December 4, 2014

The “Birthing” of South Carolina Equality Linda Ketner In 1998 when Hawaii and Alaska passed Marriage Amendments, Alliance for Full Acceptance (AFFA) in Charleston, put the possibility of a South Carolina Marriage Amendment on our radar to watch … and to listen; to listen to any mention of it at the South Carolina Statehouse. South Carolina’s political climate was ripe for something similar and we began hearing rumblings of anti LGBT legislation in 2001 and 2002. Legislation to prevent LGBT persons from adopting and providing foster care was proposed, as well as a bill to prevent state institutions from extending domestic partner benefits or adding nondiscrimination policies. The taste for anti-gay legislation was building momentum. AFFA’s board recognized several things: - AFFA was a 501(c)(3) organization and a 501 (c) (4) was required to deal with legislative battles. - A statewide effort would be needed and Charleston was too far east to be convenient for meetings. - An organization in Columbia, which was geographically central in the state and the home of the State Capital, made the most sense. - It was time South Carolina developed a statewide organization not only to deal with legislation but also with other challenges in politics, culture, crime, schools and religion. With LGBT leaders from all over the state, AFFA planned for months; and, in December of 2001, we sent out an invitation to bring together representatives from all existing LGBT organizations, as well as PFLAGs, AIDS organizations, the ACLU, Colleges, youth and supportive religious groups. HRC and Wil Sligh of Columbia funded the conference, and we met for two 14 hour days on February 9th and 10th of 2002. In those two days, we built a strategic plan that laid the foundation for South Carolina Equality. Many of the efforts you have seen from SCE over the last 12 years were generated in that original plan: lobbying the statehouse, monitoring and impacting legislation, passing LGBT nondiscrimination city ordinances, working for statewide safe school legislation and state hate crime laws, building capacity within our community, educating the public, dealing effectively with media and involving allies. And South Carolina Equality’s work is far from done. Marriage Equality has come to us not by popular vote here in South Carolina, but by the power of the United States Constitution, with state government fighting it every step. Our state still lacks many protections for LGBT citizens: employment nondiscrimination, housing and public accommodation nondiscrimination, state hate crime penalty enhancement, family leave, conversion therapy protection; and, our state requires proof of sex reassignment surgery to amend birth certificates. Additionally, we are among the lowest in numbers of openly gay elected officials in the United States. We need South Carolina Equality to continue the fight for our legal equality. As importantly, we need South Carolina Equality to continue the education and outreach which will change minds and hearts. Participants of the first statewide convening of LGBT organizations: Linda Ketner Ed Madden Warren Redman-Gress Nekki Shutt Johanna Haynes Michael Haigler Bert Easter Harriet Hancock Sheila Morris Teresa Williams Sally Parr Ciri Barfield Heidi Anderson Amanda Colee Pat Patterson Jerry Binns Carmen Hampton Julious Larry Candler Frank Morris Tom Summers Michael Cooper Joey Bouknight Dyna Mason (from HRC) Carol Stenger Margie Candler Daniel O’Neil Dean Adams Charlie Smith, Lynne Moldenhauer and Jim Redman-Gress were part of the AFFA organizers