Today, HRC announced Project One America, a comprehensive campaign to dramatically expand LGBT equality in the South through permanent campaigns in Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas. This substantial and lasting initiative—with a three year budget of $8.5 million and a dedicated staff of 20—is the largest coordinated campaign for LGBT equality in the history of the South.
"Right now, this country is deeply divided into two Americas—one where LGBT equality is nearly a reality and the other where LGBT people lack the most fundamental measures of equal citizenship. Project One America is an unparalleled effort to close that gap, and it opens up a bold, new chapter in the LGBT civil rights movement of this generation. In this grand struggle for equality, we can’t write off anyone, anywhere," said HRC President and Arkansas native Chad Griffin.
Project One America is the very first campaign of its kind to work exclusively on LGBT equality in Alabama—where there are no non-discrimination protections for LGBT people at the state or local level in employment, housing or public accommodations, and where the state’s constitution expressly prohibits marriage equality.
"As an openly gay legislator, I have seen first-hand how hearts and minds change when people realize that LGBT folks are their friends and neighbors and family members,” said AL State Rep. Patricia Todd. “HRC's investment in Alabama will hasten the day when no one in our state is a second-class citizen."
"Despite the legal landscape, it’s long past time that the country stopped treating the Alabama like the ‘finish line’ for equality. HRC has more than 24,000 members and supporters in Alabama, and there are countless more fair-mined people ready to stand on the right side of history," Griffin said.
Griffin will be visiting Alabama on Wednesday, May 7th as part of a three-state tour of press and public events to kick off Project One America.
"Project One America is a most welcomed attempt to try and expand LGBT equality in the South," said Rev. J. R. Finney II, Senior Pastor, Covenant Community Church. "Here in Alabama where much of the last century’s civil rights struggles began, it is sad to see progress for LGBT equality languished so far behind other parts of the United States. Unfortunately, I get to see too often firsthand the results of LGBT inequality. With its history, Alabama is a great place to launch this widespread effort and I believe it will succeed!"
HRC will focus on making progress on three fronts—changing hearts and minds, advancing enduring legal protections, and building more inclusive institutions for LGBT people from the church pew to the workplace.
Gio Gibbons, a resident life coordinator at Auburn University at Montgomery, grew up in a Pentecostal church. Gibbons spoke with AL.com today about Project One America and his experiences living as an openly gay man in the Alabama.
Gibbons told AL.com he struggled with suicidal thoughts as he heard sermons suggesting he was bound for hell because of his sexual orientation.
"My belief and my faith are so much a part of who I am," Gibbons said. "It's hard for me to talk about but I have to talk about it so people can see they can be gay and be a Christian. If I don't tell my story and something good could have come from it and someone would have benefited, I feel I'm doing them a disservice."
HRC Alabama will be anchored by full-time local staff and dedicated in-state office space to guarantee a round-the-clock effort.
The effort will be led nationally by Brad Clark, a long-time LGBT advocate with a consistent record of success at statewide LGBT equality organizations in Iowa and Colorado. Its deputy director will be Karin Quimby, a veteran of HRC’s Field work in the South.
"HRC has been the largest national LGBT organizer in the South for decades, but LGBT people in these three states have told us in deeply personal terms that they want us to do more in their front yard," Clark said. "The opportunities for progress couldn’t be clearer, and the need couldn’t be greater. Alabama has one of the single highest rates of gay and lesbian couples raising children of any state in the country, for instance, but these parents are making do without essential legal protections or inclusion in their community."
In addition to the record levels of LGBT parenting (which are drawn from a 2010 Census analysis by the Williams Institute), HRC found both real need and profound opportunity for progress in a recently-completed survey conducted for HRC by Anzalone Liszt Grove—the largest survey of its kind on the needs, experiences and priorities of LGBT people in the South.
- In Alabama, nearly 65 percent of LGBT people report suffering verbal abuse.
- Nearly one in five report experiencing physical violence because of their identity.
- A quarter report experiencing discrimination in employment or public accommodation.
- And 30 percent of LGBT parents raising children in these states are total legal strangers to the children they raise.
HRC Alabama’s nine launch goals are:
- Empower LGBT people (and straight allies) to come out.
- Raise the visibility of LGBT people and issues with the general public.
- Create safer environments for LGBT young people.
- Build partnerships with faith communities, communities of color, business communities, and conservatives.
- Create a more inclusive workplace for LGBT people
- Build support for enduring legal protections that ensure LGBT equality.
- Expand participation in HRC’s Municipal Equality Index in these three states.
- Create a more inclusive healthcare environment for LGBT people
- Equip LGBT people and non-traditional allies as spokespeople.
A complete resource on Project One America’s vision and motivating research is available here.
HRC will continue being the single largest national LGBT organizer in the South, with a decades-long track record of political and field campaigns and grassroots education efforts. One-third (500,000) of our 1.5 million members and supporters call the South their home and HRC is present at more than 50 LGBT pride events across the South each year.
HRC’s field team is working across the South supporting legislative and electoral initiatives with direct grants to local and state groups and campaigns, funding for research and lobbying, as well as staff resources – including three full time employees dedicated to the South, and five other full time employees that spend a large portion of their time working in the region. Furthermore, the HRC Foundation’s public education and outreach programs – including nationally recognized benchmark ratings like the Corporate Equality Index, Healthcare Equality Index and Municipal Equality Index– are present across the South helping to transform the institutions that affect the daily lives of LGBT people.
"Project One America is the perfect complement to HRC’s existing political and field campaigns and grassroots education efforts—as well as our decades-old volunteer communities across the South,” said Griffin. “That said, we’re not undertaking this work because it will lead to quick, easy or sweeping victories. We’re doing it because it is difficult. Folks in these three states shouldn’t have to wait a single day longer for one, fully equal, America."
Stay updated on HRC’s Project One America at www.projectoneamerica.org, follow the hashtag #ProjectOneAmerica on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, or text 'oneamerica' to 30644.
To read the AL.com story in its entirety, click here.