Who Are Gay Alaskans Voting For?

Eighty-seven percent of LGBT Alaskans are voting for Barack Obama and Joe Biden, according to a poll conducted Oct. 23-30 on Bent Alaska.

The most recent Harris Interactive poll reports that LGBT voters in America prefer Obama by 81%. Bent Alaska's LGBT voters - who live in Sarah Palin's home state - support Obama and Biden by an additional 6%.

For President and Vice President, 87% chose Obama and Biden, 9% chose McCain and Palin, and 4% chose other candidates. Gay Alaskans also favor Democrats Mark Begich and Ethan Berkowitz for Congress: 90% chose Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich for the US Senate, with 5% for Ted Stevens. 89% of LGBT Alaskans chose Ethan Berkowitz for US Representative, with 6% for Don Young. The rest of the voters chose other candidates.

Results for Begich were holding near 86% until Tuesday, when Sen. Ted Stevens was convicted on all seven felony counts in his corruption trial. Stevens has a mostly anti-gay record, voting twice for banning same-sex marriage, and voting against adding sexual orientation to job discrimination and hate crimes legislation. He received a 0% rating from the Human Rights Campaign in 2006 and 2004.

In contrast, Mayor Mark Begich talked with his supporters at the Anchorage Pride Parade and read the city proclamation marking the third Saturday in June as Gay Pride Day. He attended PrideFest every year since becoming mayor.

Rep. Don Young, Alaska's only member in the US House, earned 0% from HRC for each year of the rating. Young voted for banning same-sex marriage and banning gay adoptions in DC, and voted against prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation. He is currently under investigation for corruption.

Young's challenger, Democrat Ethan Berkowitz, voted for same-sex partner benefits during his years as a state legislator, and includes sexual orientation and partner benefits in his civil rights statement. He was endorsed by HRC.

The gay Alaska poll received 243 votes and was announced in Alaska's LGBT newsletters, email lists and on Bent Alaska, the GLBT news and events site for the state.

Write to Marry Day: Gay Alaskans Say NO on 8

Gov. Sarah Palin wants a federal ban on same-sex marriage, but gay and lesbian Alaskans support the right to get married.

An unknown number of gay and lesbian couples from Alaska have been legally married in California since the state Supreme Court struck down their ban on same-sex marriage. Although not valid in Alaska, the marriages are recognized by several states and countries. 

Will the right to marry be taken away by California's Proposition 8? 

When the California Court granted gay and lesbian couples the right to marry on May 5, LGBT Alaskans celebrated the news.

"LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT," Shelly commented, and Koukla wrote, "Finally! I would love to be in San Francisco tonight."

Alaskans Together for Equality and the ACLU of Alaska gave official statements supporting the decision, PFLAG Anchorage and Identity, Inc. added their statements, and many LGBT Alaskans sent their personal reactions on the impact of this historic event.

"It is a great day for humanity that this important state Supreme Court acknowledged that gay and lesbian Americans are due the same rights under the constitution as other Americans," said Tim Stallard of Fairbanks, writing for Alaskans Together.

We knew the decision would be challenged, and Alaskans began donating money to support marriage equality.

"This good news definitely impacts us personally as Alaskans," said Marsha Buck of PFLAG Juneau. "Way to go California! I'm sending off several personal checks to make certain this decision is not overturned in November."

"I intend to give more money to our side in that campaign than to any in my life," said Sara Boesser, author of Silent Lives: How High a Price?

A few weeks after the decision, the Juneau Pride Chorus collected donations for Equality For All during "Songs for the Soul," their 10th Anniversary Spring Concert.


Alaskans also held two Equality For All: NO on 8 fundraisers and set up a state donation page for the NO on 8 campaign.

The Anchorage LGBT community Celebrated the Summer of Love with rumba dance lessons and a gay and lesbian newlywed game at Mad Myrna's.

Juneau residents Jumped the Broom in Solidarity and Celebration of Love and Marriage at a wedding party hosted by a lesbian couple who were married (again) in California, eighteen years after their original non-legal wedding.

Many individual Alaskans donated to NO on 8, and Elias Rojas registered an Alaska Fundraising page to track our contributions. 

