Answers to questions on the Middle Georgia State College Gay-Straight Alliance

This interview was conducted by Andrew Willis for The Statement, February 24, 2013.

1. What is the general purpose of the GSA?

The purpose of the Gay-Straight Alliance is to be a safe space of discussion and support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning individuals. We say that “Yes, it’s OK to be gay, and who you love or what gender you identify as does not affect the content of your character.”

2. Do you have to be gay to be in the GSA?

No, it is open and welcoming for straight, transgender and bisexual individuals to join and participate, and we encourage straight students to do so. However, it is expected by myself and our organization that our discussions and actions will be affirming and welcoming of both same-sex and opposite-sex sexuality as well as gender non-conformity. We will support, not condemn, your sexual orientation or gender identity.

3. How would you describe the GSA’s involvement in MGSC? (What events have you put on in the past? Do you have any plans for the near future?)

Members have engaged in advocacy both on and off campus. In the past, our members have protested against anti-gay hate speech in our student newspaper, participated at protests against so-called “reparative” or “ex-gay” therapy as advocated by various misguided religious institutions, advocating before the Bibb County School Board for safer schools and, as done in February 2012 by our former president Amanda Studebaker last year, advocated before the General Assembly in Atlanta for the Georgia Fair Employment Practices Bill (HB 630), a bill which would outlaw employment discrimination against state government workers on the basis of sexual orientation. Our GSA actively supports its passage into law, and members signed letters to our representatives calling for its passage.

In addition to regular meetings, where we discuss news, personal experiences, history and activism, we have held an LGBT Movie Night in the Residence Life Game Room, a welcoming event for a cross-state bike ride ridden by members of Georgia Equality (a civil rights advocacy organization from Atlanta), a trip to the LGBTQ and Allies Conference at Georgia Southern University in November 2012, and a “NOH8” protest against anti-gay bullying during the “Day of Silence” on April 19. In the future, we will hold another Movie Night and more events, and we invite ideas for more LGBT-inclusive events and activities on our campuses. We hope to extend this in the future to Warner Robins, Cochran and other campuses.

4. How would somebody get involved with the GSA at MGSC?

I would suggest coming to one of our meetings, usually on the Macon campus, in order to get a feel for what we discuss. But since the Macon and Warner Robins campuses have a history as commuter-friendly campuses, we also encourage people to get into contact with us on Facebook, Google+, and by email at mscgsa@googlegroups.com. For personal, one-on-one inquiries, I can also be contacted by personal email at harry.underwood1987@gmail, and our advisor Dr. Sheree Keith can be reached at sheree.keith@maconstate.edu. We invite honest, good-mannered questions and messages of support.

Also, could I get your major and age for the article? And just to clarify, what is the title of your position in the GSA? Thanks again for answering these questions!

My name is Harry Underwood, I’m a senior majoring in New Media and Communications (NMAC) and pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Science, and I’m the president of the GSA since Fall 2011. I will be graduating this semester.

Thank you for your questions!

Citations:

http://chronicle.augusta.com/news/government/2012-02-22/ga-house-panel-kills-sexual-preference-jobs-bill

Today is normal and secular, and lives have been made better

I wrote this on another blog on the occasion of the victory in Windsor v. United States. This week, the Hawaii State Senate will send a bill legalizing marriage equality to their state governor, Neil Abercrombie, signifying the end of a 20-year era since a state court became the first in the country to rule that same-sex couples ought to get married.

Meanwhile, next year will be 10 years since Georgians voted to ban state recognition of same-sex couples. Just like Hawaii, may we similarly mature as a state, sooner rather than later.

World of Values

The request to those who advocated most strenuously for marriage equality to observe magnanimity in “victory” is short-sighted. There was no victory, no score, no feather on a cap. 

Same-sex couples do not exist to “win” anything. They exist out of long-term love and affection, and they exist for that same purpose. 

That gays were made into targets of culture warriors is a major tragedy, albeit not as grievous of an offense as the scapegoating, criminalization, demeaning and incarceration of homosexuality into a forced closet. 

There was no victory, only realizations. A realization of unconstitutionality, a realization of forcible impoverization, a realization of meaningless, unreasonable denial of humanity and worth. 

Yesterday, our nation, as a whole, realized yet another facet of our inhumanity toward other Americans, and reduced that inhumanity a bit more than the last time that we made such a reduction. 

It is a progression, one on which…

View original post 21 more words

ENDA passed in the U.S. Senate, may be killed in GOP-held House

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was passed 64-38 on Thursday in the U.S. Senate, with all Democrats and 10 Republicans voting for the bill. The bill, which would prohibit discrimination in employment and hiring on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity by civilian, non-religious employers with at least 15 employees, received ample protections for religious-owned facilities and businesses.

The bill now awaits action from the House, which is controlled by the GOP. Speaker John Boehner has voiced his disapproval of the bill, which likely reduced its chance of getting a hearing before the House.

ENDA has been re-introduced in every session of Congress since 1994, and the most recent version of the bill contains language protecting employees on the bases of both sexual orientation and gender identity. It first passed in the Democrat-controlled House in 2007 after stripping gender identity language from the bill, but failed in the Senate that same year.

