Prairie Pride Coalition

Review Board Push Triumph of Collaboration

The campaign to create a new civilian police review board demonstrated not only the power of public engagement but also the strength local groups were able to exert working together, according to Not In Our Town: Bloomington-Normal participants in the process

Photo by Lewis Merien, The Pantagraph

Photo by Lewis Merien, The Pantagraph

The city of Bloomington is looking for people who want to serve on the new Public Safety and Community Relations Board (PSCRB). Bloomington aldermen approved board creation Monday. Mayoral appointees will advise the police chief and help settle disputes over complaints against Bloomington officers.

NIOTBN was one of several diverse community groups convened by McLean County YWCA that worked with Black Lives Matter Bloomington-Normal to help make the PSCRB a reality. Other alliance partners included ACLU of Central Illinois, Bloomington Normal Branch of NAACP, Central Illinois Pride Health Center, Illinois People’s Action, McLean County League of Women Voters, and Prairie Pride Coalition.

"I think we're off to a good start," said NIOTBN member Dontae Latson, director of the McLean County YWCA. Latson maintained "we are not allowing ourselves to fall victim to the national narrative" of Black Lives Matter and other community interests taking an anti-police stance -- "It's just not true."

The alliance' next step is to "assure that the process doesn't get watered down," lose its central focus, or become "stacked" with members of a single viewpoint, he suggested.

Camille Taylor, who helped represent NIOTBN in the alliance, noted the challenges in alliance members working together amid varying philosophies and approaches. "In theory, working with other groups is a great idea," Taylor mused, but maintaining an individual group's focus can be difficult "when not every group at the table has the same mission."

"You have to keep your eye on the prize, and recognize that every group at the table has its own identity," she urged.

Mary Aplington, who serves as co-chairman of NIOTBN's Education Subcommittee with Taylor, saw the tenor of Monday's council meeting itself as evidence of the success of community communication and collaboration. While the meeting drew a large citizen gathering, Aplington noted the Bloomington Police officers working crowd control "did a wonderful job of being respectful and sensitive."

NIOTBN Steering Committee member Mary Aplington,

Those interested in applying for the PSCRB should submit an application by Aug. 11. Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner will share the full list of applicants with aldermen, who will be asked to share their top three recommendations with him, Renner said. Two-thirds of aldermen must vote to approve Renner’s final seven picks.

Here’s how the board will be structured:

  • Members shall serve for a three-year term; however, at the inception of the board, two members shall be appointed for a one-year term, two members for a two-year term, and three members for a three-year term, so that terms are staggered.
  • The chair and a vice-chair of the board shall be selected amongst the members of the PSCRB.
  • No person with a criminal felony conviction shall be eligible to serve on the PSCRB.
  • No city employee may be appointed to the Board, nor shall any member be a current employee of, contracted by or have any official affiliation, whether current or former, with a federal, state, or local law enforcement agency.

Voices of Pride to Present New Dramas

New Route Theatre is excited to present its second annual Voices of Pride new play festival. This festival, featuring LGBTQ-themed works, is produced in partnership with the Prairie Pride Coalition.

These staged readings will run from May 4 through May 7:

May 4 at 7:30 p.m. - A PEFECT FIT by Lia Romeo and directed by Kat Gregory. Featuring Connie Blick, Heather Ann-Marie Morrow, Genevieve Pilon, Carolyn Stucky, and Chloe Szot.

May 5, 7:30 p.m. - POSTCOITAL VARIATIONS by Alex Dremman and directed by Joe McDonnell. Featuring - Paige Brantley, Jennifer Cirillo, Mathew Frederick, Lauren Hickle, Elante Richardson, and Wesley Tilford.

May 6 will include readings of all four plays throughout the day:

A PERFECT FIT - 11 a.m.

HIS/HERS ESCAPADES - 1 p.m., by Christoper Van derArk and directed by Don Shandrow. Featuring Kyle Berry, Ramsey Hendricks, Rachel Hettrick, Timothy Jefferson, Everson Pierce, and Austin Travis.

A BEAUTIFUL BUILDING - 6 p.m., by Peter Macklin directed by George Jackson. Featuring Everson Pierce and Joe McDonnell.

POSTCOITAL VARIATIONS - 9 p.m.

May 7 will conclude the festival with A BEAUTIFUL BUILDING at 2 p.m. and HIS/HERS ESCAPADES at 6 p.m.

