Donate to CSE!

Online fundraising for Advocating for LGBT rights across the South

Connect with CSE

CSE FacebookFollow CSElive on Twitter

Phone: 828.242.1559
Email: Snail mail: PO Box 364, Asheville, NC 28802

Report discrimination and violence

Click here to submit a report from anywhere in the US. The Progressive Project LGBT Civil Rights

Reflections on Ferguson

By Meghann Burke

Meghann is an attorney at Brazil & Burke, P.A. where she practices civil litigation and criminal defense. She also serves as Legal Team leader for the Campaign for Southern Equality.

Jasmine and I have closely watched the events in Ferguson unfold these past weeks with broken hearts. As we hold our 2 month-old son, I cannot help but think about the unspeakable grief of Michael Brown’s mother. And Kajieme Powell’s. And Eric Garner’s. And Trayvon Martin’s.

The events in Ferguson shine a light on a national crisis related to the safety of young black men in America. There are other issues indeed, such as the militarization of police forces and freedom of the press. But the core issue – the one we must address – is the daily risk that black men live with simply for being who they are.

I’ve followed events in Ferguson closely for many reasons, among them that it’s personal. I can imagine the very playgrounds that Michael Brown played on, the very schools he attended, the very streets he walked, because St. Louis is my hometown. It holds a special place in my heart as the place where I was born and raised, where my large family calls home.

The story in Ferguson does not start with bullets piercing an unarmed young man. Its origins reach beyond the recent decertification of a primarily black school district, through white flight, and past the use of racially restrictive covenants to prevent African-American families from fully participating in the city’s civic and economic life. It begins somewhere on the steps of St. Louis’ Old Courthouse, seated below the Arch, where Dred Scott’s life was summarily dismissed as nothing more than a white man’s property. (Dred Scott v. Sandford, decided in 1857, is the most infamous case in  U.S. Supreme Court history. The court found that African-Americans, whether free or slave, were not citizens of the United States, that Congress lacked the power to ban slavery, and that the white man’s property rights to a slave were protected by the 5th Amendment. It was later overturned by the 13th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution.)

As in countless communities across the South, the pulse of St. Louis beats with good-hearted people whose lives are more complicated than oversimplified headlines. Michael Brown’s death is the impetus of the grief and anger expressed in recent protests and prayer vigils, but these protests are also about so much more.

In times of grief, words may not soothe the pain. Silence, however, is worse, for it suggests that one’s suffering does not merit recognition.

As a white woman, I am writing as an alternative to silence. I am writing to say publicly that I care about the fate of black men in America, about black men who are my friends, and those who are among my heroes. About the young black boys I know and the families that are raising them. To say publicly that this issue is personal to me. That it matters to me. That it drives the work I do as an attorney and as CSE’s Legal Team leader.

I also write as a gay white woman. I urge white LGBTQ people who may not feel immediately, personally impacted by events in Ferguson to pause and reconsider. The struggle for racial equity and justice in America is directly linked to the struggle for LGBTQ equality. Some of these connections are explicit: LGBTQ people of color are directly impacted by both forms of injustice as are the many multi-racial LGBTQ families in which children of color are growing up. But beyond this, there is a shared experience that opens up space for understanding – the experience of having one’s basic safety and rights at stake simply for being who you are in public spaces.

In our struggle for LGBTQ equality, we strive to act from a place of love. This commitment to an ethic of love requires us to reflect the ideal of love in both our private and public lives – from our laws, to our politics, to our schools, to our economy, to our law enforcement policies and practices, to our personal lives. Doing so is a life’s work that transcends any milestone for any particular group within what Dr. King called the Beloved Community. Our work – yours and mine – means nothing if we cannot find our shared humanity in all calls for justice.

The streets of Ferguson and the people who have been filling them each night have been telling us a story. We must listen. More than that, we must respond.

The story of Ferguson is complicated, and we should not attempt to simplify it. The moments of shared humanity we have seen in Ferguson – a black police captain talking openly and vulnerably about his concerns for his own son’s safety, residents of Ferguson cleaning up local businesses destroyed by looting the morning after, Trayvon Martin’s mother writing a letter of condolence to Michael Brown’s mother, protesters giving first aid to a journalist injured by tear gas – remind us of these complexities.

I am standing with the people of Ferguson who call for peace and justice not as a distant observer but because this struggle impacts all of us: The ability to be who you are in public spaces is more than just a right of citizenship. It is what it means to be human.

CSE provides legal services at Charlotte Pride

More than 100,000 people attended Charlotte Pride during the weekend of August 16 and 17 according to Q Notes.


