SLDN, OutServe plan to merge
NEW YORK, N.Y. — The boards of directors of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) and OutServe have announced plans to merge the two organizations by October 2012 with a new name and a newly configured board of directors led by a representative from each existing organization. In the intervening period, the boards and staff of both organizations will focus on unifying the two administratively, financially and organizationally.
SLDN provides free and direct legal assistance to service members and veterans affected by the repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law and the prior regulatory ban on open service, as well as those currently serving. OutServe began as an underground network of LGBT service members connected via Facebook that now boasts more than 5,500 members worldwide. Just a few weeks after DADT repeal, OutServe hosted the first-ever conference of active duty LGBT service members.
The merger is expected to be finalized at the next board meetings of the two groups, scheduled to take place Oct. 26-28 in Orlando, Fla.
Episcopal Church votes for inclusion
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — At the Episcopal Church’s General Convention, held here earlier this month, attendees approved a new liturgy for blessing same-sex unions, two proposals adding gender identity and expression to the Church’s nondiscrimination canons for ordained ministry and in the “life, worship, and governance of the Church,” and a resolution supporting legislation for equal immigration rights for same-sex couples.
The votes were a long time in the making. Since the 1960s, many Episcopal clergy have provided private blessings to gay and lesbian couples, but the Church had no official practice. Following the 2009 General Convention, the Church said bishops may provide “generous pastoral response” to gay couples, especially in states that allow civil unions or gay marriages. The Church has been relatively silent on issues related to transgender clergy until this gathering.
Despite the gains, progressives of faith say there is still more work to be done. For example, they point out that the Canons of the Church still define “marriage” as a union between a man and a woman.
Pride in uniform
SAN DIEGO, Calif. — San Diego Pride officials say active duty service members have received approval from the Office of the Secretary of Defense and their commanding officers to march in the city’s America’s Pride Parade Military Contingent while wearing their uniforms. Veterans have long been allowed to wear their uniforms and now their active duty brothers and sisters will be able to march in uniform alongside them.
In a videotaped message released in June, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stated: “Before the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ you faithfully served your country with professionalism and courage. And just like your fellow service members, you put your country before yourself. And now — after repeal, you can be proud of serving your country, and be proud of who you are when in uniform.”
In 2011, San Diego made news by being the first city in the U.S. to have an active duty military contingent in a Pride Parade. With this year’s theme of America’s Pride, San Diego Pride organizers say they are looking to push even further in honoring service members, veterans and their families. Servicemembers wanting to walk in the military contingent can register at sdpride.org/military.
Text for global gay rights
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. State Department has launched a donation campaign that allows Americans to help fund programs and initiatives aimed at advancing human rights for LGBT people around the world just by sending a text message.
The Global Equality Fund was launched by U.S Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Human Rights Day in December 2011 in Geneva, Switzerland, where she reaffirmed, “Human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights.”
While providing tangible assistance to LGBT civil society groups around the world, the Fund also serves to underscore the State Department’s commitment to ensuring LGBT people worldwide are able to exercise their human rights with dignity. You can donate $10 to the Global Equality Fund by texting the word PRIDE to 80000.