Certain Moral Values May Lead to More Prejudice, Discrimination

People who value following purity rules over caring for others are more likely to view gay and transgender people as less human, which leads to more prejudice and support for discriminatory public policies, according to a new study published by the American Psychological Association.

“After the Supreme Court decision affirming marriage equality and the debate over bathroom rights for transgender people, we realized that the arguments were often not about facts but about opposing moral beliefs,” said Andrew E. Monroe, PhD, of Appalachian State University and lead author of the study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

“Thus, we wanted to understand if moral values were an underlying cause of prejudice toward gay and transgender people.”

Monroe and his co-author, Ashby Plant, PhD, of Florida State University, focused on two specific moral values –what they called sanctity, or a strict adherence to purity rules and disgust over any acts that are considered morally contaminating, and care, which centers on disapproval of others who cause suffering without just cause – because they predicted those values might be behind the often-heated debates over LGBTQ rights.

The researchers conducted five experiments with nearly 1,100 participants. Overall, they found that people who prioritized sanctity over care were more likely to believe that gay and transgender people, people with AIDS and prostitutes were more impulsive, less rational and, therefore, something less than human. These attitudes increased prejudice and acceptance of discriminatory public policies, according to Monroe.

Conversely, people who endorsed care over sanctity were more likely to show compassion for those populations, as well as support public policies that would help them.

“The belief that a person is no better than an animal can become a justification for tolerating and causing harm,” said Plant. “When we believe that someone lacks self-control and discipline, we may make moral judgments about their life choices and behaviors, which can lead down a dark path of discrimination and hate.”

The first experiment involved people who were generally moderate politically and religiously. They rated their agreement with five moral values (care, fairness, sanctity, loyalty and authority) and then read short descriptions of five different men: a gay man, a man with AIDS, an African-American man, an obese man and a white man. Afterward, the participants filled out questionnaires about their thoughts on each man’s state of mind (e.g., “John is rational and logical”) and emotions (e.g., “John is rigid and cold”) and their attitudes and feelings of warmth toward each man.

“We found that people who placed more value on sanctity were more likely to believe that the gay man and man with AIDS had less rational minds than the obese, African-American or white men,” said Monroe.

Experiment two focused on how political affiliation might affect responses. The researchers recruited an equal number of self-identified liberal and conservative participants and used the same morality survey as in the first experiment, but this time, participants rated their thoughts on the state of mind for only four men: a gay man, a man with AIDS, an African-American man and a white man.  The liberals and conservatives then assessed their feelings of prejudice for each man (e.g., “I would rather not have a black person/gay person/person with AIDS in the same apartment building I live in”), their attitudes about public policies that would help or harm gay people (e.g., conversion therapy) and people with AIDS and their willingness to help them by being involved with pro-gay/AIDS awareness activities.

Liberals tended to value care and fairness more while conservatives were more focused on loyalty, authority and sanctity. And the people who valued sanctity were more likely to discriminate against the gay man and man with AIDS but not the African-American or white men, according to the study.

Experiment three focused on perceptions of transgender people and found that participants who endorsed sanctity were more likely to hold prejudiced attitudes about transgender people and to support discriminatory public policies.

The fourth experiment tested whether temporarily increasing sanctity values, relative to care, increased dehumanization and prejudice. Experimenters collected survey responses on a college campus on two separate days –Ash Wednesday—a day associated with sanctity and spiritual cleansing in the Christian faith—and a non-religious day. Participants filled out a survey intended to assess their moral beliefs and attitudes toward a woman described as a prostitute.

Participants surveyed on Ash Wednesday reported much higher concerns about sanctity compared to care and this caused participants to become more likely to dehumanize and express negative feelings towards the prostitute, according to the study.

The final study explored whether heightening concern about care was an effective method of reducing prejudice about gay and transgender people. To prime care values, participants listened to a radio news clip about the importance of safe spaces for people of color, while in the control condition participants listened to a clip about Brexit. Afterward, the participants rated their moral values, made judgments of a transgender woman, a gay man and a white man and indicated their support or disapproval of three public policies that would either help or harm gay and transgender people (e.g., national legislation for marriage equality, banning transgender people from the military).

Participants who listened to the clip about safe spaces emphasized caring as an important moral value over those who listened to the clip about Brexit. Caring individuals showed less prejudice toward gay and transgender people and less acceptance of discriminatory policies against them.