This year’s festival will be held at the Chateau Bloomington Hotel and Conference center in the Jesse Smart Auditorium.

Ticket prices will be $10 per reading or $5 for students and seniors and $25 for festival experience ticket for all four readings.

To reserve tickets e-mail us at new.route.theatre@gmail.com. Tickets will also be available at the Garlic Press, 108 West North St. in Uptown Normal, starting on April 25, or may be purchased at the door based on availability.

A cash bar will be available before and between readings with appetizers available at a modest price. There will be dinner breaks on Friday and Saturday evening.

A reduced room rate is available for those attending from out of town. For more information on room rates contact the Chateau by calling 309-662-2020 and mentioning Voices of Pride, New Route Theatre, or Prairie Pride.

Gays Against Gun Violence BN Opens Dialogue on Community Safety

The epidemic of nationwide violence, including but not limited to last month's Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando, has mobilized Gays Against Gun Violence in Bloomington-Normal, which meets initially at 7 p.m. tomorrow (Thursday) at The Bistro, 316 North Main Street, Bloomington.

The event is described as an "inaugural meet-up to brainstorm about how we can help make our community safer for one and all."

"Whether you are gay because you are LGBT or you are gay because you are part of the rainbow of love that we all share, you are most welcome," event sponsors stated. "We will begin by honoring the victims of gun violence at Pulse in Orlando and also the alarming number of victims of gun violence here in Bloomington-Normal."

As a member of Central Illinois' Prairie Pride Coalition, an LGBT advocacy group, Gary Gletty cites PPC's mission "to bring awareness and to reach out to people in our community who could use some help in dealing with issues." PPC was one of several local groups and agencies that appeared June 28 for Not In Our Town: Bloomington/Normal's 20th anniversary on the Old Courthouse square.

Gletty was gratified by the nearly 325-person turnout at the recent downtown Bloomington candlelight vigil for the Orlando nightclub shooting victims, and believes the LGBT community especially of late has "enjoyed quite a bit of support." Leaders of the local faith community participated in the vigil to demonstrate their support.

In mid-June, The Human Rights Campaign, the largest U.S. LGBT-rights organization, called for several measures to curb gun violence in the aftermath of the Florida attack that killed 49 Pulse patrons.

The HRC endorsed steps to limit access to assault-style rifles, expand background checks, and limit access to firearms for suspected terrorists and people with a history of domestic abuse.

A resolution on the gun measures was approved Thursday evening at a special meeting of the HRC's board of directors. The organization said it was the first time in its 36-year history that it had called such a meeting to address a policy matter that extended far beyond the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.

The HRC's president, Chad Griffin, blamed the massacre on "a toxic combination of two things: a deranged, unstable individual who had been conditioned to hate (LGBT) people, and easy access to military-style guns."

Kelley: A Safe Place For All in an Unsafe World

The Rev. Kelley Becker

Bloomington First Christian Church

While attending the NIOT 20th anniversary celebration Tuesday night, I shared with a friend that I was thinking about the community events I have been part of in the last two days and how they are all connected. My friend reminded me that writing about these experiences might be a great way to process them. So, here are some thoughts as I initially process the last couple of days.

The Rev. John Libert and Imam Abu Emad were among Twin Cities spiritual leaders who dedicated Tuesday's NIOTBN 20th anniversary celebration.

The Rev. John Libert and Imam Abu Emad were among Twin Cities spiritual leaders who dedicated Tuesday's NIOTBN 20th anniversary celebration.

On Monday night, I attended the 2016 LGBTQ Spirituality Forum, sponsored by the Prairie Pride Coalition. It was a moving experience to hear ministry colleagues speak words of welcome to members of the LGBTQ community gathered there. The faith communities represented were First Christian Church, New Covenant Community Church, Hope Church, Unitarian Universalist, Moses Montefiore Temple, and Illinois Wesleyan’s Evelyn Chapel. These communities have stated publicly that they are safe, welcoming, inclusive places for members of the LGBTQ community…and all of God’s people.

A block off the Old Courthouse square, The Bistro -- a social center of activity for the Twin Cities' LGBT community -- offers a message of strength in the wake of the Orlando tragedy.

A block off the Old Courthouse square, The Bistro -- a social center of activity for the Twin Cities' LGBT community -- offers a message of strength in the wake of the Orlando tragedy.

