News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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March 9, 2009

Stephanie Salter: Think there’s no longer a need for gay support? Think again

Only a few hours before I met with Jeremy Turner and a handful of folks who are forming the Terre Haute chapter of PFLAG, I listened in amazement to a local college student brag in public about beating up a couple of gay guys in a bar.

It is 2009 in the United States of America, and a young man on his way to a college degree still believes it is funny — and commendable — to use his fists like hammers on the faces of homosexuals.

Talk about work to do. PFLAG Terre Haute can’t get rolling soon enough.

PFLAG stands for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. Based in Washington, D.C., with about 500 chapters across the country, the organization was founded in 1972 by a New York mother whose son had been beaten during a gay rights rally.

According to Steve Ralls, the director of communications for PFLAG, several factors have led to a recent increase in membership and the founding of new chapters in places such as Terre Haute:

The Academy Award-winning film, “Milk,” about slain gay rights leader Harvey Milk; a Lifetime Television film, “Prayers for Bobby,” starring Sigourney Weaver as a real-life mother whose 20-year-old son committed suicide when his family and church tried to “cure” him of his homosexuality; and the passage of Proposition 8 in California, which overturned a court ruling that had allowed same-sex couples to marry in civil ceremonies.

The combination, Ralls said, has led to a stepped up “mobilizing of straight allies.”

“If we learned anything from the unfortunate experience in California, it was that we need to be able to rally our straight allies in our communities,” he said.

As one of those straight allies, I have long believed in the power of PFLAG. That is because the organization is based on personal relationships — familial, collegial, among friends. It is always the personal level at which the most effective consciousness raising occurs.

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    March 12, 2010