By June Crenshaw
My mom always encouraged me to leave the world better than I found it and she taught me that I had a responsibility to do my part. This is one of the many reasons I am involved with the fight for equality.
Getting involved with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest civil rights organization working for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, just made sense to me. I am honored and humbled to be this year’s Co-Chair of the National Dinner with Jason Laney. The National Dinner brings together more than 3,000 folks for an evening of celebration and inspiration. This year, we have a lot to celebrate with the Supreme Court’s landmark decisions on the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8. We now have 13 states and the District of Columbia that have marriage equality.
For me, HRC is a local organization that has a national presence and is the connector of my local and national advocacy work. I volunteer with a number of organizations that do “good” in the LGBT community. This is another reason why I am so excited to be a part of the National Dinner.
My work on the Board of Whitman-Walker Health has focused on a tremendous expansion of high quality, culturally competent health care to the LGBT communities and those affected by HIV/AIDS. At the national level and in communities across the country, HRC has strongly advocated for a federal response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In addition, HRC’s Health Care Equality Index highlights hospitals and healthcare facilities that lead the way in protecting LGBT patients and employees. Whitman-Walker Health has been recognized as a Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality in 2012 and 2013.
I am also on the Board of Rainbow Response Coalition, which works to educate and conduct outreach to community members and to train first responders on domestic violence in the LGBT communities. Similarly, HRC worked with domestic violence groups, lawmakers and organizations to ensure that the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) included protections for LGBT victims of domestic violence. My collaboration with these two organizations provides great synergy for me.
On a more personal note, marriage equality is extremely important to me and is another reason that I am involved. Someday soon, I want to marry my partner and I want to enjoy all the rights and protections of being married regardless of where I live. Further, I want to be able to earn a living without the threat of losing my job and to have an opportunity to work for a company that has LGBT inclusive policies and benefits.
The work around equality is massive and affects us all. There is so much discrimination, hatred and violence directed toward our communities. HRC allows me to be my whole, authentic self in the fight for equality in all the sectors that affect me.
As the Co-Chair of the National Dinner and the first African-American woman to Co-Chair, one of my goals is to bring more women, more people of color, more trans people and more allies to the National Dinner. I have always been committed to being “out” and vocal on issues that impact the LGBT communities and especially lesbians of color. We are under-represented in the boardrooms and I feel a sense of responsibility to be at the table discussing the issues that are relevant and important to us.
The National Dinner is our night to take the time to recognize, celebrate and to learn from our successes and to prepare for the fight we still have ahead of us. Being the Co-Chair of the National Dinner is my small role in making our world a little better and a bit fairer.
The HRC National Dinner is Saturday, October 5, 2013. Visit www.hrcnationaldinner.org for additional information.