More Than 100 Gather To Discuss Equality For Homosexuals
The Montgomery Advertiser, March 22, 1999
By Tara Johnson Montgomery Advertiser
Equality for all peopleregardless of sexual orientationwas the topic
Sunday at the first Montgomery meeting of the Equality Begins at Home campaign.
"We need to accept and love everyone equally," said Susan Stewart, president
of Parents, Family and Friends of Gays and Lesbians Montgomery, during the meeting of more
than 100 people at the Unitarian Fellowship on Vaughn Road. Stewart has a son who is gay.
The Montgomery campaign is part of a one-week national blitz of town meetings, panel
discussions and workshops to discuss ways to achieve equality for lesbians, gays,
bisexuals and transsexuals. Organizers said the campaign is a response to the slayings of
Billy Jack Gaither in Alabama and Matthew Shepard in Wyoming, both of which were linked to
violence against homosexuals.
"As long as we dont have any voice or numbers (peoplewise), we are going to
get the short end of the stick," said George Olsson, Montgomery area coordinator of
the Gay and Lesbian Alliance of Alabama.
Participants said homosexuals need to stop being quiet victims, become more vocal and
work together with one another and heterosexuals to achieve their goal of equality through
legislation. Among the items they discussed were:
- Changing the states hate crime bill, which already includes penalties for crimes
based on race or religion, to include sexual orientation.
- Having the law against sodomy taken off the states books.
- Eliminating sexual orientation as a consideration for determining custody of children.
- Setting up support systems for teen-age homosexuals.
Nichole Latitia, who declined to give a last name because of safety concerns, said,
"We know were different from everybody else, but we dont deserve to be
treated like a disease that needs to be wiped from the face of the earth."
M. Carolyn Thomas, director of the Counseling Center at Auburn University Montgomery,
said members of the heterosexual community who support the equality campaign need to be
"Youve got to stand up and be counted," Thomas said.
Stewart said sexual orientation is the only difference between homosexuals and
heterosexuals -- members of both groups have emotions and spirituality.
Panelists at the meeting included:
- David Cox, who has defended military personnel on homosexual rights cases.
- Jan Hart, a Birmingham attorney who has presented homosexual rights cases before the
United States Supreme Court.
- Martin McCaffery, president of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama and
director of Montgomerys Capri Theater.
- The Rev. John Hankins, co-pastor of Montgomerys New Hope Metropolitan Community
- Joan Robertson, a teacher at Saint James School and at Troy State University Montgomery.
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