By Kerry Lobel
As much of the nation anticipated the television episode when everyone's favorite lesbian character, Ellen Morgan opened her closet door on April 30, I continued to think about the bravery of hundreds of gay men and lesbians in dozens of states who have stood firm and proud for a long time. They have been "stars" of their state and local movement for equal rights.
These activists have continued their hard work to resist an onslaught of anti- gay bills introduced in state legislatures around the country. With attacks ranging from bans on sodomy to bans on same-gender marriage, the Right has once again forced us to put much of our energy into defensive actions.
However, there is a ray of light out of the darkness. At the same time that some state activists have been resisting a record number of anti-gay bills, many have seen a record number of bills introduced that would benefit the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered communities.
While much of the legislation this year is a repeat of previous years, new to the effort to both fight hostile measures and win measures securing basic civil rights for gays is a newly formed network of Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgendered (LGBT) statewide political groups.
The Federation of statewide groups was formed in November , 1996 at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's Creating Change Conference in a move to bolster efforts by individual state groups and simultaneously create a more unified national strategy for securing the rights of LGBT people. The Federation is being spearheaded with the assistance of NGLTF.
The Federation of LGBT statewide groups marks a new level of organizing and activism in the struggle for LGBT equality. I am proud that NGLTF is playing such a central role in this historic unification of our movement. Through conference calls by region and topic, the distribution of talking points on a variety of subjects, and use of our web page and electronic mailing list capabilities, NGLTF is able to support state organizers as they do the important work of bringing justice to our communities.
While the legislative season is not yet over, we look to the hundreds of state activists around the country to be our real role models. These individuals work ever day for a time when all of the Ellen Morgans of the world can live in a free and affirming society.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is a progressive organization that has supported grassroots organizing and pioneered in national advocacy since 1973. Since its inception, NGLTF has been at the forefront of virtually every major initiative for lesbian and gay rights. In all its efforts, NGLTF helps to strengthen the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender movement at the state level while connecting these activities to a national vision for change.