"Why should Alaskans care what happens in California?" Elias wrote in his letter to Alaska's LGBT community. "Simply put, [Prop 8] will not only eliminate the right to marry by same-sex couples in California . . . but it will also be an extreme step backwards for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community's efforts to achieve civil equality in Alaska and across the country."

Prop. 8 is unfair, unnecessary and wrong. Special interest groups behind Prop 8 have engaged in a deceptive campaign to confuse voters. Nearly every major newspaper in California, and a broad range of groups and leaders representing teachers, nurses, seniors, business and labor, oppose Proposition 8.

The polls are close. We can save this basic human right, for California and for all of us.

Support marriage equality - Ask your friends and relatives in California to vote NO on 8 on Tuesday, and donate to NO on 8 today: Alaska Fundraising page for NO on 8

This post is in honor of Write to Marry Day. Please join bloggers around the country and around the world on Wednesday, October 29 to blog in support of marriage equality for same-sex couples and against California's Proposition 8. 

Check out the many wonderful Write to Marry posts listed on Mombian.


Who will LGBT Alaskans Vote For?

Here is the political poll you've been waiting for, the big questions of our time: Will LGBT Alaskans vote for McCain and Palin, or for Obama and Biden? For Stevens or Begich? For Berkowitz or Young? Who do we support, and by how much? Inquiring minds want to know. (Well, I want to know - don't you?) 

Answer the 3 question poll in the right hand column here on Bent Alaska and we'll see how the community votes. 60-40 for Obama? 70-30 for Begich? 80-20 for Young? (kidding!) Make your predictions below for how our community will vote.

There have been dozens of political messages on our email lists and newsletters. What does all this talk boil down to, what are the numbers? Take the poll, send the link to your LGBT friends in Alaska, and come back Friday for the results!

UAF Fraternity Hosts YouthAIDS Fundraiser

Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity at the University of Alaska Fairbanks will hold a fundraiser for the YouthAIDS Foundation, according to the News-Miner.

The SigEp event runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 1 in the UAF residence halls. The fundraising will help promote HIV/AIDS awareness and raise money for the YouthAIDS Foundation.

Students who live in the residence halls will be encouraged to put small donations in containers maintained by Residence Hall staff. Awareness information about AIDS and HIV will be given to students throughout the event. 

Other donation containers will be available in the UAF Wood Center for people not living in the residence halls, but only students living in the residence halls will be eligible for the prizes.

Sigma Phi Epsilon, the largest fraternity in the US with over 14,000 members, partnered with YouthAIDS to create an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign on college campuses. In addition to educating peers, SigEp brothers plan and produce events to raise funding for YouthAIDS prevention programs around the world.

This Week in GLBT Alaska - 10/24/08

Check out this week's events from Alaska GLBT News.

For full listings, news briefs and up-coming events, subscribe to AGN, the weekly email newsletter.

October is GLBT History Month - See a different LGBT leader each day!


SEAGLA Social Fridays, 10/14, 6-8 p.m., 21 and over.


Ever Ready in Eagle River 10/24, 7:30-11:30 p.m.

Last Sunday Brunch with TLFMC 10/26, 10:30 a.m.

MCC Sunday Worship service, Sundays 2 p.m.

Trans Support Group at the GLCCA, Sundays 4-6 p.m.

Craft and Chat at the GLCCA, Thursdays 7-9 p.m.

Hump Day Happy Hour, Wednesdays 5-7 p.m. with The Last Frontier Men's Club.

Westboro to Picket Fairbanks Funeral

UPDATE: Here is an update from the Alaska Patriot Guard:

"I want to thank you all for showing up to the Memorial, in spite of the cold weather, nasty wind and lack of sunshine. The 22 people in Fairbanks who took time out of their busy day to help with the Memorial and show Respect for the family of this Marine - you have my respect and admiration. 

"Please, continue to Stand with me when a Citizen falls, if there may be a next time. You will never forget it, nor will you feel sorry for Standing there for the Families. God Bless You All."

The Westboro Baptist Church - the extremists at GodHatesFags (dot) com - announced that they will be in Fairbanks to picket the memorial service for Cpl. Jason A. Karella, 20, of Anchorage, who died in Afghanistan on Oct. 9. 

