"Do you know Ellen DeGeneres?" may not have been a question I expected to get at the HRC Pop-Up store in New Orleans at Southern Decadence, but when the questioner followed with "she's from here, you know" it all made sense. And it fit in with the friendly, welcoming and festive atmosphere that we ‘ve come to know and love about New Orleans. Joined by my colleagues Kevin Lynch and Bryce Romero, HRC brought equality to the Big Easy for this year’s Southern Decadence festivities.
Drawing in folks from Baton Rouge to Belgium, from Houma to Houston, and from Tallahassee to Toronto, Southern Decadence is a staple on the LGBT calendar; however, we’ve also come to expect a large crowd of straight allies celebrating the end of summer. With exceptional support and leadership by New Orleans Steering Committee members Melissa Warren and Jeff Brown as well as an amazing crew of HRC volunteers, HRC’s Pop-Up Shop was a must-stop destination on Bourbon Street thanks to the incredible support of Chuck Robinson, owner of Napoleon’s Itch, who graciously provides the space to HRC, free of charge.
From conversations about Ellen Degeneres and coming out to conversations with four school teachers from the very conservative Louisiana Delta about creating Welcoming Schools, we were overwhelmed with the positivity and commitment to social justice of people from even the reddest of states. With many of our visitors coming from states that offer zero protections to LGBT citizens,  I was too often reminded of the need for One America, a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.
Underscoring the seachange of support for LGBT equality were the number of straight allies who signed to become members of HRC having just witnessed the vitriolic hate speech spewed from the megaphones and written on the signs of the weekend’s protestors. To quote one of those allies who became a member of HRC that day, “My God doesn’t hate. My God loves.”

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