“Our study suggests that a person’s moral values can be altered, at least temporarily, and that highlighting certain values, like caring, can be an effective way to combat prejudice,” said Monroe. “We hope that by showing the moral roots of bias and discrimination against sexual and gender minorities we encourage others to conduct further research to increase equity and inclusion.”

Study Finds Trump Supporters Believe U.S. Society Is Fair

Voters who supported Donald Trump are more likely than other Americans—even other conservatives—to oppose social justice efforts, a new University of Michigan study shows.

Specifically, this segment thinks the nation spends too much money promoting equality for the poor, women and minorities; agrees that disadvantaged groups have received more than they deserve economically; and believes that disadvantaged individuals’ claims of discrimination are invalid.

Erin Cech, U-M assistant professor of sociology, described Trump supporters as “rugged meritocratists” because they believe society is already meritocratic—already fair and just.

It is this belief—not Trump supporters’ greater likelihood of expressing social bias—that helps explain their resistance to social justice issues, she says.

Cech conducted an online survey of 1,151 people three weeks after the 2016 presidential election. The sample is proportionally representative of U.S. adults. They answered questions about bias and beliefs about inequality, and were asked about the candidates they voted for.

Trump supporters, the study indicates, do express more bias: they have more negative assessments of the competence (e.g., intelligence, motivation) and warmth (e.g., humble, happy) of the poor, African Americans, Hispanics and women compared with the views of nonsupporters.

Trump supporters are also more likely to agree that too much money has been spent on welfare, homeless shelters and improving conditions for disadvantaged groups. About 60 percent of Trump supporters believe the poor, racial/ethnic minorities and women have been too demanding in their push for equal rights, Cech says.

“Resistance to social justice efforts appears to be based less in overt social bias than in a particular framing of the social world, one that denies structural inequality and blames victims of that inequality for their own circumstances,” she said.

This has consequences for social justice advocates: rugged meritocratists, regardless of their political affiliation, will likely resist social justice efforts because such efforts do not match how they see society, she says. If equality advocates are to foster support for social justice efforts, they must first convince rugged meritocratists that inequality exists in the first place.

Include Youth’s Commitment to Northern Ireland Care Leavers

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Located in Northern Ireland, Include Youth supports vulnerable and disadvantage youth by helping them to improve their educational and employment training outcomes, and their main objectives are to increase employment opportunities for disadvantage youth in addition to boosting their self-esteem and life skills.

According to a commissioned review by Include Youth, criminal justice reform and policing were acknowledged as two major areas of concern impacting disadvantage youth with early intervention/family support and diversion programs listed as interventions to reduce risks and increase protective factors for this vulnerable group.

Sharon Whittaker from Include Youth courteously agreed to facilitate a Q&A with us to highlight the amazing work of Include Youth.

SWH: Could you tell us about the mission and vision for Include Youth?

SW: Include Youth is an independent rights-based charity which promotes the rights of and best practice with disadvantaged and vulnerable children and young people in Northern Ireland.  In particular Include Youth supports those involved with the criminal justice system and those who need education, employment and training.

Inspired by the experiences of young people Include Youth works to ensure that their rights are being realised. Young people’s views guide us in our advocacy work to achieve social justice, change and promote a greater understanding of their lives in government and across statutory organisations and the community and voluntary sectors.

We provide direct services to support young people to develop their employability and life skills, which are based on working at the young person’s pace and understanding their needs.

SWH: What are the main barriers affecting young people in Northern Ireland?

SW: Overall youth unemployment remains consistently high at 17.5 per cent in Northern Ireland, this is three times that of the adult population.  There are high levels of suicide and self-harm among young people generally, as well as other recognised mental health issues, including severe depression and anxiety.  Almost half of children in care or placed in custody at the Juvenile Justice Centre have serious mental health concerns.

We work specifically with 16-24 year olds from socially disadvantaged areas, have had poor educational experiences, have committed or are at risk of committing crime, misuse drugs and/or alcohol, engage in unsafe or harmful sexual behaviour or at risk of being harmed themselves.   All of the young people we work with are not in education, employment or training and many will have experience of the care system.

Education and employment is a huge barrier for young people in care.  Almost 3,000 children are in the care of the state here and only a quarter will go on to achieve five GCSE’s (grade A*-C) compared with more than 80 per cent of the general school population.  More than 350 young people aged 16 to 21 in care here are not in education, employment or training at any one time.  The unemployment rate for care leavers is double that of young people who grew up in the community.

