Washington, DC March 3rd, 1999 - Leaders of 36 national political gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) organizations and associations gathered at the National Policy Roundtable to develop effective collaborative initiatives on families issues, research, and media. This gathering on February 25th-26th in Washington, DC was the fourth semi-annual meeting of the roundtable convened by the Policy Institute of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF).
Urvashi Vaid, Director of the Policy Institute of the NGLTF, explained "By building a united force among our movement's national political organizations we increase our capacity for implementing coordinated proactive strategies and antici-pating emergency situations." Participants will also engage in the first in-depth strategy session among Executive Directors on race and the leadership of the movement at the next roundtable.
The families initiative will be a coordinated organizing campaign among the na-tional groups to offer strategic support to states facing anti-adoption bills. Across the country state legislatures are faced with bills designed to make adoptions and foster parenting illegal for unmarried and gay families and single people. Kate Kendell, Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights will coordi-nate with participants of the National Policy Roundtable to launch this national or-ganizing campaign.
A research initiative was planned after roundtable participants identified gaps in research and polling about GLBT people, public sentiment on GLBT rights, and the political right wing. Rebecca Isaacs, NGLTF's Political Director and Vaid will take the lead in convening a meeting of roundtable participants, think tanks, aca-demics, and public and private sector researchers to identify studies currently un-derway and to develop and pursue a comprehensive research agenda.
The creation of a media strategies project was identified to increase systematic coordination in response to right wing messages and to increase the presence of GLBT people of color in the media. Ann Northrop, ACT UP/New York member and veteran journalist, and Joan Garry, Executive Director of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, will take the lead in convening a meeting among public relations and advertising specialists, media activists, communications di-rectors, and roundtable participants. "The purposes of this collaborative project are to develop hard hitting proactive public education campaigns and to implement mechanisms to better represent the diversity of our communities in the media," said Willa Taylor, Chair of the Board of the National Black Gay and Lesbian Leadership Forum.
National Policy Roundtable participants also began discussions on how the GLBT movement addresses racism and how to increase racial diversity in the lead-ership of the movement. "People of color GLBT leadership is thriving in other so-cial justice movements and at the grassroots level, yet it is missing at the executive level in the national GLBT movement," said Richard Haymes of the National Coa-lition of Anti-Violence Programs. "The next National Policy Roundtable will ex-amine structural racism and other barriers to national leadership that exclude people of color and explore how our movement can better address racism."
At last week's National Policy Roundtable the directors were joined by leading political analysts and activists making presentations on four issue areas: 1) public sentiment on the right wing, GLBT rights, and politics; 2) the right wing's recent political mobilizations around family and race; 3) responding to biblical argument from faith-based perspectives; and 4) public education campaign strategies utilized by other social justice movements. Discussions were aimed at assessing the right wing's activities and developing plans for continued proactive political coordination among the organizations.
Celinda Lake of Snell Perry and Associates, a research-based strategy firm, pre-sented polling that demonstrated the public is increasingly connecting their own concerns with those that GLBT individuals have, especially around access to health care and social security benefits. Lake also pointed out that the public is unsuppor-tive of right wing political motivations such as eradication of sex education in the schools, banning access to abortions, and positioning of GLBT equal rights as "special rights."
Presentations on the right wing's consistent and concerted efforts to advance their agenda on race and family issues were discussed by Mandy Carter of Southerners On New Ground (SONG) and Equal Partners in Faith. "Right wing groups have put extreme energy into pulling in people of color communities. However, the tactic isn't taking, people are seeing the true discriminatory values behind the slick politi-cal relations campaigns. GLBT groups must get better at showing our support for people of color movements and we must consistently and regularly express the val-ues and oppressions that we share. Our common concerns can be demonstrated in two names, James Byrd and Mathew Shepard." Carter presented with the Family Pride Coalition, NGLTF, and the National Log Cabin Republican Clubs.
Discussions on responding to Biblical arguments against GLBT rights focussed on examining scriptural readings and understanding that there are a variety of religious perspectives on sexuality within Christianity and Judaism. Almost every mainline Christian denomination and the three main branches of Judaism, representing 90% of American Jewry, support full civil equality for gays.
"There is a growing movement of support for GLBT people of faith across this country," said Charles Cox, Executive Director of Dignity / USA. "To turn entire religions over to one perspective on a single issue does not reflect most people's experience of the complexity of spirituality and religious tradition." Cox co-presented with Lee Walzer, Vice-President of the World Congress of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Jewish Organizations.
A strategy development session was led by Herb Chao Gunther, Executive Di-rector of the Public Media Center, a progressive message-advocacy group that de-velops public education, electoral and other campaigns. Gunther presented strate-gies created with other social justice movements and suggested plans for developing a public education campaign on GLBT civil rights issues.
The National Policy Roundtable is convened semi-annually by the Policy Institute of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, a think tank dedicated to research, policy analysis and strategic thinking. The purpose of the roundtable is to foster collaborative, tactical and creative thinking among leaders of national political organizations on issues emerging in the GLBT movement.
The National Policy Roundtable consists of representatives from: ACLU Gay and Lesbian Rights Project; ACT UP / New York; AIDS Action Council; American Boyz, Inc.; BiNet USA; Children Of Lesbians & Gays Everywhere; Dignity / USA; Family Pride Coalition; Federation of Statewide LGBT Political Organizations; FTM International, Inc.; Gay and Lesbian Medical Association; Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation; Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network; Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund; GenderPAC; Human Rights Campaign; ICTLEP - Trans-gender Law Conference; International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission; International Network of Lesbian and Gay Officials; Intersex Society Of North America; It's Time America!; Lambda Legal Defense And Education Fund; National Association of GLBT Community Centers; National Association of People With AIDS; National Black Gay and Lesbian Leadership Forum; National Center For Lesbian Rights; National Coalition for Sexual Freedom; National Coalition of Anti-Violence Violence Programs; National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; National Latina/o LGBT Organization; National Log Cabin Republican Clubs; National Minority AIDS Council; National Stonewall Democratic Federation; National Youth Advocacy Coalition; Parents Friends and Families of Gays and Lesbians; Servicemembers Legal Defense Network; Transgendered Officers - Protect & Serve; Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches; World Congress of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Jewish Organizations.