Defying Convention, Ordinary Straight Americans Back LGBT Civil Rights

Seven Straight Nights for Equal Rights Ends, Soulforce and Atticus Circle Launch "Straight Takes"

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: October 17, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Paige Schilt, Director of Public Relations and Media
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org
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(Austin, TX) — In the 1970s, Tim and Cindy Morris attended an anti-gay rally at the Indiana State Capitol.

Last Friday, October 12, the Morrises were back at the Indiana capitol to attend a vigil–but this time, in support of equality–as part of Soulforce and Atticus Circle’s Seven Straight Nights for Equal Rights, October 7-13.

"Because of the friendships that we have, we feel driven to validate what they are," Tim Morris said about his gay friends in the Indianapolis Star. "The love that we have for our friends is real."

The Morrises’ journey is one of many stories of friendship and political transformation that emerged across the country during Seven Straight Nights, a week of straight-led vigils to support civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans.

This Wednesday, October 17, Atticus Circle and Soulforce will launch Straight Takes, an online, do-it-yourself video campaign. Conceived as a continuation of Seven Straight Nights, it is designed to give straight allies to the LGBT community an ongoing venue to tell those stories.

Seven Straight Nights for Equal Rights was timed to coincide with National Coming Out Day. In a YouTube statement produced by Michigan Equality, Amy Buttery, straight mother of two, speaks about coming out as a straight ally.

"There is a sense in which the term ‘coming out’ applies really well to allies, because it involves choice, and it involves action, and the power of it is also incredible," says Buttery, who helped organize a Seven Straight Nights event in Lansing, Michigan.

At the vigil in Greenville, South Carolina, straight allies experienced the immediate power of their convictions when they were confronted by protesters from Zachary Baptist Church, who shouted that gays and lesbians are "doomed to hell" and brandished signs that read, "God Abhors You."

In spite of the efforts to intimidate them, the Seven Straight Nights participants held their ground, lighting 1,138 candles to represent the rights and responsibilities denied to same-sex couples in the state. Some participants attempted to engage the anti-gay protesters and to question the conflation of anti-gay bigotry with religious belief.

Communities of faith across the nation participated in Seven Straight Nights. In 18 cities, Seven Straight Nights vigils were organized or co-sponsored by communities of faith. Alana Zavett, co-organizer of the Atlanta vigil, completed her undergraduate degree at Emory University, where her rabbi was Rabbi Josh Lesser, an openly gay man.

"Having him as a mentor definitely molded me into a straight ally," says Zavett.

Through Seven Straight Nights, the power of straight ally voices resonated in thirty-eight cities and towns across the country, from the Deep South to California and New York, two states where marriage equality is being considered by the state Supreme Court and the State Senate, respectively.

In twenty-six states, Seven Straight Nights events helped straight allies connect with political organizations dedicated to LGBT equality. Soulforce and Atticus Circle, the national sponsors of the event, partnered with more than 30 national and state equality organizations, including American Civil Liberties Union, Faith in America, Marriage Equality USA, GLAAD, Love Makes a Family, Hands-On Atlanta, Equality Maine, Upstate United, and Equality Texas.

Seven Straight Nights at a Glance:

Number of Vigils: 38
Number of States: 26
Number of Participating Organizations: 32

To find out if Seven Straight Nights for Equal Rights activities are planned in your community, go to: www.sevenstraightnights.org.


"Seven Straight Nights for Equal Rights" is a joint project of Atticus Circle and Soulforce. Atticus Circle is a national non-profit that is dedicated to achieving equality for all partners, parents, and their children regardless of sexual orientation. Soulforce is a national social justice organization that seeks freedom for LGBTQ people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information, visit www.sevenstraightnights.org.

Straight Americans Speak Out For Transgender Rights

Groundbreaking Project October 7-13 Highlights Broad Support for Full Workplace Equality

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: October 10, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Paige Schilt, Director of Public Relations and Media
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org
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(Austin, TX) — This week, straight people are speaking out in small towns and major cities across America as part of a landmark project called Seven Straight Nights for Equal Rights, a week of nighttime vigils to create visibility for heterosexuals who believe in civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans.

Ironically, as Seven Straight Nights is mobilizing citizens to speak up for equality, some members of Congress have introduced a new version of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) that does not include crucial workplace protections for transgender Americans.

Soulforce and Atticus Circle, national sponsors of Seven Straight Nights for Equal Rights, have affirmed their support for a version of ENDA that includes gender identity and gender expression and have joined more than 200 other equality organizations in a letter opposing legislation that leaves transgender Americans "without protections and basic security that the rest of us are provided."

"I believe transgender Americans should be treated equally in the workplace, and I want to instill in my children the practice of standing up for what they believe in, regardless of how hard or unpopular it may be," says Anne Wynne, founder of Atticus Circle.

Seven Straight Nights vigils from Little Rock, Arkansas to Eureka, California will provide a forum for Americans to educate themselves and speak out on behalf of an inclusive ENDA, which is expected to come up for a vote in the next ten days.

"Now is the time to let our members of Congress know that we support workplace equality for all Americans," says Jeff Lutes, Soulforce Executive Director.

To find out if Seven Straight Nights for Equal Rights activities are planned in your community, go to: www.sevenstraightnights.org.


"Seven Straight Nights for Equal Rights" is a joint project of Atticus Circle and Soulforce. Atticus Circle is a national non-profit that is dedicated to achieving equality for all partners, parents, and their children regardless of sexual orientation. Soulforce is a national social justice organization that seeks freedom for LGBTQ people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information, visit www.sevenstraightnights.org.

For The Bible Tells Me So

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To purchase this DVD go to First Run Features: For The Bible Tells Me So

Can the love between two people ever be an abomination? Is the chasm separating gays and lesbians and Christianity too wide to cross? Is the Bible an excuse to hate?

Winner of the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Seattle International Film Festival, Dan Karslake’s provocative, entertaining documentary brilliantly reconciles homosexuality and Biblical scripture, and in the process reveals that Church-sanctioned anti-gay bias is based almost solely upon a significant (and often malicious) misinterpretation of the Bible. As the film notes, most Christians live their lives today without feeling obliged to kill anyone who works on the Sabbath or eats shrimp (as a literal reading of scripture dictates).

Through the experiences of five very normal, very Christian, very American families — including those of former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt, Episcopalian Bishop Gene Robinson, and the Reitan family — we discover how insightful people of faith handle the realization of having a gay child. Informed by such respected voices as Bishop Desmond Tutu, Harvard’s Peter Gomes, Orthodox Rabbi Steve Greenberg, Soulforce’s Rev. Dr. Mel White, and Rev. Jimmy Creech, FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO offers healing, clarity and understanding to anyone caught in the crosshairs of scripture and sexual identity.

For The Bible Tells Me So

[youtube=ajBR0dq0XXk]

Get Flash Player (required to play)

To purchase this DVD go to First Run Features: For The Bible Tells Me So

Can the love between two people ever be an abomination? Is the chasm separating gays and lesbians and Christianity too wide to cross? Is the Bible an excuse to hate?

Winner of the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Seattle International Film Festival, Dan Karslake’s provocative, entertaining documentary brilliantly reconciles homosexuality and Biblical scripture, and in the process reveals that Church-sanctioned anti-gay bias is based almost solely upon a significant (and often malicious) misinterpretation of the Bible. As the film notes, most Christians live their lives today without feeling obliged to kill anyone who works on the Sabbath or eats shrimp (as a literal reading of scripture dictates).

Through the experiences of five very normal, very Christian, very American families — including those of former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt, Episcopalian Bishop Gene Robinson, and the Reitan family — we discover how insightful people of faith handle the realization of having a gay child. Informed by such respected voices as Bishop Desmond Tutu, Harvard’s Peter Gomes, Orthodox Rabbi Steve Greenberg, Soulforce’s Rev. Dr. Mel White, and Rev. Jimmy Creech, FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO offers healing, clarity and understanding to anyone caught in the crosshairs of scripture and sexual identity.

Seven Straight Nights for Equal Rights Garners Grassroots Momentum

Vigils Across the Country October 7-13, 2007 Illuminate Straight Support for Equality

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: October 8, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Paige Schilt, Director of Public Relations and Media
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org
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Standing at the tomb of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta, Georgia, and on the steps of the Statehouse in Augusta, Maine, straight Americans kicked off Seven Straight Nights for Equal Rights, a nationwide campaign to illuminate the breadth and depth of political support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans.

Across the country this week, in small towns and major cities, straight people are demonstrating their commitment to equality with nighttime vigils for equal rights. To date, more than thirty-five vigils are planned in places like Greenville, South Carolina, and Ames, Iowa.

As word of the project has spread over the past several months, straight men and women have stepped up to organize vigils in communities outside the usual strongholds of LGBT acceptance.

Last week, Seven Straight Nights vigil plans emerged in Salt Lake City, Utah, and in Little Rock, Arkansas, where a right-wing group recently began collecting signatures for a referendum to ban all unmarried couples from adopting or becoming foster parents.

"We knew that many straight Americans were disgusted by divisive anti-gay politics and were looking for a venue to express their beliefs," says Jodie Eldridge, Executive Director of Atticus Circle. "But we have been overwhelmed by the excitement this campaign has generated in the Bible belt and the heartland."

Atticus Circle and Soulforce are the national sponsors of Seven Straight Nights for Equal Rights, which also aims to help straight equality supporters make meaningful connections with LGBT equality organizations. For a complete list of partner organizations, go to: www.sevenstraightnights.org/article/19

"It’s not just a 90-minute cocktail party, and then everybody goes home," says Soulforce Executive Director Jeff Lutes. "By giving up a few hours of sleep, these straight Americans are symbolizing their willingness to sacrifice for the rights of others, for the larger goal of equal rights for all."

To find out if Seven Straight Nights for Equal Rights activities are planned in your community, go to: www.sevenstraightnights.org.


"Seven Straight Nights for Equal Rights" is a joint project of Atticus Circle and Soulforce. Atticus Circle is a national non-profit that is dedicated to achieving equality for all partners, parents, and their children regardless of sexual orientation. Soulforce is a national social justice organization that seeks freedom for LGBTQ people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information, visit www.sevenstraightnights.org.

MLK Family and Friends Join Straight Americans Standing Up for Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Americans

Events in Atlanta and Across the Nation October 7-13, 2007, Reflect Broad Support for Equal Rights

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: October 5, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Paige Schilt, Director of Public Relations and Media
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org
Billiee Pendleton-Parker, Atlanta Vigil Co-Leader
Cell: 404-271-0928
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(Austin, TX) — On October 7, 2007, Isaac Farris Jr. — nephew of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — will address a vigil organized by straight Atlantans who support equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans.

This landmark event kicks-off a nationwide project called "Seven Straight Nights for Equal Rights." All across the country, during the week of October 7-13, night-time 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.

Malikah Berry, former assistant to Coretta Scott King, will also speak at the vigil. Berry is the Director of Community and Civic Engagement for Hands On Atlanta, which is a sponsor of the Atlanta vigil.

Prior to her death, Mrs. King spoke publicly in support of gay civil rights: "Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protections, whether by marriage or civil union," she said in a March 2004 speech.

To date, straight community leaders in thirty-five American cities are planning vigils over the course of the week. In Atlanta, the vigil organizers are Billiee Pendleton-Parker and Alana Zavett, two straight women who are united by their belief in Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision of the "beloved community."

What: Atlanta’s Straight Night for Equal Rights
When: Sunday, October 7th, 7:00pm – 10:00pm
Where: Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site in Atlanta, Georgia

 


"Seven Straight Nights for Equal Rights" is a joint project of Atticus Circle and Soulforce. Atticus Circle is a national non-profit that is dedicated to achieving equality for all partners, parents, and their children regardless of sexual orientation. Soulforce is a national social justice organization that seeks freedom for LGBTQ people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information, visit www.sevenstraightnights.org.