What we’re up to …

Registration open for the 2016 LGBT* in the South conference

Each year at the LGBT* in the South conference, hundreds have gathered in Asheville to learn, share skills, build strategy and connect with others. The fight for full LGBT* equality in the South is far from over, but together we can get there.

Registration is now open for the 2016 LGBT* in the South conference taking place March 18-20 in Asheville, North Carolina! http://www.lgbtinthesouth.com/register/

The registration fee ranges from $20 to $250 depending on whether you’re a student, non-profit professional, organizer or an attorney.

2016 LGBT* in the South Conference

The annual LGBT* in the South conference is a project of the Campaign for Southern Equality  and is planned in partnership with a conference Advisory Committee representative of the diverse Southern LGBT* community.

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New wave of anti-LGBT bills engulfs the South as 2016 begins

As 2016 gets underway we’re seeing a flood on anti-LGBT bills and actions across the South.

THE LGBT SOUTH is a weekly email newsletter from the Campaign for Southern Equality that highlights the voices and experiences of LGBT people living in the South.

To keep up with all the news in the #LGBTSouth you can subscribe at: http://www.southernequality.org/newsletter/.


Can States Protect LGBT Rights Without Compromising Religious Freedom?
By Emma Green, The Atlantic

“The irony of gay marriage becoming legal in the United States is that it has made discrimination against LBGT people easier. For example: Many newlywed couples may be asking their employers for spousal benefits for the first time. Depending on where they live, it may or may not be illegal for that employer to respond by firing them—something that happened in a number of states in 2015. Some state legislatures have tentatively taken on this issue; Pennsylvania and Idaho, for example, both saw bills introduced in 2015. But in many places, these efforts are complicated by a tangled political question: Should these laws make exceptions for religious individuals and organizations that object to employing and providing services to gay people?”

Six GOP Cadidates Pledge to Sign Anti-Gay Discrimination Into Law
By Kira Lerner, ThinkProgress

“Six of the Republican candidates vying for the presidency have signed a pledge promising to support legislation during their first 100 days in the White House that would use the guise of “religious liberty” to give individuals and businesses the right to openly discriminate against LGBT people.”

“Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee vowed to push for the passage of the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), legislation that would prohibit the federal government from stopping discrimination by people or businesses that believe “marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman” or that ‘sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.’”


The Quixotic Adventures of Roy Moore
By Matt Ford, The Atlantic

“Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore issued an administrative order Wednesday that effectively banned same-sex marriages in the state, less than seven months after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage bans violated the Constitution.”

“Central to Moore’s reasoning is the assertion that Obergefell only applied to the four states in that case, namely Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. To that end, he cited rulings in other courts that noted this theoretically limited application.”

“Last spring, when conservative lawmakers in Indiana and Arkansas were pushing through “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA) legislation intended to legalize anti-LGBT discrimination, a similar bill was under consideration in Georgia. It didn’t pass, but it didn’t die, and it’s now set to return along with another pro-discrimination bill.”

Upstate lawmakers file bill to ban same-sex marriage in SC
By Dal Kalsi, Fox Carolina 21 (South Carolina)

“Two South Carolina lawmakers from the Upstate have filed a bill to ban same-sex marriage in the state and protect government officials who do not wish to officiate or recognize same-sex unions.””House Bill 4513, dubbed “South Carolina Natural Marriage Defense Act” aims to amend the state’s 1976 marriage code by adding language to ‘defend natural marriage as between one man and one woman, to invalidate court decisions to the contrary, to require the South Carolina attorney general to defend state officials in lawsuits related to the state’s definition of marriage, to prohibit enforcement of court decisions contrary to South Carolina’s laws, and to protect government officials from arrest or other penalties for noncompliance with unlawful court orders.’”

Legal Challenge Filed Against SB2, North Carolina “Magistrate Recusal” Law

On December 9th, six plaintiffs filed a federal lawsuit challenging Senate Bill 2, the North Carolina law passed in defiance of federal court orders that struck down Amendment One and declared that marriage is a fundamental right for gay and lesbian citizens. Senate Bill 2 allows magistrates who do not believe in marriage equality to renounce their judicial oath to uphold and evenly apply the United States Constitution. The plaintiffs are represented by Tin Fulton Walker & Owen, a Charlotte-based law firm that led the legal challenge that struck down Amendment One, and by Meghann Burke, of Asheville-based firm Brazil & Burke.

