The Sun is Rising on LGBT Equality in Arkansas
May 12, 2014 by Guest contributor
Post submitted by Tippi McCullough, an HRC supporter and English teacher in Little Rock, Ark.
Stay tuned to HRC Blog throughout the month as we continue to highlight some of the heroes of HRC’s Project One America.
My wife Barbara and I differ in one major way: She loves mornings at dawn, and I love evenings at twilight.
As native Arkansans, my wife and I have seen plenty of beautiful scenes of both. The sun rising above the mountains of Compton or shining on the fog settling over Buffalo River in Ponca Valley rival the sunsets over dazzling Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs or behind Two Rivers Bridge in Little Rock.
And like these majestic scenes of Arkansas, so, too, is the sun rising for LGBT equality in the South.
I first experienced the beginning of this new day for the LGBT movement, in October 2013. Barbara and I married in Albuquerque, N.M. because it is constitutionally illegal in our home state. Forty-five minutes after we exchanged vows, I received a call from Mount St. Mary Academy, and was fired for signing a legal document that declared that I am, in fact, a lesbian. For the school administration, my sexual orientation was acceptable only if I kept it quiet.
The days following my firing from the school where I taught English for 15 years were a blur of tears and disbelief. I could not fathom being treated this way. I have always been a good citizen of this state and that someone could fire me for merely marrying the person I had been committed to and loved for 14 years was unthinkable.
I am proud of being an Arkansan. Besides the beauty of "The Natural State," the people here for the most part are good, loving and fair. The state produced the first female U.S. senator in Hattie Caraway and, of course, our favorite son, President Bill Clinton.
Our marriage was a private ceremony. Unlike most recently married couples, we would have returned to no hoopla but would have quietly resumed our lives living the way we always have out of fear of repercussions. Fortunately for us, the Human Rights Campaign heard of our plight.
HRC gathered over 50,000 signatures from all 50 states, including thousands from Arkansas, telling Mount St. Mary’s principal Diane Wolfe and president Karen Flake to stop discriminating against LGBT teachers. HRC President Chad Griffin, an Arkansas native, traveled home to Little Rock, holding a press conference alongside us and current and former students of Mount St. Mary’s and delivered the 50,000 petition signatures to the school.
Instead of slinking away silently, we had the support and strength to endure and stand up to the discrimination.
I was offered not one but two jobs -- one from the local county school district and one from the Little Rock School District. I now work at the historic and iconic Central High School and am surrounded by a diverse administration, faculty, staff and student body that have truly welcomed me.
Though Barbara and I were able to land on our feet, there are still far to many who still cannot live openly and fearlessly. We know that HRC continues to fight for many others and us. And now they are committing to our state in a big way with Project One America. HRC's Project One America is a comprehensive, multi-year campaign to dramatically expand LGBT equality in the South through permanent campaigns in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas.
Barbara loves that the sun is rising on the end of discrimination in the South. HRC helps the sun move throughout the sky on this issue, but I yearn for the day when it can set, and we can all just live our lives without fear of losing a job, being bullied or any other numerous ways LGBTQ people are made to feel less than our brothers and sisters in the South.
To join the driving force for equality, add your voice in support for HRC Arkansas.
For more on HRC’s comprehensive, multi-year campaign to dramatically expand LGBT equality in the South, visit http://www.projectoneamerica.org
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