(Photo from Q Notes)

The Campaign for Southern Equality along with the LGBTQ Law Center were proud to offer a chance to complete a Health Care Power of Attorney document at Charlotte Pride! More than 30 attorneys and notaries volunteered their time on Saturday to help us provide legal rights to LGBTQ people.

CLT Pride clinic

(Attorneys reviewing POA doc with individuals)

And we’re happy to report that 144 individuals completed a Health Care Power of Attorney document on Saturday at Charlotte Pride!

 Marie and Terry

(Marie and Terry)

Marie and Terry, together for 30 years, were two of the people who completed a document. They now know that their medical choices will be respected during an emergency medical situation.

 Bishop Tonyia Rawls of the LGBTQ Law Center

(Bishop Tonyia Rawls of the LGBTQ Law Center)

The goal of a Community Law Workshop is to empower LGBT people in the South to protect our rights to the full extent possible under current laws. With the support of volunteer attorneys we were able to provide LGBT Southerners with thousands of dollars worth of legal work at no cost.

 (Swearing oath with the notary)

(Swearing oath with the notary)

Don’t miss our upcoming Community Law Workshops:

  • Blue Ridge Pride (October 4, Asheville, NC); Health Care Power of Attorney offered with LGBTQ Law Center.
  • Pride Winston-Salem (October 18, Winston-Salem, NC); Health Care Power of Attorney offered with LGBTQ Law Center.

Supreme Court issues stay in 4th Circuit marriage ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court has responded to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and issued a stay in the Bostic case. This means that couples in the Virginias and the Carolinas cannot immediately exercise their fundamental right to marry as recognized by the Fourth Circuit.

We are disappointed in today’s action by the Supreme Court. Every day that same-sex couples in the 4th Circuit – and across the country – are not able to marry, LGBT families are harmed.

But we remain hopeful that the Supreme Court will take up a marriage equality case in short order. As many legal experts have speculated, we could even see a 50-state ruling as soon as June of 2015. Advocates on both sides have petitioned the Supreme Court for a ruling that would settle the issue.

In every single case heard by a federal judge since the Supreme Court’s landmark decision striking down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act, federal judges have ruled that marriage is a fundamental right that can’t be denied to same-sex couples. We are confident that marriage equality will be a reality in the South – it’s a question of when, not if.

Read more about the stay issued by the Supreme Court from legal analyst Chris Geidner.

LGBT couples across Mississippi record marriage licenses

Eddie and Justin submitted their California marriage license for recording at the Hinds County Chancery Clerk’s Office. Read WAPT’s report on the Hinds County couples:

On Wednesday, August 13, 17 same-sex couples in nine Mississippi counties submitted their marriage licenses for the public record at their local Chancery Clerk’s offices. The action, which is part of CSE’s WE DO Campaign, was an effort to expose the harm caused to LGBT families by the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Since a voter-approved ban passed in 2004, state and county officials in Mississippi are not allowed to perform same-sex marriages or recognize marriages from other states. Recording their marriage licenses as vital records with the Chancery Clerk is the only avenue LGBT couples have to publicly document their marriages.

Same-sex couples were able to record their licenses in Amite, Desoto, Hancock, Hinds, Lafayette, Lamar, Oktibbeha and Pearl River Counties, while four couples in Harrison County were denied. CSE’s legal team, as well as other chancery clerks in Mississippi have concluded that counties are legally required to register any legal document, including marriage licenses, for the public record. But Harrison County Chancery Clerk John McAdams said that his office had never filed marriage licenses. CSE is standing with the Harrison County couples as they continue trying to document their licenses.

Jena and Jennifer were among the couples who submitted their license for the public record in Harrison County and were denied.

In Mississippi, which leads the nation in poverty, many same-sex couples don’t have the means to have a destination wedding to another state. Research has shown that LGBT people, especially lesbians, are more likely to live in poverty than their heterosexual counterparts, and a wage gap exists . . . → Read More: LGBT couples across Mississippi record marriage licenses

Day of statewide action for marriage equality in Mississippi

On August 13, same-sex couples in nine counties across Mississippi will record their out-of-state marriage licenses at their local Chancery Court offices. Organized by the Campaign for Southern Equality, this statewide day of action for marriage equality will involve local couples recording their licenses in Amite, Desoto, Hancock, Harrison, Hinds, Lafayette, Lamar, Oktibbeha and Pearl River counties.

Meet the couples that will call for rights on Wednesday:

(Jena and Jennifer with their daughter)

(Pamela and Mary)

(Nathan and Paul)

. . . → Read More: Day of statewide action for marriage equality in Mississippi