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4 things you might not know about the history of AFSC's work for LGBT rights

Photo: AFSC

The American Friends Service Committee has a long history of involvement in the struggle for LGBT rights. Here's a few highlights of AFSC's support of LGBT equality over the past few decades.

1. People of Color Against AIDS Network and Lambert House, Seattle

Seattle Gay/Lesbian ProjectIn 1986, the Seattle regional office became the first regional LGBT program in the organization, later helping to launch other AFSC work with LGBT youth. In 1992, the office created The Bridges Project, an informational clearinghouse for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth and LGBT youth-serving organizations.

The People of Color Against AIDS Network (POCAAN) started out of AFSC’s Seattle office, and Seattle's LGBT program also helped found Lambert House, one of the nation's first drop-in centers for LGBT youth, as well as the Safe Schools Coalition of Washington State, the first such coalition working for safety in the schools for all young people, including LGBT youth. The Washington coalition became a model for other Safe Schools programs around the country.

2. Hawaii Gay Liberation Program, HawaiiLGBT Meeting in Hawai'i

In 1997, the AFSC board provided startup funding for the Hawaii Gay Liberation Program to help respond to divisions and tensions created through a virulent campaign against LGBT marriage equality. The program linked LGBT rights and recognition to kanaka maoli (native Hawaiian) struggles for sovereignty and human rights, with a focus on youth organizing.

3. African Americans Against Discrimination, Michigan

In 1998, AFSC’s Ann Arbor office supported a gay-inclusive human rights ordinance in Ypsilanti, Michigan and served as a chief organizer for African Americans Against Discrimination as LGBT rights opponents sought to repeal the ordinance. The ordinance stood.

4. Internal organizational changes, internationally

In 1978, AFSC's Board of Directors approved an organizational affirmative action plan that included people of color, women, people with disabilities, and lesbians, gays, and bisexuals. In 1988 AFSC published "Bridges of Respect: Creating Support for Lesbian & Gay Youth," the first national gay-affirming resource guide for adults working with youth.

In the late 1990s, AFSC undertook various processes of self-education with regard to rights, recognition, and concerns of transgender communities and added transgender representation to the LGBT Subcommittee of AFSC's National Affirmative Action Committee.People of Color Against AIDS Network in Seattle

AFSC staff in LGBT and Criminal Justice programs initiated efforts to deepen AFSC's understanding of and programmatic responses to hate-motivated violence against people of color, LGBT people, women, people with disabilities, and members of religious minorities.

A working group of the AFSC Board of Directors convened to develop and bring to the full Board a new LGBT-affirming statement that drew deeply from the AFSC's own experience in learning from its own LGBT staff and volunteers, from religious debates over homosexuality, and from its program work with LGBT communities.


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