Nurturing the emergence of an LGBT movement that resists the U.S. government’s perpetual “war on terrorism” and challenges militarism, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) believes that LGBT anti-violence work must expand to include the violence of the state. We place our work for LGBT rights and recognition within an international human rights framework and draw on the historic Quaker witness for peace.
The organization has combated internal and external homophobia, heterosexism, and transphobia in ways that demonstrate its deep-rooted commitment to the Quaker intention to speak to that of God in every person.
For example, AFSC has filed or joined "friend of the court" legal briefs in landmark LGBT-related cases, opposed anti-LGBT ballot initiatives, supported LGBT youth and the adults who work with them, and helped build bridges between LGBT and religious/spiritual communities.
AFSC national and regional programs have also helped to create new or strengthen existing institutional capacity to serve LGBT communities.
- The People of Color Against AIDS Network (POCAAN) began as a project of the Seattle GLBTQ program.
- The Seattle program also helped create Lambert House, one of the nation's first drop-in centers for LGBTQ youth.
- The Seattle program helped create the Safe Schools Coalition of Washington State, the first such coalition working for safety in the schools for all young people, including LGBTQ youth.
- AFSC's Hawai'i Gay Liberation Program helped create the Hawai'I Safe Schools Coalition
- The Faith Action Network (FAN) was created by AFSC's Michigan LGBT Issues Program to provide statewide, faith-based advocacy for LGBT rights and recognition
- The Bridges Project, the first national informational clearinghouse for LGBTQ youth and the organizations that serve them, began as a project in AFSC's Community Relations Unit, and several years later became a core part of the newly-formed National Youth Advocacy Coalition
AFSC continues that proud tradition of support for LGBT rights and recognition, placing this work in a broader social and economic context, and linking this struggle to other movements for peace and justice in the United States and throughout the world.
Below are a few chronological highlights of the organization's pioneering efforts in support of the struggles of LGBT people:
- AFSC launches a " Peace Building in a Time of Cultural War" campaign to lift up spiritual voices who oppose the virulent political attack on LGBT individuals and families.
- AFSC produces an "emergency preparedness kit for queer youth" seeking to survive militarism, racism, and repression, in partnership with the National Youth Advocacy Coalition. This is an historic first counter-recruitment publication for queer youth.
- With Audre Lorde Project and Al-Fatiha Foundation, AFSC co-convenes the second national strategy meeting for lesbian, gay, bisexual, two spirit, and transgender organizations opposing the "war on terrorism."
- AFSC publishes the first AFSC LGBT issue brief, "Is Opposing War an LGBT Issue?" in partnership with the National Youth Advocacy Coalition.
- The Audre Lorde Project and AFSC issue an joint letter to lesbian, gay, bisexual, two spirit, and transgender communities opposing the war on Iraq and widening "war on terrorism," which is endorsed by more than 130 organizations. This marks the visible emergence of a new LGBT anti-war movement.
- The Audre Lorde Project and AFSC co-convene an historic first national strategy meeting for lesbian, gay, bisexual, two spirit, and transgender organizations opposing war on Iraq and the widening "war on terrorism."
- AFSC-Michigan launches a new pro-LGBT Faith Action Network to bring a powerful faith-based voice into the statewide struggle for LGBT rights and recognition.
- AFSC publishes the Justice Visions working paper, "In a Time of Broken Bones: a Call to Dialogue on Hate Violence & the Limitations of Hate Crimes Legislation. The paper examines the meaning of justice—and safety—for groups affected by hate violence, and is one example of how AFSC makes the connections between LGBT struggles and other struggles for peace and justice.
- AFSC-Michigan serves as chief organizer for the pro-LGBT African Americans Against Discrimination in Ypsilanti, as opponents of LGBT rights and recognition seek to use a ballot initiative to repeal a gay-inclusive human rights ordinance. The ordinance stands. From this time forward, AFSC will carry the primary portfolio for faith-based organizing in Michigan.
- AFSC is a founding member of the LGBT-affirming National Religious Leadership Roundtable, an interfaith network of national organizations.
- AFSC board provides start-up funding for Hawai'i Gay Liberation Program to help respond to divisions and tensions created through a virulent campaign against LGBT marriage equality. The program links LGBT rights and recognition to Kanaka Maoli (native Hawaiian) struggles for sovereignty and human rights, with a focus on youth organizing.
- AFSC's Community Relations Unit creates The Bridges Project, the first national clearinghouse for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth, and the organizations that serve them.
- AFSC's Portland Lesbian & Gay Program organizes People of Faith Against Bigotry to help defeat a statewide anti-gay ballot initiative.
- AFSC publishes Bridges of Respect: Creating Support for Lesbian & Gay Youth, the first national gay-affirming resource guide for adults working with youth. A Spanish-language edition, Puentes de Respeto, is published in Latin America in 1989.
- AFSC board provides start-up funding for LGBT programs in Seattle and Portland (OR), the first regional LGBT programs in the organization.
Written by Jack Sutters