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Blog from Equality Louisiana: http://equalityla.org/mary-griggs-on-receiving-a-louisiana-legends-award-from-eqla/

Mary Griggs on Receiving a Louisiana Legends Award from EQLA

April 7, 2013 in Blog

My name is Mary Griggs and I now have proof in my hand that I am more than a legend in my own mind.

At the 2nd Annual Louisiana Queer Conference, I was presented with the Equality Louisiana Legends Award. It is a humbling experience, not just because of the other people honored that day included Louisiana Democrats Executive Director, Stephen Handwerk; president of People Acting for Change and Equality, Adrienne Critcher; transgender activist and PFLAG Board member, Courtney Sharp; and PLFAG New Orleans Director and member of the National PFLAG board, Julie Thompson. Matt Paterson was recognized as a SPECTRUM legends at the same ceremony.

It was a humbling experience because I never sought to be a legend. I have just tried to do the right thing where ever I was.

When I worked on my first political campaign (trying to defeat Jesse Helms in North Carolina), I was just trying to get a racist misogynist out of Congress. When I marched on Washington (1989, 1991, 1993, 2000 and 2004 ), I was just there in solidarity with other women and queers. When I went to the state capital to testify, I was just focused on making positive political change.

When I moved to Louisiana in 2002, I was pretty appalled. I had taken so much for granted while I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area. Outside of New Orleans, with their Human Rights Ordinance protecting residents from housing, employment and public accommodations discrimination, there were few protections for folks like me.

I felt alone so I joined a number of groups working to make this state a better place – for women (NOW and IWO) and a better place for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer folks (LGBT Community CenterForum For Equality).

Through those groups I came to realize that we have many resources for progressive change in this state. We might feel isolated by the sheer amount of hate directed our way by politicians and religious extremists, especially during the Marriage Amendment fight of 2004 when 78% of Louisiana voters cast a ballot against equality. I know I am not alone, though. And the work we do for justice is not wasted.

When we first tried to pass legislation against bullying and school violence in 2002, we failed. It was only after building the Stop Bullying Louisiana coalition and working together with a number of progressive organizations, were we finally able to get something passed in 2012. It isn’t the bill we wanted but it is the start we can use to begin educating students and teachers about bullying.

Currently, I’m working with Forum For Equality on trying to pass the Louisiana Fair Employment Act. One LGBT organization alone will have no chance, in Louisiana’s political climate, to pass a bill protecting public employees from discrimination and bias based on sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

Only by working together and building coalitions across the state can we ever hope to have a society free from discrimination. While our individual organizations might have quite different agendas, coalitions can bridge the divide by openly acknowledging our differences and working within the coalition to address areas of concern. Sometimes all it needs is a willingness to put aside our personal agendas to focus on the common good.

I want to thank Equality Louisiana for all the work y’all have done and continue to do to make Louisiana a better place to live. I am honored that you recognized me as a Louisiana Legend and I pledge to continue to fight for our rights!

by Mary Griggs, a Louisiana Legend