SWH: What types of challenges have you run into?

SW: How children and young people are perceived in their community is a real challenge for Include Youth. A simple thing like how a young person might be portrayed in the media can impact on social policy is made and on how services to children and young people are delivered.

The young people we work are often most in need or at risk, yet do not have their voices heard and acted upon by organisational representatives and decision-makers.  This means the most vulnerable young people in society are more likely to suffer the consequences of inadequate policies and poor services.

Piecemeal and short-term funding is a challenge for our organisation, as to address the long-term needs of children in care a more sustained and cohesive approach is needed.  There is funding available for short-term projects, which will only ever help long-term goals to an extent.

SWH: Do you think enough is being done to help children in care?

SW: Too many young people from a care background are being detained in the Juvenile Justice Centre under PACE because suitable accommodation cannot be found.  Custody should only be used as a last resort, so not enough is being done to redress the overrepresentation of looked after children within the justice system.

In figures supplied to us by the Youth Justice Agency looked after children represented 40% of individual young people admitted under PACE, between October 2014-September 2015.  Up to 50% of these young people did not receive a custodial sentence, evidence that custody is not being used as a last resort.

We also continually look to Scotland to see what is happening there, as they tend to have more positive policies and practices around their responsibility to children and young people in care.  However some progress has been made to increase labour market opportunities for young people in care.  Business in the Community and Include Youth run targeted initiatives and the Employability Services run by all five health and social care trusts.  Each health and social care trust has employability and guidance schemes in place to help prepare young people for employment and have developed a range of service models, for example, ring-fenced posts and social clause provision in partnership with a number of companies.

SWH: What other vulnerable groups of young people does Include Youth support?

SW: We work in partnership with community-based organisations to deliver cross-community or employability programmes to young people aged 16-24.  Most of these young people won’t have experience of care, therefore their needs vary from young parents, to carers, substance abuse issues to early school leavers.

We also lobby on behalf of children and young people in our formal youth justice system.  Currently 10 year olds living in Northern Ireland can be arrested, prosecuted, get a criminal record and even be locked up however we’re seeking legislative change so that 10 and 11 year olds who commit crime are dealt with in a much more effective way.

SWH: Is there any way people can support Include Youth?

SW: There are a number of different ways people can support our work.  If you’re an employer, public, private or charity sector you may be able to provide a workplace tour or experience for the young people on our programmes or you may wish to join our Board of Directors.  We’re also always on the lookout for volunteer mentors who can support a young person in their area on a one to one basis.  Finally, you can get involved in our Raise the Age campaign and help us raise the age of criminal responsibility in Northern Ireland.

SWH: What is next for Include Youth?

SW: To continually improve our services for the young people we work with.

You can keep up-to-date with Include Youth on Facebook, Twitter and their website on the latest services they offer young people in Northern Ireland.

Remove Obstacles to the Work of Women’s Rights Defenders

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Human rights defenders and civil society organisations working to protect the human rights of women and gender equality perform an essential role in Europe. They provide much needed assistance to victims of gender-based violence, combat discrimination against women, contribute to peace-building and hold authorities accountable for fulfilling their human rights obligations. Unfortunately, as I learned at a roundtable with a group of women’s rights defenders in Vilnius in July, they also face serious obstacles in their work.

Multiple challenges as human rights defenders and promoters of women’s rights

Along with other human rights activists, the situation and working environment of women’s rights defenders are affected by several negative trends in the Council of Europe area. Restrictive legislation and repressive practices against civil society in Azerbaijan, the Russian Federation and Belarus have also had an impact on those who work to protect the human rights of women and promote gender equality. In Hungary, several women’s rights organisations were among the beneficiaries of the Norwegian NGO Fund and have been targeted by smear campaigns, audits and inspections.

In addition, women’s rights defenders face specific obstacles when they challenge patriarchal values, sexist stereotypes and the traditional perception of gender roles. They can be portrayed as destroyers of family values and national traditions or as agents of what has pejoratively been labeled “gender ideology”. I highlighted this issue in my latest report on Armenia,where women’s rights organisations and defenders were violently targeted in 2013 during the discussion and adoption of the Law on Equal Rights and Equal Opportunities between Women and Men.