The memorial is at Fairhill Community Church (101 City Lights Blvd., Fairbanks) on Friday Oct. 24 at 4 p.m. 

The Westboro news release says: "God Hates America, and God is killing our troops in His wrath. Thank God for IEDs" and "These soldiers are dying for the homosexual and other sins of America." (The full statement is on their web site under Press Releases.)

Some in the Fairbanks LGBT community will be there "to peacefully stand against intolerance" in case Westboro members show up to picket.

The Patriot Guard will also be there to "shield the mourning family and their friends from interruptions created by any protestor or group of protestors," according to their mission statement.

"WB did not show at the funeral in Anchorage [on Saturday] and they probably won't show in Fairbanks. But better safe then sorry," said Christine Mahnken, the AK State Captain. "Anyone can join us and stand in a line with a flag, as long as they respect the grieving family. Wear WARM clothes!" 

See the Patriot Guard forum page for details.

Four A's Gifts For Change

Have you ever tried to figure out what to give that person in your life who already has everything? The Four A's has launched a new program for donors called "Gifts For Change" that not only provides you with another option for special occasion gift giving, but also provides support to individuals living with HIV/AIDS in Alaska and prevention efforts across the state. 

Gifts For Change can be made in recognition of birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, weddings, thank you gifts or any other occasion you celebrate. 

Here's how it works. Fill out the Gifts For Change form, specifying the gift recipient's contact information (recipients will not be added to any Four A's mailing lists), gift occasion and the amount you'd like to donate. Four A's will send the recipient a card recognizing the occasion and your name (gift amounts will only be reported to the gift recipient if you chose). 

Send the completed form to Four A's, ATTN: Chrissy Bell,1057 W. Fireweed, Suite 102, Anchorage, AK  99503.

RAW 2009 Short Story Contest

UPDATE: Wendy Withrow won 1st place for "Frayed Yellow Rope." The list of winners and honorable mentions is posted at RAW. Thanks to all who entered the 2009 contest. The 2010 contest will be announced in the fall.

Radical Arts for Women (RAW) is giving away the most money yet for its 3rd annual short story contest, open to all women living in Alaska. 

The fiction pieces must be between 250 and 5,000 words and contain some lesbian content. The deadline is Jan. 15, 2009.

The grand prize is $500, publication and an opportunity to read the story at Celebration. The second place winner will receive $300 and the third place wins $100. There is no entry fee.

In addition to the annual story contest, RAW produces Celebration of Change and awards grants to Alaskan women in the arts. 

Last year's winning story was Annette Baker's "A Place with Water"

Complete guidelines:
  • Each entry must contain a cover sheet with author's name, address, phone number and email and with the story's title and word count.
  • The short story must be between 250 and 5,000 words and contain some lesbian content. Stories should be on 8.5-by-11 paper, double spaced, 1-inch margins, no less than size 10 font. Do not put author's name on the story. The fiction and lesbian stipulations may be interpreted by the author, but we are not seeking poetry or non-fiction. Erotica is acceptable. Electronic submissions are not accepted. Unpublished submissions only.
  • Feel free to use a pseudonym, but let us know your real name in case you win a prize.
  • Author must be a woman living in Alaska as of January 2009.
  • Jan. 15 is the postmark deadline for entries.
  • There is no entry fee.
  • Winner receives $500 and the invitation to read her work at RAW's annual performing arts production Celebration of Change in the spring of 2009 in Anchorage. The winning short story will be published on RAW and in the Alaska LGBT literary journal Naked Ptarmigan.
  • Honorable mentions will be given at the judges' discretion.
  • Winners will be announced Feb. 15. For a complete list of winners, include an SASE with entry.
  • Mail entries by Jan. 15 to Radical Arts for Women Short Story Contest, PO Box 244436, Anchorage AK 99524-4436.
Also, the Naked Ptarmigan is accepting submissions: PO Box 244076, Anchorage AK 99524. Several of last year's stories were published in the journal.

Palin Supports Federal Gay Marriage Ban

In Pennsylvania this weekend, Gov. Sarah Palin expressed support for a federal amendment against gay marriage, like the state amendment she voted for in Alaska in 1998.

