From Oct. 7-13 straight people across the nation will “come out” as supporters of equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans. Overnight vigils will light up American cities, providing unprecedented visibility to heterosexual men and women with the conviction to stand up for their gay and lesbian friends and neighbors.
The McKinney family will be serving as the organizers of the Raleigh event.
Soulforce and Atticus Circle, two Texas-based organizations with members across the nation, initiated this series of activities, dubbed Seven Straight Nights for Equal Rights. With their support, heterosexual community leaders are organizing vigils across the country.
Raleigh and Greenville, S.C., will play host to the straight allies’ events in the Carolinas.
In Greenville, S.C., on Monday, Oct. 8 at 7:00 p.m. in the Greenville City Plaza, next to Greenville City Hall, the activists will light 1,138 candles to represent the 1,138 rights, benefits and protections denied to LGBT couples because they aren’t allowed to marry. The Greenville vigil is sponsored by Atticus Circle, SoulForce, Sean’s Last Wish, UpstateUnited and South Carolina Equality Coalition. Speakers will include Elke Kennedy of Sean’s Last Wish Foundation, Michelle Morton of Mental Health America, Ponja Beck of Rosewood Foundation and Susane Craine of UpstateUnited.
According to SoulForce’s website, Susane Craine’s mission statement is as follows:
“Activism runs in my blood, starting with my grandmother fighting at a young age for a woman’s right to vote, and my mother standing up and fighting for Civil Rights. Since I was young I have fought for the ‘under dog’ so to speak. When I moved to Greenville, S.C. I ran into one of the biggest challenges yet: The Buckle of the Bible Belt. Need I say more?
“I have committed myself to promoting Equality for everyone. In doing so, UpstateUnited was created. Our organization is dedicated to eliminating discrimination in all aspects of our community. It’s an uphill battle, but an achievable one here in South Carolina, and we have small victories now and then. It’s been an honor that I have been given the privilege of being the state leader for this project. Gathering the community together for our LGBT friends and standing up for their equal rights is a must here in Greenville. They need our support now more than ever. Good luck to everyone in their state endeavors!”
In Raleigh on Friday, Oct. 12 at 5:30 p.m. at the State Capitol, activists will produce a musical concert showcasing bluegrass and choral pieces. Special recognition will be given to corporations for leadership concerning domestic partner benefits. Anti-bullying legislation will also be addressed. The Raleigh vigil is sponsored by Atticus Circle, SoulForce and the Rev. Jack McKinney family. This family will be serving as the action leaders for the event.
According to SoulForce’s website, the McKinneys’ mission statement is as follows:
“Our family is choosing to lead this event because many of our closest friends are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender. These friends have stood beside us in our times of need, inspired us by their courage and celebrated with us in our moments of joy. For all these reasons we love and admire them.
“We were horrified when our LGBT friends shared their stories of being condemned and exiled by family members, church leaders and society in general. Some have been rejected by their parents. Others have been thrown out of their churches. Most of them suffer some form of discrimination in the work place. The litany of abuse and inequality goes on and on.
“Jack is the pastor of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh. His co-pastor, Nancy, and her partner Vickie have an adopted daughter. Only one of them is considered the legal parent of the child; the other partner is not allowed to adopt her. So if something tragic happens and the ‘legal’ mother dies, there is no law protecting her wishes that her partner raise their daughter. Why? Because they have been in a committed relationship for 10 years? Because one is a minister and the other a teacher? No! Because they happen to be in a same-sex domestic relationship.
“Where is the fairness in this? Even at a young age our children expressed their disgust at this injustice. So what do we do? Tell our children, ‘Life is not fair?’ No! We make choices to support our friends. We take a job in a church that supports LGBT people. We march and demonstrate for equal rights. We hold vigils. Come and join us. We will not only tell our children ‘Life is not fair,’ but demonstrate how to be the change we want to see.”
These courageous community leaders are showing their elected officials that equality is not a gay issue, not an urban elite issue, not an east coast or a west coast issue — it’s an American issue, and Seven Straight Nights is making Americans’ support for LGBT equality visible as never before.