Women’s rights defenders also face intimidation, pressure, threats, attacks, defamation, cyber-attacks and disruption of victims’ hotlines. Those working on sexual and reproductive rights or advocating the rights of women victims of domestic violence have often been specifically targeted. For example, in Ireland, defenders working on abortion issues experienced a smear campaign and stigmatisation. In many countries, segments of ultraconservative movements and far-right or extremist religious groups have been the instigators of such attacks. A serious problem lies in impunity for such actions. All too often state authorities do not fulfill their duty to protect human rights defenders by ensuring effective investigations into these violations and adequate punishment for those responsible.

Most defenders of women’s rights are women. Women human rights defenders are at a high risk of experiencing gender-based violence, rape and other forms of sexual violence, harassment and verbal abuse as well as attacks on their reputation on-line and off-line. A worrying phenomenon which has been identified recently is the increasing use of hate speech targeting women human rights defenders. In Serbia, for example, members of the NGO Women in Black have faced gender-motivated attacks because of their human rights work.

National authorities often fail to consult or listen to women’s rights defenders on relevant policies and laws. In some countries, independent activists feel overshadowed by NGOs which are close to the government – the so-called “GONGOs” (Government-Organised Non-Governmental Organisations). Another disturbing element is that women’s rights defenders are not considered as equals by some fellow human rights defenders, who mistakenly consider women’s rights and gender equality as a soft or secondary human rights issue.

The current period of austerity has made it particularly difficult for civil society organisations to find sustainable and long-term funding.  NGOs running shelters for women victims of violence, for example, have been weakened by cuts in public services at the local level.

Ways to improve the working environment of women’s rights defenders

The difficult situation of defenders of women’s rights highlights the fact that progress achieved towards gender equality has not yet been fully consolidated. As most defenders of gender equality are women themselves, the enduring discrimination of women can affect their work directly. Therefore even today it is essential to stress that equality between women and men is a fundamental right and a crucial element of the human rights agenda.

I urge Council of Europe member states to reaffirm and implement the national and international obligations they have undertaken to end discrimination and human rights violations based on sex and gender. In particular, I call upon all member states to ratify and implement the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (the Istanbul Convention).

States must also meet their obligations to protect human rights defenders and ensure an enabling environment for their work free from intimidation and pressure. These obligations are recalled in the 1998 UN Declaration on human rights defenders and the 2008 Declaration of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers to improve the protection of human rights defenders and promote their activities. States should notably refrain from putting in place policies, legislation and practices which run contrary to freedom of association, assembly and expression.

In 2013, the UN General Assembly adopted a specific resolution on the protection of women human rights defenders, expressing concern about the discrimination and violence faced by them and urging states to protect them and support their work. In July 2015, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women called on States parties to ensure that women human rights defenders are able to access justice and receive protection from harassment, threats, retaliation and violence.

At the national level, I urge member states to adopt and implement laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex and gender as well as legal provisions specifically aiming to combat gender-based hate crimes and hate speech. I also encourage member states to develop national guidelines and other measures to support and protect human rights defenders and to integrate a gender perspective in this work. It is time to put an end to impunity for violations that human rights defenders face because of their work. Expressions of support from the government and state institutions for the work of women’s rights defenders are of great importance and should also extend to the effective inclusion of women’s rights defenders in official consultations on relevant issues.

Solidarity and cooperation among human rights defenders are necessary for the protection of defenders and promotion of their work. International, regional and national networks of human rights defenders are instrumental in assisting those defenders who face difficulties in their work and threats to their personal security. It is therefore essential for the wider community of human rights defenders to support women’s rights defenders and fully cooperate with them.

Human rights defenders work closely with national human rights structures (NHRSs) on many issues of mutual interest. However, in many cases ombudspersons, human rights commissions and equality bodies have not yet acquired sufficient trust among defenders of women’s rights so that they would turn to these institutions for help when they are under threat. We need more intense co-operation and joint action between NHRSs and human rights defenders to advance human rights agendas and to assist those who are at risk. I encourage NHRSs to fully take on board issues related to the human rights of women and gender equality, and to work together with women’s rights defenders in this field.

In several instances, women’s rights defenders have successfully partnered with the media in countering attacks, including smear campaigns, and in raising public awareness of their work and the importance of protecting the human rights of women and of promoting gender equality. I find it extremely useful to build on such experiences and to foster a culture of human rights and strengthen the defender’s interaction with the public.

It is time that women’s rights defenders receive the acknowledgment, support and protection they deserve for their committed work for human rights.