President Barack Obama backs the bill, but has been criticized by labor rights activists for refusing to sign an executive order protecting LGBT federal employees. He has said that the issue is better resolved through congressional action.

The week in the nation so far…

This week has already seen a number of exciting developments in LGBT affairs:

  • On Tuesday, the Hawaii State Senate overwhelmingly passed marriage equality, 20-4. On Thursday, 14 hours of testimony are scheduled before the State House Judiciary and Finance Committee (which will run until midnight, with any extra testimony to be scheduled for 1 November), and no full vote has yet been scheduled. It is expected to be a close vote. Hawaii already has civil unions which are available to same-sex and opposite-sex couples, but same-sex couples are currently banned from marriage.
  • Cory Booker, former mayor of Newark, New Jersey, and steadfast LGBT rights ally, has been sworn into office as Senator from New Jersey. A Democrat, Booker will serve out the remainder of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s term in office. Booker is the third African-American senator in U.S. history, after incumbent Tim Scott of South Carolina and current U.S. president Barack Obama of Illinois.
  • The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) has secured the support of the entire Democratic caucus and two Republican members of the U.S. Senate, and the aforementioned Booker is a likely 57th vote for the bill, as Democratic Senators Nelson, Pryor and Manchin have finally given their support after months of pressure. The bill, which has languished before Congress since 1994, is now 1 vote shy of passage without a filibuster, and advocates are actively seeking for one more Republican endorsement. The bill, which is likely destined for failure in the GOP-controlled House, would protect workers against employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Terry McAuliffe, the pro-LGBT candidate in the Virginia gubernatorial election, continues to lead the rabidly anti-LGBT candidate Ken Cuccinelli by wildly-fluctuating margins in the most recent polls. McAuliffe’s running mates Ralph Northam (running against the rabidly-anti-LGBT E.W. Jackson for lieutenant governor) and Mark Herring (running against the anti-LGBT Mark Obenshain for attorney general) also lead by comfortable margins.
  • Momentum continues to build in Indiana against a bill for an anti-equal marriage amendment to the Indiana state constitution, with the Indiana Chamber of Commerce  and the University of Indiana coming out against the bill.

Ga. Department of Revenue issues guidelines for same-sex couples filing state tax returns

Dyana Bagby from The GA Voice reports from Georgia Equality in Atlanta: Ga. Department of Revenue issues guidelines for same-sex couples filing state tax returns.

Essentially, in the wake of Windsor v. United States, Georgia will join a number of other states (all of which maintain constitutional bans on same-sex marriage) in compelling same-sex couples who have been legally married out of state to continue to file separate state tax returns. These include Kansas, Michigan, Utah and North Dakota.

Williams Institute study spotlights LGBT Georgia, both in and out of ATL

Project Q Atlanta covers how spread out that LGBT Georgians in and around Atlanta reside.

Think you know where gay ATL lives? Nuh-uh — Project Q Atlanta.

Furthermore, the study on African-American LGBT demographics from UCLA’s Williams Institute is worth a look, especially to see how many African-American same-sex couples live in rural counties outside of Metro Atlanta.

New LGBT news blog – “The Pink Peach”

Welcome to The Pink Peach, a blog which covers news which is of interest or concern to LGBT and allied folks in Georgia outside of Atlanta. For too long, the main epicenter of LGBT news media has been located in Metro Atlanta – and for good reason! Metro ATL has the largest annual pride parades in Georgia – Atlanta Pride and Atlanta Black Pride, and is a mecca for LGBTs who are looking for some close respite from .

However, as shown in recent surveys and censuses, the LGBT population in Georgia lives in every one of our 159 counties – not just Fulton, Cobb, DeKalb, Clayton and Gwinett. These people – that is, of course, you, a reader who may live anywhere in Georgia – need a news source that matters to them and reaches out to them. I hope that this blog, The Pink Peach, will do what many other local news sources could not – become a beacon for LGBT folks in Georgia, no matter where you may be.

I hope to keep this blog updated frequently with news and information for your interest, as well as help in building our LGBT communities where we are – whether we are in the city or in the boonies. Let’s move forward!

Sincerely,

Harry Underwood
Editor, The Pink Peach

Today is normal and secular, and lives have been made better

The request to those who advocated most strenuously for marriage equality to observe magnanimity in “victory” is short-sighted. There was no victory, no score, no feather on a cap. 

Same-sex couples do not exist to “win” anything. They exist out of long-term love and affection, and they exist for that same purpose. 

That gays were made into targets of culture warriors is a major tragedy, albeit not as grievous of an offense as the scapegoating, criminalization, demeaning and incarceration of homosexuality into a forced closet. 

There was no victory, only realizations. A realization of unconstitutionality, a realization of forcible impoverization, a realization of meaningless, unreasonable denial of humanity and worth. 

Yesterday, our nation, as a whole, realized yet another facet of our inhumanity toward other Americans, and reduced that inhumanity a bit more than the last time that we made such a reduction. 

It is a progression, one on which individualists and communitarians alike will evolve in their own ways, but hopefully will not devolve in irrational disgust. 

Let’s move forward. 

LGBT News in Columbus, GA