Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Members of Diversity Committee Resign After Officials Cancel Lesbian Speaker's Speech

Straight allies continue to define their ever-increasing influence within the LGBT movement. The work of former colleagues, faith leaders and everyday people testify to this presence time and time again. A group of Nebraska state workers who did the right thing are among the legions of straight Americans who continue to change hearts and minds.

More than a dozen employees with the state Department of Health and Human Services resigned from a workplace diversity committee after they claimed officials forced them to cancel a lesbian speaker's presentation about same-sex families during a recent luncheon. Former committee members Cathy Kingery, Lupe Hickey and others told a local television station they stepped down as a matter of principle.

"I can't be a part of something that is hypocritical and definitely discriminates and promotes intolerance," Hickey told KETV.

HHS Chief Executive Officer Chris Peterson quickly distanced herself from the growing controversy. She, rather coldly, tried to explain her department's definition of diversity.

"We followed the federal protected classes," Peterson told KETV. "Sexual orientation is not a federally protected class."

This definition is simply inaccurate outside of a strict legal definition and a frankly lame attempt at damage control that benefits nobody. The federal government remains woefully slow in expanding its bureaucratic definitions and reflecting societal changes that continue to evolve. The committee members who stepped down recognized this evolution through their actions. They will almost certainly not wave rainbow flags at the local gay pride parade. But their collective resignation certainly sends a powerful message of inclusion upon which the idea of diversity is built.

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