The Sixth Annual Social Good Summit Will Inspire World Action

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Since 2010, the Social Good Summit has grown substantially aided by the increasing popularity of social media and technology. Mashable in partnership with the United Nations General Assembly decided to bring people together global leaders to discuss how to utilize technology to eradicate poverty. People over the globe are becoming empowered to share their voices in an effort to be heard, and the Social Good Summit has committed to listening to those diverse voices.

The Social Good Summit is a two day conference discussing the impact of technology and media on current social good initiatives. Starting today on September 27th, days after the United Nations ratification of its Global Goals, the goals aim to eradicate poverty, inequality, increase access to education and protect the environment.

It is hoped that these goals will create sustained growth of the bottom 40% of the population to empower and promote their general welfare. These goals will guide policy and funding, and the purpose of the Social Good Summit is discuss the coordination of these goals globally. With now over 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10 and 24, it is clear why the UN has a youth focus to work towards the eradication of poverty by 2030.

The venue for this year’s Social Good Summit is 92nd Street Y which is a world class cultural and community centre that encourages people to connect through culture, the arts, entertainment and conversation. This year’s speakers include Kathy Calvin and Pete Cashmore, the CEO’s of the United Nations Foundation and Mashable respectively, as well as Sienna Miller, Charlize Theron and Savannah Guthrie. Using the hashtag #2030Now, social media and live streaming will definitely allow everyone to get involved!

In 2014, over 170 countries were connected through video and social media, with 65 countries and counting for 2015 it is thought this year could be even bigger. Jamaica, Turkmenistan and Guatemala have signed up and for the first time ever will be involved in the Social Good Summit. Global meet-ups will play a huge part in the Social Good Summit and allow people around the globe to take part and discuss how communities are using the digital tools to build a brighter future.

Also in 2014, #2030 trended at number one globally, breaking down any language barriers between the 45 different languages involved! The Social Good Summit is surrounded by a week of related events which provide encouragement to take action and identify innovations that can create the world we want. Two days of jam-packed sessions, including ‘The Tipping Point for Human Rights’, ‘Sustainable Cities’ and regular global meet-up check-ins, to keep everyone involved.

The voices of global citizens will be a necessary force for change, and the Social Good Summit has taken on the role of helping to facilitate conversations with UN officials, pop culture icons, activists and entrepreneurs around the world who want to create this change. Be a part of the Social Good Summit in helping to create the kind of world we all want to make a reality. Watch the summit via live stream at https://livestream.com/Mashable.

Selma 50 Years Later, Then Back to Work

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Obama Family leading the 50th Anniversary March- Photo Credit Whitehouse.gov

 

President Barack Obama, in what may be his most eloquent and thoughtful speech, helped us to understand the profound place in history held by those who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965 in pursuit of social and economic justice. In Selma, Alabama 50 years later, it was their encounter with the forces of bigotry and hate that helped change the course of history.

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President Barack Obama share a moment with Georgia Congressman John Lewis during the commemoration of Bloody Sunday.

It was the determination of the protesters to endure the most vile and despicable slurs imaginable, to withstand flailing police batons, ferocious dogs, and battering waves of water pouring from hoses, that moved the needle ever so slightly from oppression towards freedom. We are constantly reminded by injustice in Ferguson and other places that the battle is far from over.

As the President stated, this is no time for cynicism, no time for complacency or despair. Many Americans of good will believe the social contract that the Framers had in mind was not one that favored a few who would reap a disproportionate share of the benefits of a society whose prosperity depends on the work of many.

I came of age in the 1960s, and it was a turbulent time—Vietnam, the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Jr., Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King. There were riots, uprisings on college campuses, and, yes, black men were still being lynched. Yet through the turmoil there was always a sense of community—a belief that people were better off if we stuck together. We were told that we either swim together or drown alone. Events like Woodstock brought thousands of young “hippies” together for marathon sessions of the best that music can be. Not surprising, the 1960s was the heyday of community social work.

We hardly got into the next decade when another turning point arrived in a tragic day at Kent State University. It occurred one day before my 20th birthday on May 4, 1970—four unarmed students were shot dead by the National Guard and nine others wounded. The age of law and order had arrived with a vengeance. After all, it was the slogan that propelled Richard M. Nixon into the White House. He was soon to be followed by President Ronald Reagan and a new era of conservatism that swept the country. Community was too close to communism and socialism to be an acceptable form of lifestyle. It was the individual that was paramount.

Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama
Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama

Robert Ringer’s Looking Out for Number Onethe tome du jour—became a New York Times #1 bestseller, and supply-side economics heralded Ayn Rand’s great man theory. Unions and collective bargaining began to wilt from constant attacks from corporations and their Republican allies. We were all competing for the American Dream when we should have been working together to achieve it universally.

The President reminded us that the single most powerful word in our vocabulary must be we. We can get a lot more done than me. At the risk of sounding like Rodney King, it is time that we put aside our differences and begin to look for common solutions to major problems. The commemoration of the historical Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama is cause for neither celebration nor despair. It should, however, energize us to go the extra mile—as the old folks used to say—to see what the end’s going to be.

We must believe that things can get better. We must believe that we can have a more egalitarian society. Economic inequality reaches a point where it becomes evil because it robs so many children of their chance for a meaningful future. The only weapon we have to fight this injustice is political power. We must use it or lose what little hope we have today of achieving some measure of social and economic fairness.

Transgression: Transgender and Undocumented

by Daniel Rotman

Team Transgression

While working with Immigration Equality, I discovered the stories of numerous transgender clients battling for asylum in the United States. Transgression’s formation began in summer 2011. I had a fellowship funded by the Traub-Dicker Fellowship at Harvard Kennedy School’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy with Immigration Equality, an organization that provides legal assistance and advocacy for LGBT individuals. At the culmination of the fellowship, I needed to write a lengthy thesis about a policy issue he encountered at Immigration Equality.  When I returned to Harvard at the end of the fellowship, I had an idea: create a documentary to showcase the plight of transgender detainees as a more effective and powerful educational piece. With the permission of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, he proceeded with planning for the documentary.

I entered a competition at Harvard Law School’s Documentary Studio Lab, which funds amateur documentary projects. Harvard Law had recently launched the campus-wide competition to encourage amateur documentary filmmakers to film a short documentary on a policy issue. Transgression was chosen as one of the finalists and received funding support and permission to use the Lab’s film equipment to create the documentary. I approached his close friend and colleague, Morgan Hargrave, to join the team as a writer/co-director. Harvard Law Studio connected me with Morgan, T. J. Barber an experienced editor completing his freshman year at Harvard, and Toni Marzal a writer completing a master’s program at Harvard Law School. The team received the support of Immigration Equality to focus the documentary on one of its clients, Norma, and the crew filmed in New York for one week. Post-production took 2 months as the crew managed full-time school schedules.

Due to the sensitivity of the subject matter, it was difficult to maintain a balance of capturing the full scope and depth of the story while respecting Norma’s pain as she recalled her experience. It was surprising to see Norma’s openness and fearlessness in telling her story, despite her difficult memories. Team Transgression tried to exercise caution with regard to revealing anything that would jeopardize Norma’s immigration status. Fortunately, there was little that the team needed to avoid including in the film. The film is in English, but Norma’s first words are in Spanish.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQlR41yzLHA[/youtube]

North Carolina LGBTQ Blogger Signs Off

A jolt was sent through the LGBT blogosphere when the groundbreaking lesbian blogger, Pam Spaulding, “blogmistress” of Pam’s House Blend, announced this week that after 9 years she is closing down her blog on July 1. One of the first LGBT political blogs to rapidly rise in the early years of political bloggers, Spaulding had become a must-read for political junkies and LGBT people across the country, offering her perspective as a black lesbian living in North Carolina, far beyond the big cities in the North and West Coast that dominate LGBT politics.

Initially blogging in 2004 due to frustration of the state of politics under President George W. Bush Pam became ranked in the top 50 progressive political blogs. Michael Rogers, editor and publisher of gay blog PageOneQ.com (now Raw Story Media) noted:

“Pam is certainly the most important lesbian blogger in America. She’s a lesbian in a gay blogging world that is overwhelmingly gay men. She’s a blogger as a woman in an overwhelmingly male-dominated world and she’s of color and the internet is so skewed to the privileged.” Read More…