Download the full complaint in Ansley v. North Carolina here.


The Campaign for Southern Equality, along with Equality NC, is coordinating the public education campaign accompanying the case.

“This law distorts the true meaning of religious freedom. From the day it was proposed, it was clear that SB2 is about one thing and one thing only – finding a new way to discriminate against same-sex couples. We will keep standing up to discrimination until LGBT people are equal in every sphere of life,” says Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality.


What Hattiesburg’s First Pride Parade Means for the LGBT South

Post-marriage we have a lot of work to do. We’ve all known that our work in the South wasn’t going to end with one court ruling, no matter how historically significant and validating it was. Our next phase of work is more nuanced and and more particular to each local community we work in.

For a glimpse into our travels across the Deep South please read this new article by our Executive Director, Rev. Jasmine beach-Ferrara.

This is the South right now. Bias nakedly expressed rather than hidden, a spring loaded tension in public life. People and communities that are full of promise, full of hope. New leaders doing incredible work, changing this place, starting new public conversations. The change that is possible will come from the South, from Southern leaders who know and understand this place, who call it home, who have no plans to leave.

If we believe that our public lives matter, that the ghosts of the past co-mingle with the new realities we create, then Hattiesburg changed on October 10. LGBT people became, in a new way, part of the the city’s public life.

It gets at the heart of the work ahead of us in the LGBT South.

Pride goers march at Southern Fried Pride in Hattiesburg, Mississippi on October 10, 2015. Photo by Ashton Pittman., 2015. Photo by Ashton Pittman., 2015. Photo by Ashton Pittman.

(Pride goers march at Southern Fried Pride in Hattiesburg, Mississippi on October 10, 2015. Photo by Ashton Pittman., 2015.)

Legal Challenge to Mississippi Adoption Ban

UPDATE: Judge Jordan III has not yet issued a ruling in our case.

On November 6, Judge Daniel Porter Jordan III held a nearly five hour hearing on Campaign for Southern Equality v. Mississippi Department of Human Services, which seeks to strike down Mississippi’s ban on same-sex adoption.

Read about the hearing in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.

Mississippi is the only state left in the nation that bans gay couples from adopting without regard for their qualifications as parents or the best interests of the child.

The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi on behalf of four same-sex couples: Kari Lunsford and Tinora Sweeten-Lunsford, who are seeking to adopt a child; Brittany Rowell and Jessica Harbuck, also seeking to adopt; Donna Phillips and Janet Smith, parents to a young daughter; and Kathryn Garner and Susan Hrostowski, who have a 15-year-old son.

Read coverage of the lawsuit by the New York Times

Two organizations — the Campaign for Southern Equality and Family Equality Council — join the case as plaintiffs representing the LGBT families across Mississippi.

Lead counsel for the plaintiffs is Roberta Kaplan of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.  Plaintiffs are also represented by Mississippi attorney Robert McDuff of McDuff & Byrd, based in Jackson, Mississippi.

Southern Equality Fund 

In 2015, the Campaign for Southern Equality launched the Southern Equality Fund by making grants to sixteen organizations and individuals working to achieve legal and lived equality for LGBT people in the South. The Fund is a grantmaking initiative which directs financial resources to grassroots LGBT groups and elevates LGBT leadership across the South, especially in small towns and rural areas.

More than 3 in 10 LGBT adults live in the South – a higher number of LGBT adults than any other region – but Southern LGBT organizations receive less than 8 percent of national funding.

From left to right: Z Zaldivar of Equality NC Foothills and Transgender Allies Group (TAG), Jasmine Beach-Ferrara of CSE, Rev. Debbie Early of People Being Jesus (PBJ), Suzy Guerrero of Henderson Fuerza Activa, Brandon King of The Elite Project, and Joey Lopez of CSE.

From left to right: Z Zaldivar of Equality NC Foothills and Transgender Allies Group (TAG), Jasmine Beach-Ferrara of CSE, Rev. Debbie Early of People Being Jesus (PBJ), Suzy Guerrero of Henderson Fuerza Activa, Brandon King of The Elite Project, and Joey Lopez of CSE.

Based in Asheville, North Carolina, the Campaign for Southern Equality is a non-profit organization that advocates for the full equality of LGBT individuals and families across the South.