court case on the Makepiece Cakeshop last October, our colleagues at Family Equality Council shared testimony from a lesbian couple in Texas, who faced denial of service from a pediatric dentist, in spite of their two-year-old crying and bleeding from a knocked-out front tooth after a fall:

H.C. recounts: “I was at work at the time. When my wife and daughter arrived at the dentist’s office, he asked my wife ‘who is the real mother?’ … My wife … explained that M.C. has two mothers. The dentist told my wife that ‘a child cannot have two mothers’ and said that he would only see the biological mother (me) of our daughter with a birth certificate as proof. My wife called me sobbing, and told me, ‘They want the real mom to be here. You have to come and bring M.C.’s birth certificate before they will treat her.’ I was shocked. … We were blindsided by this whole encounter.

Although my wife and I … expected we might face discrimination at some point in our lives …, we never expected to face discrimination from a medical provider—especially from someone taking care of our child. I don’t think anything could have prepared us for this.”

Something similar happened in Michigan. And these are just two cases of many.  Our colleagues at Lambda Legal have outlined the legal problems and social impact  this new division will cause, and outline its roots in the Trump Administration’s abuse of arguments on behalf of “religious freedom,” which it has used to justify attacks on LGBTQ people and women since its first month in power.

Religious freedom means a lot of things to a lot of people. So, evidently, does democracy. If the past several years in American politics have shown us anything, it’s that these fundamentals are more vulnerable than we may ever have thought. Our communities, our children, and indeed our love of these basic tenets demands that if we cherish them, we have to fight vigilantly for them. Our Family Coalition is here, side by side with our communities and allies, to do so.

Join us!  By submitting a post for this blog or our newsletter, or getting on our Speakers’ Bureau, or coming with us to Sacramento to speak with legislators, or coming to volunteer at any of our dozens of monthly community events. Together, we will ensure that the bright spirit of our democracy remains undimmed, for the whole of the extended American family.

 

 1. Both the American Medical Association statement and theAmerican College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Committee on Ethics statement can be found in Felipe Vizcarrondo, MD, MA, FCP’s “Freedom of Conscience Revisited,” in the March 2016 American College of Pediatricians Issues in Medical Ethics.