Based in the South, the Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE) is a national effort to assert the full humanity and equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in American life and to increase public support for LGBT rights.
What We Do:
CSE is based in Asheville, N.C., and works with teams across the South. Through our three-pronged approach, we are telling a new story about LGBT lives in the South:
- The WE DO Campaign involves LGBT couples in the Southern communities where they live requesting – and being denied – marriage licenses in order to call for full equality under federal law and to resist unjust state laws;
- The Hometown Organizing Project involves ongoing work in towns across the South to increase the visibility of LGBT lives, share our stories, and advocate for equality;
- The LGBT Rights Toolkit responds to the daily realities that LGBT people in the South face as a result of being second-class citizens; we provide in-person legal clinics and an online resource center to help LGBT people in the South protect themselves under current laws and get help in times of need.
(WE DO Campaign training in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.)
A New Approach:
Across the South, LGBT people lack basic legal protections, face robust opposition to our rights and have limited resources for advocacy. LGBT people in our region are also at an elevated risk of poverty. Beyond this, the South receives less than five percent of the total annual funding that goes to LGBT organizations nationally. Factors like this contribute to the commonly held belief that the South is “unwinnable” when it comes to LGBT rights.
But we hold a different view and feel deeply hopeful about what’s possible in the South.
1) We believe there is a pressing need for advocacy, legal and crisis response services for LGBT people in the South.
2) We believe that federal equality is the most efficient and effective pathway to equality for LGBT people in the South. We also believe LGBT people and allies in the South are uniquely positioned to accelerate winning full equality on the federal level by directly resisting discriminatory laws and systems.
3) We believe that every person – including those conflicted about or opposed to LGBT rights – can become an ally.
As a result, we’re taking a new approach, building upon a rich legacy of civil rights organizing in the South and working in close partnership with other LGBT and civil rights groups.
CSE’s work is based upon empathic resistance, a new ethic which calls for 1) resisting persecuting systems by expressing the authentic self; and 2) approaching those who oppose your rights with empathy.
CSE emerges from The Progressive Project’s (TPP) work on political campaigns and on LGBT rights since 2004. TPP has worked on local, state and federal electoral campaigns and on a number of campaigns to defeat anti-marriage amendments. We’ve written about lessons learned from these amendment campaigns in a series of articles in The Democratic Strategist:
- “Marriage Equality In the South: An Analysis and a Strategy” (North Carolina, 2012)
- “Zero for Thirty-One” (Maine, 2009)
- “Why We Lost in California” (California, 2008)
- “Abstinence Education” (Kentucky, 2007)