Palin told David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network that she would like a Constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman. "I wish on a federal level that that's where we would go, because I don't support gay marriage," she said. 
"In my own state, I have voted, along with the vast majority of Alaskans who had the opportunity to vote, to amend our constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman. I wish on a federal level that's where we would go, because I don't support gay marriage. You know, I'm not going to be up there judging individuals, sitting in a seat of judgment, telling them what they can and can't do, should and should not do, but I certainly can express my own opinion here and take actions that I believe would be best for traditional marriage, and that's casting my votes and speaking up for traditional marriage. That instrument, it's the foundation of our society, that strong family, and that's based on that traditional definition of marriage."
Palin stopped short of supporting a federal gay marriage ban during her debate with opponent Sen. Joseph Biden on October 2. Touting a diverse group of friends and family, the Governor said that while she respected people's right to enter into legal contracts with one another and make their own decisions, 
"I'm being as straight up with Americans as I can in my non-support for anything but a traditional definition of marriage."
The following video is from CBN.com, released today:

Support Identity with Work Place Giving

Identity, Inc. is now approved as a Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) charity. If you are a federal employee, you can choose Identity as the non-profit to benefit from a donation withheld from your pay check. Supporters can also donate to Identity from your PFD checks if you apply online for the 2009 PFD. 

Here are four easy ways you can support Identity, Inc, sponsors of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center in Anchorage, the Pride Conference and PrideFest:

1.  UNITED WAY – WORK PLACE GIVING: In Health & Human Services, write in "Identity, Inc."

2.  ALASKA COMMUNITY SHARE – WORK PLACE GIVING: Simply select Identity, Inc.

3.  COMBINED FEDERAL CAMPAIGN – WORK PLACE GIVING: Federal Workers select Identity Inc.

4.  ALASKA PERMANENT FUND:  Identity, Inc. is an approved charity for selection when you apply on line for 2009.

If you indicate that your name may be disclosed to us, you will receive a thank you letter when your contributions are received at Identity, Inc.

Young Gay Alaskan says "Vote! Don't Let Your Voice Be Silenced"

Slade, a 20 year old gay Alaskan, vlogs on why everyone must vote in this election, especially 18-24 year olds. (warning: a bit of strong language.)

Check out Slade's music video slideshows (Slade's Life part 2: The Life of a Gay Alaskan Teen, and Slade's Life part 3: My Trip to Work in the Oil Industry) and his vlog for National Coming Out Day.

This Week in GLBT Alaska - 10/17/08

Check out this week's events from Alaska GLBT News.
For full listings, news briefs and up-coming events, subscribe to AGN, the weekly email newsletter.

October is GLBT History Month - See a different LGBT leader each day!



Friends Steve & Carol are both turning 50! Birthday Party 10/18, 8 p.m. at Jeff's house.

Casting call for Drag Through The Ages, a benefit show for Interior AIDS Association (IAA), 10/18, 4 p.m. at Dance Theater Fairbanks. First rehearsal is Sunday evening.

SEAGLA Social Fridays, 10/17, 6-8 p.m., 21 and over.

HIV Rapid Testing by Four A's at the Hispanic Community Center 10/17, 4-6 p.m. for National Latino AIDS Awareness Day.

MCC Sunday Worship service with speaker Sara Gavit 10/19, 2 p.m.

ICOAA Chili Cook*Off 10/19, 4-7 p.m. at Mad Myrna's. Prizes! $3.00 at the door includes chilli & cornbread.

ICOAA Annual Meeting 10/20, 6:30 p.m. in Mad Myrna's showroom.

Hump Day Happy Hour 10/22, 5-7 p.m. with The Last Frontier Men's Club at The Raven Bar.

Growing Up Gay in Alaska

Discrimination against LGBT Alaskans, growing up gay in Alaska, and The Family are the topics of a front page story in The Northern Light, the newspaper of the University of Alaska, Anchorage. 

The first part of the article covers the ACLU of Alaska's preliminary report on LGBT discrimination, and the second part covers The Family, especially members who grew up in rural Alaska. The article also tells students about Identity, Inc. and the Gay and Lesbian Community Center in downtown Anchorage.

