Advocacy Lessons Learned from the USA’s Marriage Equality Battle – Two Books and a Panel Discussion

Long time marriage equality activist and author Tracy Hollister will be moderating the February 24 panel discussion

Fighting for equality and dealing with gross inequities in human society has been a hot subject from the distant past through today, and it will no doubt continue far into the future. Over the centuries, many societal inequities have been addressed when the adversely impacted parties advocated for their own rights working with fair-minded allies. Here in the USA, we abolished slavery followed by the long and continuing journey for racial equality. We have seen that same gradual change with our female population starting with our granting the right to vote, continuing to address workplace equality, moving on now to tackle the unfortunate prevalence of sexual harassment. (See links to my blogs on these issues at the bottom on this blog.)

And now one of the most stunning movements in modern American history has culminated in the Supreme Court granting marriage equality for same-gender couples across all 50 states, about a half century after homosexuality was removed from the American Psychiatric Association’s classification of mental disorders. Given how long some of other equality battles have taken, this progress is extraordinary!

Two recent books are now out on how engaged volunteers had tremendous impact in this marriage equality victory; they will be featured at a panel discussion at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, NC on Saturday, February 24th. (Link to information about the event.) The panel discussion, moderated by Tracy Hollister with David Collins, Mark Phariss, and Vic Holmes will examine the role volunteers and plaintiffs played in winning the right to marry for same-sex couples years before most thought possible. And how can the lessons they learned be applied to other LGBTQ causes?

IMPORTANT ADDITION ADDED APRIL 2018: A second event is being held at the LGBT Center of Raleigh on Saturday, April 14th 2:00 – 4:0PM. Link to info.

Tracy Hollister, longtime advocate and Marriage Equality USA staffer, will share her own and others’ testimonies from THE PEOPLE’S VICTORY: STORIES FROM THE FRONT LINES IN THE FIGHT FOR MARRIAGE EQUALITY on how volunteers made a difference. “The People’s Victory” is an inspirational roadmap for anyone who has felt passionate about an issue, but has questioned whether one person’s contribution can make a difference.

Accidental activists Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes, pictured on this book cover, will participate in the February 24th panel discussion

David Collins, author of ACCIDENTAL ACTIVISTS: MARK PHARISS, VIC HOLMES, AND THEIR FIGHT FOR MARRIAGE EQUALITY IN TEXAS, will join with the subjects of his book, Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes, to tell of love too long denied recognition and the emotional pain that led them to sue Texas for the right to marry. Indeed, Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes were surprised be thrown into the limelight (hence the term “accidental activists”), being schooled by cultural messages that being gay would come at an extreme cost, include loss of family and friends, threats involving housing and job security, and even threats of physical violence.

This event is co-hosted by RBPN – Raleigh’s LGBT Chamber of Commerce, HRC Triangle, PFLAG Triangle, Equality NC, and the LGBT Center of Raleigh.

Do consider attending this panel discussion and/or obtaining these two books. As well as being inspired by this change for equality in America, you may learn several lessons that you can apply to the social or justice issues in your life.

If you would like to invite Tracy and David to come to your local bookstore, university or Employee Resource Group, Tracy can be reached at [email protected] and David can be reached at [email protected]

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Some of my previous blogs about race and gender social issues:

• In “Sexism, Racism and the Dynamics of Power,” I examine the power dynamic as critical when we discuss the societal and workplace issues of sexism, sexual harassment and racism.

Five Provocative Recommendations to Address Sexual Harassment in the workplace. The latest fiasco with Harvey Weinstein followed by the “me too” social media campaign has raised the visibility of sexual harassment and predators. As an HR professional, I am very disconcerted about abuse in the workplace and wrote this blog in response.

“Divided We Stand – Racism in America from Jamestown to Trump,” reviews and summarizes a fascinating and important book by David R. Morse that chronicles the many forms of racism present within the USA from our founding days up to current times.

• Though a good number of white people believe that the racial discrimination of the past is eradicated, the black community for the most part, as well as statistical realities, would indicate otherwise. See “Facing the Truth – Racism Still Persists in the USA.”)

Congratulations on Your Wedding! And Condolences on Losing Your Job.

In a majority of US States, gay couples are able to get married, but then may get fired from work the very next day.

In a majority of US States, gay couples are able to get married, but then may get fired from work the very next day.


UPDATE JULY 17: Check out this link to read about and support the newly proposed Equality Act coming before the US Congress.

June 26, 2015 was indeed a very exciting and historic day for the LGBT community and our supporters as the United States Supreme Court ruled that same gender marriage is now a basic right for all Americans across all 50 states. This ends the past confusing patchwork of some states offering same gender marriage, others offering domestic partnership arrangements, while still others invaliding all forms of gay unions and relationships.

Just as this decision was being announced, I was in the middle of presenting “LGBT Diversity in the Workplace and Marketplace” at the Georgia Diversity Council’s half day “LGBT & Allies Diversity Summit” being held on the campus of my Alma Mater Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Georgia. Someone monitoring the Supreme Court announcements on their smart phone in the back of the room interrupted to break this momentous news, and the room exploded into cheering and applause.

After the session, I did a brief interview with one of the session’s later panelists, Mariela Romero, the Community Empowerment Director for Univision Communications, which offers Spanish-speaking televisions coverage including its channel in Atlanta. Mariela asked me to comment on the significance of this announcement as well as looking forward to what is next.

THE SIGNIFICANCE: This is absolutely huge, finally granting a universal right and one of the most basic human institutions and arrangements, marriage, to all Americans. I commented that with the mobility of the USA population frequently moving between states, it was critical to finally make same-gender marriage a common practice everywhere in our country. Same gender couples relocating between states that recognize or invalidate their marriages caused a huge amount of consternation and confusion. Something as basic as marriage equality and availability certainly needs to nationwide.

WHAT IS NEXT: Since I was there in Atlanta to present LGBT diversity within a business and organization framework, I did need to focus on the sad reality that, across a majority of US states, a gay person could get married one day and get fired from their job the very next. Employment nondiscrimination protection based on sexual orientation and gender identity is not law at the federal level as is employment protection based on gender, race, religion, etc. In most states, you can be the very best employee meeting and exceeding the requirements of your job, and your boss can fire you simply out of personal dislike for LGBT people.

ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) has been languishing in the US Congress for well over a decade, so like marriage in the past, a patchwork of employment protections is available only in some states (see map at bottom of blog.) Thankfully a vast majority of Fortune 1000 firms voluntarily include these protections in their own corporate non-discrimination policies (link to the Human Rights Campaign listing), and President Obama issued an executive order effective April 2015 requiring such protection for companies and their subcontractors with federal contracts. (link to my blog and federal site with the info.)

So let’s celebrate as many of our LGBT friends young and old get married, and let’s also be tireless advocates for also now providing universal employment protection across the entire United States!

Only the dark shaded states offer workplace discrimination protections based on gender identity and /or sexual orientation

Only the dark shaded states offer workplace discrimination protections based on gender identity and /or sexual orientation