Equality Forum Sets Impressive Goals
Now celebrating its 20th year, Equality Forum’s mission is to advance national and international lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights through education programs, documentary videos (Jim In Bold, Gay Pioneers and Saint of 9/11) and sponsorships for high-profile initiatives designed to raise social consciousness about LGBT stigma and discrimination, both in the United States and abroad.
Next month in Philadelphia, from Thursday, May 3 through Sunday, May 6, the group will present the largest ever national and international LGBT civil rights summit-Equality Forum: The LGBT Global Summit. Goals of the Forum are to reflect on our LGBT heritage, past sacrifices and accomplishments, to focus on the present-which involves celebrating the many victories and to recommit to the ever- present challenges. And finally, to look ahead toward future aspirations using what Founder and Executive Director Malcolm Lazin described as a "forward lean- ing" approach toward new goals.
Lazin says his team is most excited about this year’s event, it will be the first Equality Forum since the end of "Don’t Ask Don’t Tell." In celebration, one of the 25 panels will host members of OutServe, a network of out members of the military. The group will address the current circumstances for LGBT men and women in the military, with the new challenges for LGBT military personnel, despite the DADT repeal. Additionally, the lesbian cadet Katherine Miller, who resigned from West Point in 2010 following her high-profile case involving "Don’t Ask Don’t Tell," will be a panel guest speaker.
Also, since Equality Forum coordinates LGBT History Month, the organization will provide attendees an opportunity to help their communities participate during the month’s events. "So many of us in the LGBT community do not know our own his- tory," Lazin told The Rage Monthly. "This is because our history is not taught," Equality Forum has prioritized LGBT education as part of it mission. Lazin says that it is imperative, since most come from families that do not share our LGBT heritage and because it is a political struggle each time we attempt to bring portions of our history into the public school curriculum.
Each year the Equality Forum highlights an international nation as its featured nation and this year the event highlights the nation of Israel. Amidst the political conflicts, war and fear of new wars since its birth in 1948, Israel not only represents a thriving democracy, but it remains the sole LGBT oasis in the hostile Middle East. While there are many religious vs. secular conflicts in Israel that parallel LGBT challenges in the United States, Israel celebrates democratic values, allows LGBT persons to serve openly in their military and supports Jerusalem Open House, the LGBT Center in the city center, that serves both LGBT Arab and LGBT Jews-consequently, Tel Aviv also has an open LGBT Center. And while LGBT persons still do not have the right to marry in Israel, the government does recognize all LGBT Israeli citizens legally married in other countries.
The international focus each year remains a key element of the annual event, since Equality Forum believes that nations of the world have much to share with each other regarding LGBT civil rights challenges globally. Nations are in different stages of civil rights advancement, just as different states within the U.S. Lazin says that representatives from diverse nations learn from each other, share strategies toward improving conditions, improved circumstances and eventual success. The Equality Forum will hold 25 panel discussions with keynote speakers such as Dr. Michael B. Oren, Ambassador of Israel to the United States.
There is no registration fee and the 25 panels featuring key leaders, in causes important to LGBT persons are free. For free registration or to find out more about Equality Forum, The Global LGBT Summit, go to equalityforum.com