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Courtesy PamsHouseBlend

Over the years Pam has acquired several milestones and awards…

  • Performed the first-ever live-blogging events for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network’s annual dinner in May 2006 and the National Black Justice Coalition’s Second Annual Black Church Summit in March 2007.
  • Landed exclusive interviews with the first openly gay man to run for the U.S. Senate, Jim Neal, as well as the only out lesbian serving in Congress, Tammy Baldwin.
  • In 2006 received Distinguished Achievement Award from The Monette-Horwitz Trust for making significant contributions toward the eradication of homophobia.
  • Named one of Huffington Post’s Ultimate Game Changers in Politics in 2009
  • Provided commentary on CNN during the 2008 presidential election cycle
  • Honored with the 2009 Women’s Media Center Award for Online Journalism
  • Received the 2009 Courage Award from the New York City Anti-Violence Project “for the significant contributions you have made to raising awareness about anti-violence work.
  • In 2009 selected as one of the OUT 100 for the year.
  • 2010, named one of TheGrio’s 15 LGBT leaders of tomorrow
  • 2010: held the first-ever candidate liveblogs on LGBT issues with all the Democratic candidates running for the U.S. Senate from North Carolina.
  • 2011: GLAAD Media Awards: Nominated for the inaugural Best Blog prize
  • Honored in 2012 by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network for Black History Month: Black Heroes of the LGBT Movement
  • In 2012 honored with the Bob Page Equality Champion Award by the Equality NC Foundation for online and offline work against Amendment One, the ballot initiative that bans legal recognition of same-sex couples.

The cause is not forgotten, a new channel debuts on FireDogLake.com(FDL), Justice For All, that will take on many of the same issues covered by PamsHouseBlend. Pam is still interactive online and can be reached on facebook, twitter, and google plus.

Listen below as Pam explains why she has chosen to close her blog:

https://soundcloud.com/siriusxmentertainment/signorile-pams-house-blend

Michigan LGBT Couples Receive More Good News

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by Logan Keziah

Michigan LGBT couples receive more good news. U.S. District Court Judge David S. Lawson, ruled that a law banning school districts and local governments from offering health benefits to domestic partners of public employees was unconstitutional. The law, signed by Governor Snyder in 2011, violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.

Although the state of Michigan had enacted an amendment in 2004 banning gay marriage, recent developments with the Supreme Court striking down DOMA, coupled with other litigation efforts, and the swaying of public opinion towards supporting marriage equality, may exert the right amount of public pressure to get a measure on the ballot to repeal the 2004 amendment in 2016. The image below, created and circulated by Equality Michigan, illustrates the shifting public opinion of Michigan residents in support of marriage equality. The shifting of the public opinion in Michigan, reflects the national shift of opinion in support of marriage equality.

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The striking down of the domestic partner benefits ban is just one example of how the Supreme Court’s decisions last week may affect the litigation efforts of LGBT couples across the country. It will be interesting to see how federal judges continue to rule on cases questioning the constitutionality of gay marriage bans.

According to the Huffington Post:

Devin Schindler, a constitutional law expert at Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Grand Rapids, said the judge still could make a ruling without a trial, after lawyers further develop the case through depositions, if necessary, in the weeks ahead.

The Michigan attorney general’s office said it was disappointed that Friedman didn’t dismiss the lawsuit but added: “We look forward to aggressively defending Michigan’s constitution.” Read Full Article

LGBTQ Youth in Schools

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No one should be afraid to be gay or an LGBTQ individual at school.

Just recently, another bullying effect was captured by the media in the UK. In the suburbs of York, in one of the public schools in the area, an 11 year old boy was bullied because of his intention not to hide who he is.

Over a short discussion with his parents, the boy has been terrified by his peers and threatened to be beaten and someday even dead, because of his unwillingness to change who he is. He does not wish to return to his school life currently as he is emotionally and psychosocial terrified of the people surrounding him. I know the picture on the right is intimidating, but that is how reality is for all the children that are bullied in schools because of their sexual orientation.

The boy suffered emotional, psychological, and physical abuse. he was called several names, including a disgrace for his parents. He was kicked to the ground and a chair was broken on his back. His backpack was thrown in the fields while some of his peers tried to humiliate him by stealing his clothes.

What I want from this post, is to raise your thoughts on the issue. If we all try to think what consequences such an event will have on the boy’s life in the future and while growing up.

No one should ever be afraid to be him or herself in the school environment. There are many different issues arising from this instance. Bullying has expanded drastically due to the unintended rage of the youth, which may be based on social reasoning.

How could anyone “blame” their peers for such a behavior? A behaviour that has been copied from the social world kids know of. 11 year old children, almost teenagers, have been through socialization that promotes and enhances such behaviors, as opposed to “shut them down”.

