Network and SC Equality to show film Aug. 27 about unsung hero of 1963 March on Washington

Public invited to Aug. 27 screening of film about Bayard Rustin, the gay organizer and unsung hero of the 1963 March on Washington

Find out how SC Sen. Strom Thurmond played an unwitting role

The public is invited to learn a bit of history they likely know little about at a screening of the documentary Brother Outsider Aug. 27 at Conundrum Music Hall in West Columbia.

The film documents the life of Bayard Rustin, who had been in the trenches of the civil rights struggle for decades when he was called on to organize the historic August 19 63 March for Jobs and Freedom. Not only has the demand for economic equality and jobs been lost from stories of the march, but Rustin himself has been overlooked by history.

Rustin was considered a master organizer, a political intellectual and a pacifist. He organized protests against WWII and served time in prison for refusing to register for the draft. He created the first Freedom Rides, and was a mentor to Martin Luther King Jr. For 60 years, Rustin fought for peace and equal rights — demonstrating, organizing and protesting here and abroad.

Rustin has been called “the unknown hero” of the civil rights movement. He dared to live as an openly gay man during the fiercely homophobic 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.

In 1953, Rustin’s homosexuality became a public problem after he was found having sex in a parked car with two men. He was arrested on a morals charge. Later, when he was chosen to organize the 1963 march, some civil rights activists objected. In an effort to discredit the march, segregationist Sen. Strom Thurmond took to the Senate floor, where he derided Rustin for being a communist, a draft dodger and a homosexual. Ironically, D’Emilo says, it became a rallying point for the civil rights leaders.

“Because no one could appear to be on the side of Strom Thurmond, he created, unwittingly, an opportunity for Rustin’s sexuality to stop being an issue,” he says.

The trailblazing strategist will this year be posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“Brother Outsider,” an 84-min. award-winning film about Rustin, will be shown Aug. 27 at 6pm at Conundrum Music Hall, 626 Meeting St. in West Columbia. The screening is sponsored by the SC Progressive Network and SC Equality. The film is free and open to the public. Snacks and beverages available for purchase. There will be a discussion after the screening.

For more information, call the SC Progressive Network at 803-808-3384.

Subcommittee debates discriminatory teen dating violence bill; SC Equality seeks public input

Yesterday, the Senate K-12 Education Sub-Committee held another hearing on H3543, the Teen Dating Violence Bill. SC Equality, its lobbyist, and allied organizations like Sean’s Last Wish (a member of the SC Progressive Network) were present–with four witnesses who were prepared to present expert and personal testimony in opposition to the non-inclusive dating violence bill.

Although we were not given the opportunity to present our testimony, fair-minded members of the Senate–Senators Joel Lourie and Phil Leventis–gave voice to our position. They acknowledged that the current language of the bill is discriminatory and privileges some relationships over others, and they argued that the bill should not move forward in its current form.

As expected, Sen. Mike Fair rejected this argument and would not accept the bill without the amendment excluding same sex partners. Realizing that this one issue of defining a dating partner is the only thing that is holding up moving this otherwise sound bill forward, the Chair asked if there was a compromise position that could be taken that would satisfy both sides. Senators Leventis and Fair agreed to discuss this further outside of the hearing. Thus, no action was taken on the bill today.

SC Equality (a member of the SC Progressive Network) is fully committed to seeing that a non-discriminatory dating violence bill–one that protects all children equally–is passed. We will continue to aggressively monitor the progress of this legislation, and should another hearing be scheduled, we will have witnesses ready.

These witnesses will be your voice at the hearing–so we need to hear from you. Should we have an opportunity to testify or to speak with legislators individually, it would be extremely helpful to be able to share stories from those who have experienced dating violence, particularly from the perspective of gay youth. If you have had experiences that you would be willing to share, please contact us at We will respect all confidentiality.

LGBT groups spearhead Charleston anti-discrimination victory

Because of the collaborative effort among LGBT groups — including SC Progressive Network member organizations AFFA and SC Equality — the city of Charleston now has proactive legislation protecting LGBT people in both housing and public accommodations.

Last week, the Charleston City Council passed ordinances expanding the city’s existing policy prohibiting discrimination in housing to include age, sexual orientation and gender identity The council also passed a public accommodations ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity.

The ordinances were presented to the mayor’s office in August by AFFA, SC Stonewall Democrats, SC Log Cabin Republicans, American Civil Liberties Union and South Carolina Equality–who paved the way by successfully introducing similar ordinaces in Columbia, SC, last year.

Charleston is the second municipality in the state to pass comprehensive human rights ordinances in housing and public accommodations that include sexual orientation and gender identity. Council Member Gary White said, “It’s a step forward in the right direction in making sure that we are not discriminating against anyone.”

Read the ordinances here.