This part about The Family compares the experiences of gay teens in Anchorage with those who grew up gay in rural Alaska:
Vicki Mason, current president of The Family, an unofficial UAA club, said that while discrimination is not a huge problem in Anchorage, the group has had to deal with people ripping down posters and signs that advertise the group's presence.

The Family has had a presence on campus for years. Its goal is to act as a family for straight and LGBT students who may have nowhere else to turn.

Many members of The Family spoke about outreach they had growing up. Many who lived in Anchorage were part of their high school's Gay-Straight Alliance. Others, especially those who had grown up on the Kenai Peninsula, had absolutely nothing.

One student, who grew up in Soldotna, grew up dealing with harassment, fear and name-calling. Several students who attended Homer High School said that one student had been beat up for being gay; the assailants only received a three-day suspension as punishment.

Another member of The Family who grew up in the lower Kuskokwim River Area, said that in most villages there was a general feeling of "don't ask, don't tell."

Wasilla Library Rejects "Heather Has Two Mommies" and "Daddy's Roommate"

KJ Martin-Albright, Director of the Wasilla Library, announced that the library will sell the donated copies of Heather Has Two Mommies and Daddy's Roommate through its Friends group. Gay and lesbian citizens donated the children's books to the library after hearing that in 1996 then-mayor Sarah Palin repeatedly asked then-library director Mary Jane Emmons (now Baker) about banning books.

During that time, members of Palin's church pressured stores to remove certain books, including Palmer author Howard Bess' Pastor, I Am Gay, which disappeared from the Wasilla Library shelves and was not replaced.

Library Journal interviewed Wasilla Library Director KJ Martin-Albright recently. Her comments on the donated kids books and the Bess book are instructive for others who donate LGBT books to public libraries:
You had already stated that one reason that Heather Has Two Mommies isn't in the library is that a book has to earn its real estate.

The library strives to achieve a balanced collection of materials in the major information categories, as well as a fiction collection calculated to satisfy the widest possible variety of tastes. All viewpoints and opinions on controversial subjects are represented whenever possible. Wasilla Public Library's collection development states that materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation and that the library should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval. 

In the past, Wasilla Public Library held both Heather Has Two Mommies and Daddy's Roommate, although the books are no longer on the library's shelves. Wasilla outgrew the size of its library about 20 years ago. Library collections are dynamic, and anything on the book shelves has to earn its real estate. If it is not circulating, it does not stay. This is not the ideal, but it is the reality. The books were removed as part of on-going collection development and not due to the subject matter presented in the books. Wasilla Public Library holds many titles that deal with the same subject matter, including the popular And Tango Makes Three.

All one has to do is look at the books in question next to Tango, or any other well-made picture book, to see that Heather and Daddy's Roommate are poorly constructed, lack engaging illustrations, and have too many words on the page to be useful to young readers. The books are poorly manufactured; they are insubstantial paperbacks that would not withstand repeated use. Moreover, the books are dated in illustrational style and content. Since they were published, several better-made books which are more appealing to children that deal with the same subject matter have been released. Wasilla Public Library houses quite a few of these titles on its shelves.

While the library agrees that Heather and Daddy's Roommate are important books because they were ground-breaking and because of the controversy and discussions that have occurred in the 15-plus years since they were published, there are better choices for a dynamic, current, and appealing children's collection. The donated materials, in accordance with our Donations Policy, will be given to the Friends of Wasilla Library for its annual book sale. You are the first reporter who has asked since the decision was made, so I guess this will be our first public announcement.

I understand that copies of Pastor, I Am Gay were in the library once but disappeared. Do you know when the library last had copies?

In regard to Pastor, I am Gay, by Howard Bess, the Wasilla Public Library does not have a copy; however, there are three libraries in the Mat-Su Library Network that do. Since the network provides intralibrary courier service, these copies are available to any library patron. I don't know when the library last had copies—even if our library automation kept information on deleted materials, which it doesn't, we migrated from Dynix to Sirsi in August 2004, so there's no way to mine that data.

An Anchor in Alaska: Being an Ally

When I first became active in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community, I went to great lengths to discreetly indicate my sexual orientation to those I worked with. I didn't join the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) during my first year in my 7-12 high school because I feared others would think I was gay. Four years later, I look back at my flawed seventh-grade reasoning and realize my work will someday create a world where such a thought would never have occurred to me—a world that sees people for who they are, not who they love.

I am fortunate to live in a community where LGBT people are commonly accepted. My experience in Anchorage, Alaska is not a place where funerals are protested or marchers are harassed during Pride Parades. Instead, it is a place where the Gay and Lesbian Community Center is open daily thanks to donors and volunteers. I attend a school where the GSA meets sporadically—not because the students don't care, but because there is no blatant anti-LGBT harassment. While a younger student will occasionally use "that's so gay" in a negative manner, I have never heard of someone being verbally or physically harassed for any reason, including sexual orientation or gender identity. It's certainly not perfect, but I realize that being an ally is much easier for me than it is for others.

Still, like other allied students, I have had some difficult experiences. I have had "faggot" yelled at me from the open window of a passing school bus. Friends become exasperated with me for being offended at the saying "that's so gay." Other GSA members have asked, "How can you be so active with the GSA and still be straight?" But I know that these few things pale in comparison to the harassment and prejudice some of my friends face in their schools and communities.

Anti-LGBT harassment hurts everyone, not just the offender and the harassed. Environments of teasing, bullying, and harassment discourage learning and cause LGBT students and allies to feel alienated in places where they should be safe. Allowing it to continue fosters hate and intolerance, and has severe effects on those it is directed to and any witnesses as well. It also discourages students from attending class and participating.

I know that even as an ally, every time I hear hurtful and harassing words I feel as if I have been personally attacked. I feel hurt for my LGBT friends and angry that the offender would do/say something like that. If it's on TV or in a non-personal setting, I feel angry that the broadcaster would allow such things, and that whoever watching (because it isn't me) will watch that. In certain situations, even I sometimes feel helpless to stop it. It often ruins my day.

At times, it can seem like an exercise in futility. Some days it seems as if I am the only straight male who fights for the rights LGBT people. But every time I meet a member of the LGBT community, I am reminded of why I am an ally—because nobody deserves to be oppressed. Anti-LGBT harassment in any environment creates an unsafe place for a person to live, work or learn. Until all schools are safe spaces for all students, regardless of identity, I will remain an ally to my friends and all other members of the LGBT community.

Tony Glavinic
Regional Student Organizer
2006-2007 National Student Leadership Team

Do you have an ally story? Send a message to GLSEN's Student Organizing Department at info@dayofsilence.org.

Ally Week: October 13-17, 2008

Allies play a vital role in making schools safer for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. In fact, the first Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) was the idea of a straight ally. 

Students created Ally Week as a way to build upon the unifying work GSAs do across the country by encouraging people to be allies against anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools. Whether you belong to a GSA or not, Ally Week is the perfect time for you and your friends to sign the Ally Pledge.

What is GLSEN's Ally Week?

GLSEN and students across the county, often as members of Gay-Straight Alliances or similar student clubs, will celebrate Ally Week on October 13-17 in schools and communities nationwide.

Ally Week involves a week of activities designed to encourage students to be Allies against anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) language, bullying and harassment in America's schools.

Students plan events appropriate to their school community. These may simply include passing out stickers to allies who sign a pledge. Others may take part in larger community events and rallies. Many students will encourage their peers and school staff to sign an Ally Pledge which states:
I believe all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression, deserve to feel safe and supported. That means I pledge to:
1.  Not use anti-LGBT language and slurs;
2.  Intervene, if I safely can, in situations where other students are being harassed;
3.  Support efforts to end bullying and harassment.

GLSEN encourages students to participate in Ally Week in cooperation with their schools. We encourage students to get support from their principals and educators and participate fully in their school day. Principals, counselors, teachers and all school staff are encouraged to be Allies too!

Students and GSAs are strongly encouraged to register for GLSEN's Ally Week in order to receive free resources and to help us determine the total number of schools and students taking part.