Then again, what about social policies, programs, and services that the schools have to offer? What about the teachers and the staff who are there on a daily basis and experience the institutional culture of the school? What about the parents who receive messages from their children that something is wrong, or that they cause wrong ((in the case of a bully)? What about the decision makers, especially in the UK at this time, when the strands of Equality and Diversity have been revised and enhanced more?

Creating hate for who we are is not accepted by a certain number of people or populations or cultures, and should be unacceptable in the contemporary world where development and evolution take place. The science of social work should see through these occasions and grasp the challenges that arise, take a step forward, create policies, raise awareness, and network and/or link people and organizations. It is crucial for social workers to understand to distinguish what the professional values are and promote those to the systems that request assistance.

Gay Rights… What Should be the Social Work Response?

by Deona Hooper, MSW

I want to share an article that was brought to my attention yesterday by a very close family member. This particular article was especially impactful for him because he recently shared with our family that he is gay. He is an awesome human being, well-educated, cares about his community, and he is doing everything a parent would want for their child. Why should him being gay matter? Well, for some in our family….it does! It was not accepted very well by his parents. Despite, everyone seeing gay mannerisms in him as far back as when he was three to four years old.

Although he may never be allowed to bring his partner to family events, I make sure that he knows they are always welcome at my home. I do not want him to be isolated from his support system or dread coming home, but I must admit that I have not always been this progressive. I grew up with conservative christian values in the South, and the South its difficult enough being a minority.

However, the pain that I have experienced and witnessed caused a change in my views. I had a best friend who was  a woman, a minority, and openly gay. For the majority of my adulthood, we worked at the same places. Most of my adult life, we were friends, but her being gay was the elephant in the room. I tried to be supportive, but she would always say,”You don’t understand”. She had a very limited support system, rejected by her church, and at times harassed at work. Yet, she always got through it.

In 2007 on December 27, she committed suicide with her police service weapon. She always struggled with depression, and I didn’t understand this internal conflict  for a lifestyle she lived openly. She was very apprehensive about seeking mental health services because her fitness for duty may have come into question. I didn’t know anything about LGBT support services or getting her connected with people who could identify with the pain she was feeling. I just wanted her to get over it, and I thought she did.

The last few months of her life were a complete lie, and she had convinced me and everyone around her that she was alright. She said that she was in a relationship and working extra shifts in which I didn’t question it. It wasn’t unusual for us not to hang out when she was with her girlfriend. Although I would meet whoever she was dating, I never broke bread with any of them.

Today, I truly regret it, and I can’t imagine how that must have made her feel. I miss my friend everyday, and I will never get the opportunity to have the conversations that I wish we should have had. She wasn’t in a relationship and she wasn’t working extra shifts. She left no note, and I have no idea about what was going on with her in the last moments of her life. Bringing awareness to this issue is the only way that I know how to honor her memory.

Social workers provide 69 percent of all mental health services in the United States. Are social workers contributing to the mental health crisis of the LGBT community’s increase in suicides by failing to proactively do outreach to this community? We must assess if our own prejudices are preventing the creation of early intervention services and proper assessment of issues when conducting home visits. I have noticed a shift in the social work profession that is moving closer towards conservative values. What impact will this have on treatment if the primary mental health service providers do not want to work with the LGBT community?

This is not a blog post that I had planned to write, but I think this is an important discussion needed within the social work community. You may disagree or agree with gay rights, but a plan must be devised to deal with the uptick in suicides within the LGBT community today. Where do you stand on the issue?

I have included an excerpt written by Perry Noble with a link to the full article as follows:

Let me begin by saying I absolutely LOVE Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. (Gonna go ahead and tell you that Oatmeal Cookie Chunk is THE BEST flavor I’ve EVER had!!)

A few years ago I went to Wal Mart (the closest thing to hell I can imagine…that and the DMV), found my favorite flavor and decided to tweet that I was purchasing some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream…and doing so “unleashed the hounds” in a sense. Honestly, I’ve never experienced anything like it, “Christians” began @ replying me on twitter condemning me and scolding me for buying this product because apparently Ben & Jerry’s supported gay rights/same sex marriage.

Honestly, it bothered me. Because, first of all…I wasn’t trying to make a political statement I was simply trying to get some chunky monkey and some oatmeal cookie crunch. I like ice cream…I believe it will be served in heaven (with ZERO calories)! And second, it has broken my heart the way that many who claim to follow Christ have treated those who are homosexuals. We’ve yelled at them, ignored them and in some cases damned them to hell without EVER sitting down and actually having a conversation with someone who is gay. Read More

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