One of the questions asked of the panel was, “Are there other faith communities in Bloomington-Normal that are welcoming of the LGBTQ community and if so, who are they?” That question opened the door for a conversation about the differences between welcoming people to attend versus welcoming people to be who they were created to be by participating fully in the life of the faith community. The Reverend Elyse Nelson Winger from IWU challenged us, as clergy, to encourage our colleagues to publicly support and fully welcome everyone, specifically the LGBTQ community. She said, “Now is the time…actually, it has been time for a long while, but now is really the time.” She is right. It is time. If you represent God, welcome and embrace all of God’s people. Now.

Following that event, on Tuesday I participated in Beyond the Rainbow: Build Your Strength as an Ally for LGBTQ Youth training event, sponsored by Project Oz. Gathered there were teachers, social workers, crisis team members, and even a few ministers. We heard stories of people who have been deeply hurt because they have been designated the “other” by pockets of our community, one pocket being some faith communities. We learned new language, new ways to listen, and new ways to be allies to the young people in the LGBTQ community.

I was struck again by the importance of Elyse’s words. After hearing, again, the damage religion and other aspects of our culture are doing to the young people of the LGBTQ community and being reminded, again, of my own privilege, I am more committed than ever to leading in ways that breathe life and hope into my brothers and sisters of all faith traditions, gender identities, sexual orientations, skin colors, and abilities. When we, as leaders, are silent, we send a powerful message of apathy and exclusion. When we exclude anyone from our community, the community is less than it could be. We are better when we include and welcome. God created diversity on purpose. It is time we fully embrace this gift from God.

Finally, I had the privilege of welcoming my colleagues from Moses Montefiore Temple, the United Church of Christ, Masjid Ibrahim mosque and the Hindu Temple as they blessed the NIOT anniversary event last night. I was moved, first of all, that they said, “Yes,” when I asked them to participate in this event. And second, their words of welcome and community resonated deep in my soul. I thought to myself…we all want the same things. We want to experience sacredness in our community, and in each other, every day. We all want a place to belong…a place of safety.

And then Tuesday night, after a long day, I learned of the act of terrorism in Istanbul. I remembered anew that the glimmers of hope I have experienced in our community the last couple of days need to be more than glimmers. They need to be sparks that ignite a passion for justice and peace, not just in Bloomington-Normal, but all over the world.

Friends, the world is not as it was intended to be. We must continue our work toward wholeness in a world that is, in many places and ways, so broken. Let us do this work together, healing the pieces one heart at a time. Shalom.

LGBT Unitarian Member Urges Church to Preach 'Love They Neighbor.'

Lin Hinds was horrified in the wake of last weekend’s Orlando nightclub massacre to read the comments of a California Baptist minister who celebrated the shooter eliminating “Sodomites.”  “Where does that man even think he’s representing God or even has a connection to God?” Hinds, a member of Bloomington’s LGBT community, demands.

The Orlando shootings, which left 50 dead and more wounded, has raised questions about gun violence, gender bigotry in America, and the stance of religious doctrine and practice toward LGBT individuals. Not In Our Town: Bloomington/Normal, McLean County YWCA, and Prairie Pride Coalition will sponsor a June 27 LGBT Spirituality Forum -- a discussion with local religious leaders about finding safe places for LGBTQ people to worship -- at 7 p.m. in the Heartland Bank Community Room at 200 West College Ave. in Normal.

For the lesbian, mother, and member of the LGBT-friendly Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington-Normal who serves as office manager with Moses Montefiore Congregation Jewish synagogue, the issue breaks down to basic spiritual principles.

“It’s simple,” she maintained. “Love your neighbor. Don’t peek into their bedroom window; it shouldn’t matter. People are people. As a gay mother of a son, I raised my son to believe that people are people, you love people, and it doesn’t matter who they love.

“We need to get back to basics. A person’s character isn’t based on who the love or who they decide to spend their life with. It’s built on what they do and how they act.”

A native of Chicago’s northwest suburbs, Hinds moved to the Twin Cities in 1993, when LGBT residents still frequently felt pressured not to reveal their gender identity for fear or personal or even professional reprisal. She’d grown up essentially “unchurched” until high school, when she became involved with a local Lutheran church “because my best friend was Lutheran,” but Hinds’ parents taught her the Ten Commandments and other Judeo-Christian principles.