To register for Ally Week, visit: www.studentorganizing.org
Buttons and magnets for GLSEN's Ally Week can be purchased online at www.glsenstore.org
To find resources, visit: www.allyweek.org

What is an Ally?

Often referred to as 'straight allies,' allies generally are non-LGBT people who are committed to ending bias and discrimination against LGBT people. While straight allies are an integral part of GLSEN's Ally Week, the term "ally" is more inclusive within the Safe Schools Movement to refer to anyone who supports ending anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools. For instance, a bisexual adult can be an ally to LGBT students, and a lesbian student can be an ally to a transgender student.

Who started Ally Week?

In 2005, members of GLSEN's Jump-Start National Student Leadership Team came up with an idea to celebrate Allies committed to ensuring safe and effective schools for all and to encourage students to take action. The idea turned into the first Ally Week celebrated in schools nationwide in October 2005.

This year, GSAs are working with GLSEN, local chapters and national student leaders to expand Ally Week and encourage more allies to take part.

Why do we need an Ally Week?

The unfortunate truth is that anti-LGBT bullying, violence and harassment are commonplace in America's schools. Actual and perceived sexual orientation and gender expression are two of the top three reasons teens report that students are harassed at their schools, according to From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America, a GLSEN-commissioned report by Harris Interactive. In other words, all students – LGBT and straight alike – perceive anti-LGBT bullying and harassment as a serious problem in their schools. The vast majority of these same students said their schools would be better off if this issue was better addressed. GLSEN's 2005 National School Climate Survey found that 4 out of 5 LGBT students report verbal, sexual or physical harassment at school and more than 30% report missing at least a day of school in the past month out of fear for their personal safety. GLSEN's Ally Week brings us closer to making anti-LGBT bullying, harassment and name-calling unacceptable in America's schools.

Does the work end after the week is over?

GLSEN's Ally Week is one element of a larger effort to create safe schools for all students and the first of four GLSEN Days of Action: TransACTION! (11/21), MLK Jr. Organizing Weekend (1/16-19) and the National Day of Silence (4/17). For more on GLSEN's Days of Action, visit www.dayofsilence.org. We also are asking our national leaders to support policies that create safe schools for all. Many communities are asking their local and state leaders to support and implement similar policies.

What are the facts about sexual orientation?

GLSEN looks forward to engaging all organizations and individuals who share the Ally Week vision of schools free from anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment, where all students are free to focus on learning. To learn more, check out the resource Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation and Youth: A Primer for Principals, Educators, and School Personnel, created by a collations of 13 education, health, mental health and religious organizations at www.glsen.org/facts.

What is GLSEN?

GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established nationally in 1995, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. For more information on GLSEN's educational resources, public policy agenda, student organizing programs, research, public education or development initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.

Key Resources and URLs:
GLSEN: www.glsen.org
Registration and resources: www.allyweek.org
Ally Week t-shirts, buttons, magnets and supplies: www.glsenstore.org
Register your GSA: www.studentorganizing.org
Just the Facts: www.glsen.org/facts
From Teasing to Torment: www.glsen.org/research
2005 National School Climate Survey: www.glsen.org/research
2007 National School Climate Survey: Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT Students Experience Harassment

The 10th Anniversary of Matthew Shepard's Murder

The Juneau Empire printed an editorial by current Juneau resident and former Wyoming resident Leslie Wood about Matthew Shepard's murder and anti-gay hate crimes today, ten years after Shepard was killed.

By Leslie Wood | My Turn 

It was October 1998, and I was new to Juneau. I had grown up in Wyoming, and for a week my attention was squarely on my old Wyoming community. It was as though the world was turned upside down. Word broke that a student from my former school, the University of Wyoming in Laramie, had been brutally murdered. He had been beaten, tied to a split rail fence, pistol-whipped, and left to die in near freezing temperatures. 

It was shocking, it was sickening, and it left people wondering, "Why?" 

For six days I watched the news and prayed for his recovery, but on Oct. 12, 1998, Matthew Shepard's body finally gave out and he died. During that week, we discovered the reason that Shepard was beaten and left to die: He was gay. 

Shepard's brutal murder had a chilling affect on everyone, but it struck really close for some of us. How could someone hate this kid, just for being who he was? I wanted desperately to believe Wyoming was better than this. Surely the world was better than this? Shepard was the victim of this crime, but because this type of ugly hatred reared its head in our community, many of us were left with emotional scars that may never heal. 

It has been 10 years since he was killed. Although I had moved to Juneau before he was killed, I had deep roots in the Wyoming community. Juneau is my home, it's where I live, work, and with my partner raise our two little girls. Yet, as I compare the world then to the world now, it saddens me to realize that so little has changed. Today, we see little alarm or public outpouring to stop this type of bias-motivated crime, often these crimes making no more than the local evening news. Have we grown immune in the 10 years since Shepard was killed? 

Anti-gay and anti-transgender hate crimes are still pervasive in our country: On Feb. 12, a 15-year-old boy in Oxnard, Calif., Lawrence "Larry" King, admitted to classmates that his innocent Valentine crush was directed toward a male classmate. The next day, the boy Larry had a crush on came to school and shot Larry in the back of the head. Larry was killed because he was gay. 

In July of this year, 18-year-old Angie Zapata returned to her home in Greeley, Colo., to find a man who she had previously dated waiting for her. According to that man's story, he became enraged when he found out Angie was transgender, and beat her to death with a fire extinguisher. In September, police reported that the murderer said, "All gay things should die." 

And we are not immune in Alaska: Young gay, lesbian, bi and transgender Alaskans have to ask themselves every day whether it's safe to be honest about who they are. As lesbian mothers, my partner and I have to worry about how safe the community is for our daughters. Will they be targeted for harassment or worse simply for who their parents are? 

It was wrong for Shepard to be so brutally murdered, and it is wrong for kids like Larry and Angie to still be subject to this type of crime today! 

In 1998, I hoped the horror and shock of Shepard's murder would help stop this type of anti-gay crime. To this day, the image of a split rail fence sends chills down my spine, as I think of Shepard spending some of his last hours, alone, tied to one in the Wyoming countryside. As we remember him, now a decade later, I call upon my fellow Alaskans to join me. As part of a new organization, Alaskans Together for Equality can make sure that we no longer tolerate this type of anti-gay bias. Alaskans Together, we can make this world a better place for all our children. 

Connecticut Ruling Overturns Ban on Same-Sex Marriage

Published: October 10, 2008

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Connecticut's Supreme Court ruled Friday that same-sex couples have the right to marry, making the state the third behind Massachusetts and California to legalize such unions.

The divided court ruled 4-3 that gay and lesbian couples cannot be denied the freedom to marry under the state constitution, and Connecticut's civil unions law does not provide those couples with the same rights as heterosexual couples.

"I can't believe it. We're thrilled, we're absolutely overjoyed. We're finally going to be able, after 33 years, to get married," said Janet Peck of Colchester, who was a plaintiff with her partner, Carole Conklin.

Connecticut will join Massachusetts and California as the only state to allow same-sex couples to marry.

"Interpreting our state constitutional provisions in accordance with firmly established equal protection principles leads inevitably to the conclusion that gay persons are entitled to marry the otherwise qualified same sex partner of their choice," Justice Richard N. Palmer wrote in the majority opinion that overturned a lower court finding.

"To decide otherwise would require us to apply one set of constitutional principles to gay persons and another to all others," Palmer wrote.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell said Friday that she disagreed, but will not fight the ruling.

"The Supreme Court has spoken," Rell said in a statement. "I do not believe their voice reflects the majority of the people of Connecticut. However, I am also firmly convinced that attempts to reverse this decision -- either legislatively or by amending the state Constitution -- will not meet with success."

The lawsuit was brought in 2004 after eight same-sex couples were denied marriage licenses and sued, saying their constitutional rights to equal protection and due process were violated.

They said the state's marriage law, if applied only to heterosexual couples, denied them of the financial, social and emotional benefits of marriage.

Peck said that as soon as the decision was announced, the couple started crying and hugging while juggling excited phone calls from her brother and other friends and family.

"We've always dreamed of being married," she said. "Even though we were lesbians and didn't know if that would ever come true, we always dreamed of it."

Copyright © 2008 by Bent Alaska.