First openly transgender trial judge elected in California

Judge Victorie KolakowskiAlameda County has become home to the first transgender trial judge in the country as Victoria Kolakowski won the race to fill an empty seat on the county’s Superior Court bench.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting results, Kolakowski held 50.2 percent of the vote against Deputy District Attorney John Creighton, who had 48.7 percent.

The race gave voters a distinct choice between a candidate with unquestionable experience and one who would have brought a new level of diversity to a bench populated by prosecutors and men.

Read the full story on The Oakland Tribune

Marriage Equality On Hold In California

The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay on Judge Walker’s ruling which declared California’s Proposition 8 unconstitutional. Marriages, which were expected to resume this week, are on hold until the appeal decisoin. The court, however, demanded Prop 8 supporters to supply evidence as to why their appeal should even be heard and not simply thrown out. SF Gate has more details.

Courage Campaign is collecting 1 million signatures in support of marriage equality. Add your name to the list and send the video to your friends & family to let them know that equality matters.

Proposition 8 Decision Day: Unconstitutional

A minister from Middle Collegiate Church holds a sigin reading 'Middle Church for same-sex marriage'California was given a "do over" as the decision in Perry v. Schwarzenegger was handed down, today, August 4 (www.hrc.org). There are major implications for all of uswithin the LGBTQ & A community which we will address more thoroughly in a later alert. This notice is to help everyone understand what has happened in the past and what happened today. We want to acknowledge Chris Geidner, Washington, D.C. for his excellent comments regarding the context for today’s decision contained herein.

Read the full comments (and discuss them) on our blog.

Soulforce Statement on California Supreme Court Ruling

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: May 26, 2009
For Immediate Release
Contact: Carlos Perez de Alejo, Media Director
Cell: (512) 321-948-3423 Email: carlos@soulforce.org
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Today Soulforce joins millions of Americans in expressing our deep disappointment over the California Supreme Court’s decision to deny marriage to same-sex couples. While we are pleased that the marriages of over 18,000 couples in 2008 will remain intact, we are outraged by the decision on Proposition 8.

“We are heartbroken for all those couples in California, and around the country, who have been denied the fundamental right to marry the person they love," said Jeff Lutes, Executive Director of Soulforce.  "But today’s ruling does absolutely nothing to weaken our resolve. We are more determined than ever.  Make no mistake about it: we will win full civil equality under the law for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.  We must continue to expose and resist the direct link between religious dogma and the attack on our human rights.”

Soulforce organizers in Colorado will stage a nonviolent direct action outside Denver’s Wellington E. Webb Municipal Building this afternoon.   Approximately thirty minutes into the event, several couples and individuals will stage a sit-in at Denver’s clerk and recorder office to remind the public that LGBT people throughout the United States are still denied equal protection in matters governed by civil law.  Several are expected to be arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience.  

Soulforce joins many others on www.dayofdecision.com who are uniting to win equality.  The Soulforce Pledge to Nonviolence, Call to Direct Action, and link to the new training website, www.nonviolence4equality.org, are all featured on this site. Over 100 events are planned nationwide in response to today’s unjust decision.  

Be on the lookout for a bold new Soulforce plan that will empower people, resist injustice, and change hearts and minds about marriage equality. 

Soulforce is a national civil rights and social justice organization dedicated to freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance.

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Kara Speltz Speech on Behalf of Soulforce at the November 15, 2008 Protest of Proposition 8 in Oakland, California

These last ten days have been such an emotional roller coaster. Tears of joy! Tears of grief. But ultimately, what we need to remember is that at long last, the polictics of fear lost. We are entering a new era, a time of HOPE.

When my 42 year old interracial son was born, it was illegal for blacks and whites to marry. When he was 2, the NY Times ran a survey. 72% of the readership was opposed to interracial marriage. Today we have an Afro-American president elect. Who would have believed that?

For too long we, transgender, lesbian, bisexual and gay people have sat back on our laurels, so to speak, especially in the Bay Area. We’ve taken our rights for granted. But today, is a new beginning; another Stonewall. We’re fighting back, but this time our weapon must be LOVE. Gandhi and King showed us the way. The Mormons aren’t our enemy, ignorance is our enemy. It’s not by being in their faces, that we’ll win this struggle, its by being in their HEARTS.

The Yes on Prop 8 campaign used the tactic of fear in their support of Prop 8. Only love can overcome fear. The failure to communicate is on our part. Every time, we weren’t out to family, to friends, to co-workers we cast a vote for shame, a vote to end our Right to Marry.

