Welcoming LGBTQ Families into the Civil Rights Legacy
The message below went out on Tuesday, March 20, 2012 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.
“That this powerful exhibition is opening at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute underscores the reality that freedom to be who you are and love who you love is a human and civil right.”
-Lecia Brooks, Outreach Director, Southern Poverty Law Center
At a time in our nation’s history when society is taking great strides forward on LGBTQ issues, the Deep South still lags behind. Several states in our country have ended marriage discrimination, created civil unions, extended domestic partner benefits to state employees, and passed laws protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination. But none of these laws has reached the Deep South. While there are some supportive municipalities and communities, and countless wonderful people, even now, in 2012, many dear friends feel they are viewed as “less than” because of their sexual orientation.
One such friend of mine, Carolyn Sherer, decided to put her talents to work to change the status quo. She put together a one-of-a-kind exhibit called Living in Limbo: Lesbian Families in the Deep South, providing a unique forum for people to learn about growing population trends among LGBTQ families. Her hope is that the photo exhibit will help erase the fear of discrimination and feelings of ostracism experienced by many Southern lesbian families by empowering them to openly acknowledge the contributions they make to their communities.
Amazingly, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI), in the heart of the Bible Belt, and the Birmingham Civil Rights District, has agreed to be the venue for this exhibit, which runs from March 30-June 11. Not only are individuals and families coming out through this exhibit to help empower those who feel the need to stay in the closet—the Institute itself is in a way coming out by simply holding this exhibit. This is the first exhibit at BCRI ever to feature LGBT rights as part of the larger struggle for equality in the United States.
As a native of Birmingham, a lesbian, and a minister, I ask each of you to join me in thanking BCRI for standing on the side of love by offering their hallmark institution as the home for Living in Limbo: Lesbian Families in the Deep South.
Please take a moment and send an email of appreciation to firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell President & CEO Dr. Lawrence J. Pijeaux, Jr. that through this exhibit he is Standing on the Side of Love and helping to change the lives of LBGTQ people all over the country.
During the 1960s in Birmingham, the battle for civil rights for African Americans was witnessed all over our country. I was in my early teens and lived only a few miles from where the hoses were sprayed and the dogs were instructed to attack. Fifty years later I was on the Unitarian Universalist Living Legacy Civil Rights Pilgrimage and walked in the very same park where statutes of dogs and fire hoses are displayed in memory of those times. Across the street, in BCRI, I took a step back in time and read, listened, and visually saw the journeys of the brave men and women who fought for their civil rights. The power of those images was overwhelming. At the same time, my companions and I hungered for a mention of the struggle for equality being waged by LGBTQ Americans. Now, BCRI has taken that very step.
In the Living in Limbo: Lesbian Families in the Deep South exhibit, the participants, all with roots in Alabama, represent a spectrum of diversities in age, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic background. Out of fear of repercussions, some participants have posed with their backs to the camera. The powerful, large-format images challenge viewers to consider their own perceptions and biases about how they define family, equality, and community.
Please thank the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute for making this bold statement in the name of social justice for all people. You can send an email of appreciation to President & CEO Dr. Lawrence J. Pijeaux, Jr. at email@example.com. Let us honor the courage of the BCRI leadership in making this tremendous statement about the relationship between LGBT rights and civil rights through this groundbreaking exhibit.