The Unitarian church traditionally has been one of the more inclusive Protestant denominations, and indeed, the overarching Unitarian Universalist Association has designated individual “Welcoming Congregation” churches. The church emphasizes “free thinking,” the concept of “salvation for all,” and a membership that includes Christian Unitarians Universalists as well as religious humanists, secular humanists, theists, Buddhists, “pagans,” and others.

In the case of Hinds’ Bloomington Church, the addition of rainbow flags signals that it has “done work to be specifically welcoming to LGBT people.”

“It has taken us four years to get that designation,” she nonetheless stressed. “Unitarian Universalists tend to come from different faith traditions, a lot of times, so your older members from about 20 years ago came from a time where they either didn’t understand or weren’t welcoming, so it took some time. We did it, but it took some time. I equate that today, unfortunately, to some of the racial issues that exists.

“I went to a very white school (in the Chicago suburbs), and I went to that school for all 12 years – never had a black kid in a class, only had one Jewish kid in town. It was SO stereotypical middle-class, and my father was a truck driver. I wasn’t raised in a racist house, but I certainly had friends who were. My father believed a jerk was a jerk – didn’t matter what color he was. To the point where, when I was a freshman in college, my folks actually fostered two black twins for a few months. It was amazing the backlash they got.”

As Hinds examines LGBT issues in modern society, she also continues her faith journey. Her employment with Moses Montefiore, a progressive Reform Jewish temple that also welcomes LGBT members and guests, “certainly has strengthened my own spirituality, my own connections.”

“I’m connected to God every day, in one way or another,” Hinds noted.

Wednesday Vigil For Orlando Victims Follow-Up to Downtown Observance

NIOTBN/The Pantagraph

In a follow-up to Monday's United in Love and Solidarity Vigil in downtown Bloomington, St. John’s Lutheran Church will host a peace vigil on behalf of the victims of the Orlando mass shooting from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday.  

Bloomington First Christian Church Associate Minister Kelley Becker (center) and Prairie Pride Coalition Director Dave Bentlin offer thoughts at Monday's downtown Bloomington vigil for Orlando shooting victims. Below, Becker, a Not In Our Town: Bloomington/Normal leader, and Moses Montefiore Congregation Rabbi Rebecca Dubowe embrace as a rainbow appears over the downtown area. (Photos by Michael Gizzi and Rebecca Dubowe).

Bloomington First Christian Church Associate Minister Kelley Becker (center) and Prairie Pride Coalition Director Dave Bentlin offer thoughts at Monday's downtown Bloomington vigil for Orlando shooting victims. Below, Becker, a Not In Our Town: Bloomington/Normal leader, and Moses Montefiore Congregation Rabbi Rebecca Dubowe embrace as a rainbow appears over the downtown area. (Photos by Michael Gizzi and Rebecca Dubowe).

“We’d like to express our profound sorrow about the hate crime in Orlando and about violence around the world today,” said the Rev. Christine McNeal, associate pastor for member care and connections. “This will give the Bloomington-Normal community the opportunity to grieve together.”

Fifty people were killed and 53 others injured in Sunday morning's gay nightclub shooting. Twin Citians gathered at the Bistro and marched downtown before holding a vigil on Washington Ave. In an unusual occurrence, a rainbow appeared over the area as the vigil geared up.

 "There is indeed hope that light and love will carry us forward," said Bloomington Moses Montefiore Congregation Rabbi Rebecca Dubowe, who participated in the Prairie Pride Coalition-supported downtown event.

People of all faith traditions are encouraged and invited to participate at the St. John's vigil at the church,  1617 E. Emerson St., Bloomington.  

"As people of faith we have an opportunity to gather together in unity to lift up in prayer those who are hurting and to witness to the truth that love is stronger than hate," said the Rev. Julia Rademacher, associate pastor for family ministry and missions.

Participants will be able to light candles, pray silently, and gather together in community.

St. John’s Lutheran Church is a 144-year-old community congregation with more than 2,000 members. It is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. 

For more information, contact McNeal at 309-827-6121, ext. 251.

Sunday, in the aftermath of the Orlando shooting, Prairie Pride Coalition and the group PFLAG held a "family reunion" picnic for local LGBT individuals and families.

Vigil, June 27 Forum to Address LGBT Concerns

In light of this weekend's tragedy in Orlando, a vigil will be held at 7 p.m. tonight in front of the Bistro in downtown Bloomington.

Meanwhile, Not In Our Town: Bloomington/Normal, McLean County YWCA, and Prairie Pride Colaition will sponsor a June 27 LGBT Spirituality Forum -- a discussion with local religious leaders about finding safe places for LGBTQ people to worship -- at 7 p.m. in the Heartland Bank Community Room at 200 West College Ave. in Normal.

LGBT residents have struggled in some cases to find acceptance among local churches, and recent events and attitudes have spurred some denominations to alter traditional positions on LGBT marriage, rights, and worship.

The forum will include a question-and-answer period and refreshments.

Picnic Offers Reunion, Communion for LGBTQ Communities

Local residents will feast on chicken, "commonalities and differences" during a Sunday picnic in Normal.

The Prairie Pride Coalition (PPC)/Bloomington-Normal PFLAG chapter's 19th annual Family Reunion Picnic is scheduled from noon to 3 p.m. at the Underwood Park Pavilion in Normal.

The picnic is designed to provide entertainment and dialogue for local LGBTQ individuals and their families. Participants are asked to bring a food item to accompany the fried chicken lunch.

"For the last 19 years, we have gathered annually to celebrate our community and LGBTQ pride," PPC's Dave Bentlin related. "The original intent was to have a 'family reunion'-type picnic for those who could not be openly LGBTQ at their own family picnics.

"Over the years the picnic has evolved into an opportunity to network and enjoy the company not only of our LGBTQ community members but also our allies. In addition, we hope the picnic helps bring together the many diverse sub-communities within our LGBTQ community so that we can learn more and appreciate our commonalities and differences."
 

Coalition Working to ID Local LGBT Needs

The Prairie Pride Coalition is working with the results of a Multicultural Leadership Program survey to address the needs and priorities of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people in McLean County. 

The survey was completed about a year ago and since then the PPC, using the results of the survey, has been working to develop programming and increase communication with the LGBT community.

David Bentlin is the PPC Board president. Neil Alcorn worked on the MCLP team conducting the needs assessment survey. Bentlin says while perceptions are changing, many view the gay community as a homogenous block.

The Prairie Pride Coalition dedicated to the implementation of full civil rights protections for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people.  See the survey results at ppc-IL.org.

LGBT Film Festival Explores Sports, Tab Hunter, Family Secrets

The 2015 Your Normal LGBT Film Festival kicks off Oct, 15 with an examination of gay and transgender athletes, continuing through the weekend with two dramas and the story of actor Tab Hunter.

The annual festival, featuring top current films dealing with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues and attitudes, is sponsored by the Normal Theater and the Prairie Pride Coalition. All films start at 7 p.m.; admission is $7 at the box office.

Thursday, October 15

Game Face

The award-winning documentary GAME FACE tells the parallel story of Fallon Fox, MMAs first transgender pro fighter, and Terrence Clemens, a young, ambitious and talented college basketball player in Oklahoma, who happens to be gay. NBA player Jason Collins, NFL player Wade Davis, NCAA Division 1 basketball player Kye Allums and triathlete Chris Mosier also appear in the film.

Run Time: 95 min

Release: 2015

Director: Michiel Thomas

Friday, October 16

All About E

Beautiful, sexy e seems to have it all. A popular DJ at the top Sydney gay nightclubs, e has her pick of the girls. Matt, her flamboyant manager and best friend, makes her stunning outfits and creates a stylish home for them both. Life is sweet.

Too scared to come out to her traditional migrant parents, e married Matt, a gay Irish dress designer, to give him a visa and provide cover for her sexuality. e and Matt go on the run pursued by Johnny and his thugs. To avoid certain death there is only one safe place to go: outback Australia and into the arms of e’s ex, Trish. She has to give her family the chance to accept who she really is and find the courage to live her dreams.

Run Time: 93 min

Release: 2015

Director: Louise Wadley

Saturday, October 17

Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party

The film tells the tale of two teenage boys, preacher’s kid Henry Gamble and his friend Gabe, who has a sleepover the night before Henry’s seventeenth birthday pool party. Typical teenage boy chat quickly turns sexual, and it’s silently implied that Henry, on a search for identity, has a crush on Gabe. As dawn arrives on the day of the party, Henry’s mom Kat wakes in a state of limbo, middle-aged, with a secret. A little while later, Pastor Bob is making breakfast, and they are joined by Henry’s 19-year-old sister Autumn, home from college for the party. Later that afternoon, as guests arrive - both from the church, as well as Henry’s own “secular” friends - and day turns to night, Henry carefully navigate the religious strictures and sexual secrets of his community, as do the adults and teenagers of the party, all struggling to tread the public and private, and their longing, despite themselves and their faith, for earthly love.

Run Time: 87 min

Release: 2015

Director: Stephen Cone

Sunday, October 18

Tab Hunter Confidential

7:00PM

The story of matinee idol Tab Hunter from teenage stable boy to closeted Hollywood star of the 1950s. Throughout the 1950s, Tab Hunter reigned as Hollywood’s ultimate male heartthrob. In dozens of films – and in the pages of countless movie magazines – Tab’s astonishing looks and golden-boy sex appeal drove his fans to screaming, delirious frenzy, making him the prototype for all young matinee idols to come. He earned his stripes as an actor to become a major movie star and recording artist. Punctuating Tab’s on screen presence will be rare film clips and provocative interviews with friends and co-stars including John Waters, Clint Eastwood, George Takei, Debbie Reynolds, Robert Wagner, Portia de Rossi, Noah Wyle, Connie Stevens, Robert Osborne, and dozens more.

Run Time: 90 min

Release: 2015

Director: Jeffrey Schwarz

Dave: My Thoughts on Marriage Equality

Dave Bentlin

Prairie Pride Coalition Board Member

I was asked to share my thoughts about the significance of Obergefell v. Hodges, the June Supreme Court decision that confirmed marriage equality and held that there is a constitutional right to marriage for same sex couples in our country. 

Truth be told, the reaction locally, while jubilant, was a bit more muted than in other states, given that Illinois had already expanded marriage equality to same-sex couples in 2014. In some ways our big celebration came a year ago when couples in Illinois first started getting marriage licenses through their county clerks.

Still, the June 26 decision was monumental for members of our local LGBTQ community.  Before, marriage equality across the country was a patchwork of inconsistent laws that were confusing and potentially discriminating, even to couples in states like ours where marriage is available.  A couple legally married in Illinois always had to remember that their marriage license was worthless if they traveled to one of the 14 states where marriage equality was illegal.  It was not uncommon for couples to work with their attorneys to draw up additional legal paperwork they could take with them in the event it was needed.

This patchwork of marriage inequality also was worrisome to same-sex couples whose careers might require them to move to another state.  Here in Bloomington/Normal many people in our workforce – particularly those in the insurance industry and the postsecondary education field – relocate to either further their careers or to take on new assignments within their company.  State Farm, our major employer, is expanding its presence with “hubs” in Atlanta, Dallas, and Phoenix; two of those metro areas are in states that before the Supreme Court decision banned same-sex marriages.  If not for the Supreme Court, any same-sex married couple that relocated from Illinois to one of those states would not be recognized as legally married.

So it’s clear that Obergefell v. Hodges provides sorely-needed legal recognition and protection for same-sex couples. Beyond that, though, it is a deeply personal triumph for the LGBTQ community. 

It’s a victory for couples like my good friends Elizabeth and Caroline who are raising their children in a home filled with love and who now have all the federal rights and protections of any family unit.

It’s a victory for couples like my fellow activists Ron and Tom, Suzie and Danielle, and Peggy and Donna, whose decades-long relationships have weathered anti-gay attacks, bigotry, and inequality.  They have lived their lives lovingly, openly, and authentically, and by their example they won over a lot of people who previously didn’t understand or appreciate the importance of marriage equality.

It’s a victory for today’s generation of LGBTQ youth who will never have to experience or worry about non-recognition of their relationships.

It’s a bittersweet victory for some gay and lesbian people whose partners didn’t live to see marriage equality.  I also think about the many, many gay men we lost to AIDS who I hope are somehow aware of this victory and are dancing with wild abandonment and joy…because it’s their victory too.

I believe the public debate has helped shed light on the many other issues that still face our LGBTQ community (youth homelessness, discrimination based on gender identity, hate crimes).”
— Dave Bentlin

I argue it’s a victory even for members of our LGBTQ community who either have no interest in getting married or oppose the institution of marriage. This struggle has strengthened our overall cause and I believe the public debate has helped shed light on the many other issues that still face our LGBTQ community (youth homelessness, discrimination based on gender identity, hate crimes).

I’d also assert that this victory presents a challenge and a new responsibility:  Winning hearts and minds.  For while polls regularly show majorities approve of same-sex marriage, almost 40 percent of those respondents do not.  It is my hope that through information and interaction we can bring that number down. The Prairie Pride Coalition welcomes the collaboration with Not In Our Town (NIOT) and I hope we can take steps together in this effort.  After all, at the end of the day our similarities far outweigh our differences.

For me personally?  I guess I still find it hard to describe the depth of my feelings; in some ways the effects of the decision haven’t yet sunk in, possibly because I am single – for the moment - and less invested in the institution of marriage.  Nonetheless, I think I will always get a lump in my throat whenever I reread the closing paragraph of Justice Kennedy’s opinion:

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.  As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves.  Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization's oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

ACLU/Prairie Pride Hosting Talk on Marriage Equality Case

The Central Illinois Chapter of the ACLU of Illinois and the Prairie Pride Coalition would like to invite you to a discussion on the Supreme Court's marriage equality case at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Normal Public Library Community Room, at 206 West College Ave.

The event will take place one day after the Supreme Court hears arguments on same-sex marriage as a constitutional right for couples across the country.

Sara Benson from the University of Illinois School of Law and ACLU of Illinois Communications and Public Policy Director Ed Yohnka will discuss their reactions to the hearing and share their predictions for the ruling on the case when it comes down.
 
The event is free and open to the public.

As of now, gay marriage is legal in 36 states. By the end of this Supreme Court term, either same-sex couples will be able to wed in all 50 states, or gay marriage bans may be reinstituted in many of the states where they've previously been struck down.

Tuesday's Supreme Court arguments focus on two questions: First, whether bans on gay marriage are constitutional; and second, if they are, whether those states with bans may refuse to recognize out-of-state gay marriages performed where they are legal.

The court has scheduled 2 1/2 hours of argument and will make the audio available online late Tuesday.

Four states — Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky — are defending their bans. They won their case in the lower court, and because other appeals courts threw out bans enacted in other states, the Supreme Court now must resolve the conflict.

The high-stakes legal battle is the culmination of a decades-long struggle in the courts, state legislatures and at the ballot box. During that time, public opinion has changed, and done so more rapidly — and dramatically — than on any major social issue in memory.

In 1996, public opinion polls showed, on average, only 27 percent of the public favored legalization; this year, although many states still adamantly resist gay marriage, public opinion polls put the approval number nationally at well over 50 percent.

Tuesday's courtroom battle pits states' rights against the fundamental right to marry; it pits the traditional definition of marriage against a more modern definition; and it pits majority rights against minority rights.

Before the court are the consolidated cases of 12 couples and two widowers. Among them are nurses, teachers, veterinarians, an Army sergeant and businessmen and women.

Play Examines LGBT Life in the '50s

A staged reading of the play Beebo Brinker Comes to Town will be at 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 13, in the Illinois State University Center for the Visual Arts, Room 151. Admission is free.

The play, written by Illinois State Associate Professor of English Paula Ressler and directed by Assistant Professor of Theatre Duane Boutté, is based on Ann Bannon’s 1962 lesbian pulp fiction novel Beebo Brinker. The play focuses on lesbian life in the 1950s during the time of the Cold War, the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement, and with the Women’s and Gay Liberation movements on the horizon.

Ressler is the author of several original plays, a number of dramatic literary adaptations and the award-winning book, Dramatic Changes, which addresses incorporating LGBTQ issues into teacher education through drama. She has appeared locally in a reading of Irene Taylor’s play Tapestries at New Route Theatre and a staged reading of Dear Harvey by Patricia Loughrey sponsored by Prairie Pride Coalition.

Boutté, an actor/director with New York City professional roots, has appeared in the films Stonewall and Brother to Brother, and was in the original Broadway companies of Parade and the 1994 revival of Carousel.  He portrayed the gay, civil rights activist Bayard Rustin in the play Civil Sex, produced at New York City’s Public Theatre and other theatres across the country. Most recently he directed the School of Theatre and Dance’s production of Cabaret and Prairie Pride Coalition’s staged reading of Peter Macklin’s gay-themed play, A Different Time.

The staged reading is funded partly through a grant from the Town of Normal Harmon Arts Grant. The event is sponsored by Prairie Pride Coalition, the ISU LGBT/Queer Studies and Services Institute, the Department of English and the School of Theatre and Dance.