We’ll fight this in the courts and in the media. But we can’t leave it for someone else to do. This has to be a tranformational moment for each of us. a personal commitment to overcoming our own fears, overcoming the shame and the ignorance with our love and our persistance. As Gandhi said, we must become the change we seek.

Share with your neighbors, your coworkers and your family exactly how devastating this loss of the right to marry has been for you. Help them understand, change hearts one at a time.

Nonviolence isn’t for wimps. It’s hard work and it takes courage. I ask each and every one of you to face that challenge. Choose love over anger, choose love over hate, choose love over devisivness. I ask you to make that commitment this morning, and every morning. We can & will win.

Kara Speltz is Executive Assistant for Soulforce

"Gay Days" at the Mega-churches: LGBT Families & Allies Reflect on the American Family Outing

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: June 24, 2008
For Immediate Release

Contact: Paige Schilt, 
Media Director
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org

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On Father’s Day 2008, a group of LGBT and straight-ally families attended services at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. The next day, a smaller group of about 8 families met with pastors and other staff of the influential mega-church for lunch and an earnest conversation about faith, family, and the status of LGBT people in the church.

The visit was the conclusion of a six-week family road trip to initiate dialogue with mega-church congregations across the nation. In December 2007, organizers of the project — which is called The American Family Outing — invited the leaders of six mega-churches to match families from their congregations with LGBT and straight-ally families for a meal and conversation. Then, on Mother’s Day 2008, the outing began with a visit to Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas.

"Through the American Family Outing, we were able to share our families and our lives as out and proud LGBT people of faith with some of the most influential religious leaders in America," says Paige Schilt, Soulforce Media Director and one of the lesbian moms who participated in the project. "Along the way, we learned a great deal about the state of mainstream evangelical culture."

"On the one hand, there’s still a tremendous amount at stake for high-profile churches to meet publicly with LGBT families. They took a lot of heat just for talking to us, and we appreciate that.

"We also learned that an openly gay or lesbian person cannot become a member or serve in most of the churches we visited. When LGBT people hear that ‘all are welcome’ at a mega-church, we encourage them to investigate the quality of that welcome.

"On the other hand, we also learned that support for reparative therapy and other kinds of ex-gay programs seems to be diminishing. We heard more talk about celibacy and less talk about change.

"We also heard, from many of the churches, a sincere interest in continuing the conversation with LGBT justice seekers," Schilt concluded. "We look forward to future dialogues, public and private."

Nationwide, more than 50 LGBT and LGBT-affirming families took part in this remarkable journey to build bridges with mainstream and conservative evangelical communities, which visited churches in Texas, Georgia, Maryland, Illinois, and California.

One of the people who participated in the meeting with Saddleback Church was Bob Bednar, a straight, married father of two.

"Being there showed me in a powerful way exactly how brave my LGBT team members were to go into that kind of atmosphere and insist that church leaders recognize their pain and start to see it as their own pain, too," said Bednar.

"As a straight ally, it was inspiring to work alongside them. But the experience also showed me how far we have to go," Bednar concluded.

The American Family Outing is a collaboration between Soulforce, COLAGE, National Black Justice Coalition, and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches.

Soulforce is a national civil rights and social justice organization. Our vision is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance.

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Soulforce Issues Statement on California Marriage Ruling

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SOULFORCE MEDIA ADVISORY: May 15, 2008
For Immediate Release

Contact: Paige Schilt, 
Media Director
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org
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(Austin, TX) — Soulforce commends the California Supreme Court in doing justice for same-gender couples by striking down the state’s ban on gay marriage. In a historic 4-3 decision today, the court ruled that the voter approved Proposition 22 is unconstitutional. The decision paves the way for California to join Massachusetts as the second state where same-gender couples can legally marry.
The 172-page opinion included the following:

"Accordingly, in light of the conclusions we reach concerning the constitutional questions brought to us for resolution, we determine that the language of section 300 limiting the designation of marriage to a union ‘between a man and a woman’ is unconstitutional and must be stricken from the statute, and that the remaining statutory language must be understood as making the designation of marriage available both to opposite-sex and same-sex couples."

Soulforce Executive Director, Jeff Lutes, stated, "The ruling today is the glorious result of decades of nonviolent activism by many brave souls, including our friend Rev. Troy Perry (founder of UFMCC) and his spouse Phillip Ray De Blieck, and LGBT activist Robin Tyler and her partner, Diane Olsen. We rejoice and give thanks for Troy, Phillip, Robin, and Diane who jointly brought this lawsuit, and we call on all Americans who care about equality to stand up, speak out, and even sit-in (civil disobedience) until justice is served in every state."

Soulforce is a national civil rights and social justice organization. Our vision is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance.