200+ community centers issue letter denouncing state anti-LGBTQ bills

The William Way LGBT Community Center.

By Lou Chibbaro Jr., Washington Blade courtesy of the NLGBTQ Media Association

At least 222 LGBTQ community centers and groups aligned with them across the country have issued a joint letter denouncing the record number of anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in state legislatures this year.

The one-page letter was prepared by CenterLink, the national coalition of LGBTQ community centers, which says the nation’s LGBTQ centers collectively serve more than 51,800 people each week or nearly 2.7 million people each year.

“We, the undersigned centers, denounce the tidal wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation that lawmakers are hurling at our community,” the letter says. “We continue to stand united as safe havens for LGBTQ people and as pillars against hate and discrimination,” the letter continues. “We will not relent until these attacks stop and LGBTQ people are treated fairly and equally under the law.”

Denise Spivak, CenterLink’s CEO, told the Washington Blade the letter on Tuesday morning, May 9, was being sent to the White House, several federal government agencies, and the LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus in Congress.

Spivak said CenterLink would not immediately send copies of the letter to state lawmakers who have been supporting the anti-LGBTQ legislation. “But we will be posting it publicly and we will be providing it to all of our centers,” she said. “They’ll have a copy of the letter to post as well and to send to those that they feel it makes sense to send to locally and regionally.”

Among the D.C. groups that signed on to the letter are Rainbow Families and SMYAL, which represents LGBTQ youth and operates group homes for homeless LGBTQ youth.

Also signing the letter were CAMP Rehoboth, the LGBTQ community center in Rehoboth Beach, Del.; the Delmarva Pride Center in Easton, Md.; the Roanoke Diversity Center in Roanoke, Va.; the Shenandoah LGBTQ Center in Staunton, Va.; and Us Giving Richmond Connections, a Richmond, Va.-based group that has organized Black LGBTQ Pride events.

The D.C. Center for the LGBT Community, the largest LGBTQ community center in the D.C. metro area, did not sign on to the letter as of Monday, May 8. A spokesperson for the D.C. Center couldn’t immediately be reached.

Spivak said CenterLink is leaving the letter open for signing by LGBTQ centers that have not done so as of Tuesday, May 9, when the letter was scheduled to be officially released.

“We had two that just came in this morning,” she said in referring to Monday, May 8. “So, even those who you don’t see on there doesn’t mean they won’t or that they don’t support the spirit of the letter,” she said. “It’s just that they have not yet signed on.”

The letter points out that state lawmakers have introduced more anti-LGBTQ legislation this year than in the previous five years combined.

“With 470 anti-LGBTQ bills on state dockets, and 362 of them specifically attacking the transgender community, LGBTQ people are literally fighting for their lives,” the letter says.

“These bills enforce discriminatory bathroom bans, censor drag shows or even make them illegal, stop transgender students from participating in sporting activities at school, force teachers to out students, eliminate school curriculum around LGBTQ and racial issues, attempt to allow states to put restrictions on same-sex marriages, erase LGBTQ people from schools and public life, and prevent transgender youth from accessing gender-affirming care or even force them to de-transition,” the letter states.

“And despite almost three quarters of centers having experienced anti-LGBTQ threats or harassment over the past two years, the community of LGBTQ centers has remained stalwart in their missions,” according to the letter.

Spivak said many of the LGBTQ centers serve as the lead organizer of LGBTQ Pride events in their area, and most if not all of the centers provide support for Pride-related events. She said she was not aware of any specific threats targeting Pride events this year but said she believes organizers of those events, including LGBTQ centers, would be arranging for appropriate security measures.

Among other things, the CenterLink letter calls on members of the LGBTQ community and allies to find the local LGBTQ community center near them and support its services by volunteering or making a donation.

It concludes by adding, “Make sure you’re registered, then when the time comes, vote for lawmakers who support equality for all Americans.”

The CenterLink letter and the list of the LGBTQ community centers that signed on can be accessed at CenterLink’s website.

Story courtesy of the Washington Blade via the National LGBTQ Media Association. The National LGBTQ Media Association represents 13 legacy publications in major markets across the country with a collective readership of more than 400K in print and more than 1 million + online. Learn more here: https://nationallgbtmediaassociation.com/.