Pam Spaulding

Equality for All Now: The Dallas Principles...join us.

Filed By Pam Spaulding | May 20, 2009 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Action Alerts, Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: civil rights, gay agenda, gay movement, gay rights, LGBT, LGBT rights, Pam Spaulding, Pam's House Blend, The Dallas Principles

The Dallas Principles

There were a lot of things I could have done this past weekend. Get to that pile of laundry, hit the pillow for some sorely-needed shut-eye, and, of course, spend quality time with my wife. But I hopped on a plane to meet with 23 other people at a hotel at the Dallas Fort Worth airport. Why?

The reason we gathered was to see how we could seize this special moment in history, to think outside of the box about how we can accelerate achieving full civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in this nation. I had no idea who was on the list of attendees, by the way (see the list below the fold).

The result of our work is The Dallas Principles. The Preamble:

President Obama and Congress pledged to lead America in a new direction that included civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. We now sit at a great moment in our history that inspires the nation to return to its highest ideals and greatest promise. We face a historic opportunity to obtain our full civil rights; this is the moment for change. No delay. No excuses.

Nearly forty years ago, a diverse group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people stood up to injustice at the Stonewall Inn in New York City. In doing so, they submitted themselves to bodily harm and criminal prosecution. Their demand was simple -- equal protection under the law.

Still today, full civil rights has eluded the same community that rioted forty years ago. Instead, untold sums of resources have been spent to divide our nation and turn our lives into a political football.

At several junctures in American history, the stars have aligned to deliver the promise of equal protection under the law to those previously denied. At this unique time in history, our nation must once again exercise the great tradition of making its people equal.

Justice has too long been delayed. A clear path toward full civil equality for the LGBT community is overdue and must come now.

Using fear and misunderstanding to justify discrimination is no longer acceptable in this nation. Those content with the way things are will be judged harshly by history. Those who do not actively advance these ideals or offer excuses will be judged just as harshly. Those who attempt to divide our community or to delay and deny action on civil equality, waiting for the right moment to arrive, will be held accountable.

We reject the idea that honoring the founding principles of our country is controversial. We believe in the inherent human dignity of all people. No longer will we submit our children, our family, our friends and ourselves as a political tool for any Party or ideology. A new day has arrived.

Here in my home state of North Carolina, we enthusiastically voted for change in 2008, turning out in unprecedented numbers, flipping North Carolina to Blue in the presidential election; we also elected a woman as our governor for the first time.

Despite these landmark changes, for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender North Carolinians, our newly Blue state does not see us as equal citizens under the law. We have not passed state hate crimes legislation; we can be fired from our jobs because of our sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. My marriage to my wife Kate -- we wed in Canada in 2004, is not recognized in this state. We are strangers under the law.

Sadly, too many of my fellow residents and state elected officials do not yet believe in extending full civil rights to tax-paying LGBT North Carolinians. It doesn't look like positive change here will come at the state level any time soon, either. That's why we need to work together at the federal level to bring us closer to full equality now.


The following eight guiding principles underlie our call to action. In order to achieve full civil rights now, we avow:

1. Full civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals must be enacted now. Delay and excuses are no longer acceptable.
2. We will not leave any part of our community behind.
3. Separate is never equal.
4. Religious beliefs are not a basis upon which to affirm or deny civil rights.
5. The establishment and guardianship of full civil rights is a non-partisan issue.
6. Individual involvement and grassroots action are paramount to success and must be encouraged.
7. Success is measured by the civil rights we all achieve, not by words, access or money raised.
8. Those who seek our support are expected to commit to these principles.


Being united by common principles and engaging in united action, we will achieve the following goals:

1. DIGNITY AND EQUALITY. Every lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender person has inherent dignity and worth, and has the right to live free of discrimination and harassment.
2. FAMILY. Every LGBT person has the right to a family without legal barriers to immigration, civil marriage or raising children.
3. ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY. Every LGBT person has the right to economic opportunity free from discrimination in employment, public housing, accommodation, public facilities, credit, and federally funded programs and activities.
4. EDUCATION. Every LGBT child and youth has the right to an education that is affirming, inclusive and free from bullying.
5. NATIONAL SECURITY. Every LGBT person should have the opportunity to serve our country openly and equally in our military and foreign service.
6. CRIME. Every LGBT person should enjoy life protected against bias crimes.
7. HEALTH CARE. Every person should have access to affordable, high quality, and culturally competent health care without discrimination.


1. We demand that government officials act now to achieve full civil rights without delay.

2. Our organizations and individuals need to develop a collaborative and revolutionary new organizing model that mobilizes millions of supporters through emerging web and phone technologies.

3. All LGBT individuals must accept personal responsibility to do everything within their power for equality and should get involved in the movement by volunteering, giving and being out.

4. We will hold elected officials and our organizations accountable for being transparent and achieving full civil rights by active participation when possible and active opposition when necessary.

5. Our allies need to be proactive in public support for full civil rights.

6. Every government measure that quantifies the US citizenry must permit LGBT individuals to self-identify and be counted in every way citizens are counted.

7. We demand that the media present LGBT lives in fair, accurate and objective ways that neither include nor give credence to unsubstantiated, discriminatory claims and opinions.

This is about looking forward, being proactive and getting involved. I, along with my fellow authors of The Dallas Principles, believe the time for change now, as equality blossoms across this great nation.

I attended the Dallas Meeting to help develop this fresh vision, principles, goals, and call to action because of the winds of change and hope ushered in with the election of Barack Obama. We have to make this a reality, and it will take work -- collaborative work.

My personal goal is to effect change at the federal level that will bring my fellow LGBT North Carolinians closer to full equality under the law.

I ask you as allies, elected officials, neighbors, colleagues and friends to seize this moment and openly support achieving equal rights for all now.

Visit to learn how you can be part of this effort.

Join the growing chorus of Americans speaking in unison that now is the time to provide full civil rights to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens, click here to sign up for notifications of equality actions.



The Dallas Principles on Twitter:

The Dallas Principles on Facebook:


I made a counter widget (the real one is in my sidebar).

You can get the code here.


The Authors of The Dallas Principles
(bio information here)

Juan Ahonen-Jover
Ken Ahonen-Jover
John Bare
Jarrett Barrios
Dana Beyer
Jeffrey Campagna
Mandy Carter
Michael Coe
Jimmy Creech
Allison Duncan
Joe Falk
Michael Guest
Joanne Herman
Donald Hitchcock
Lane Hudson
Charles Merrill
Dixon Osburn
Lisa Polyak
Babs Siperstein
Pam Spaulding
Andy Szekeres
Lisa Turner
Jon Winkleman
Paul Yandura

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...twenty-four thinkers, activists, and donors gathered to discuss the immediate need for full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender people in the United States.

I never saw anything announcing this meeting posted on Bilerico -- only the outcome. Did I miss it or were we just not invited? Who drew up the guest list? I'm sure one of these "donors" could have covered the cost of my flight. I'm willing to work for it. You know what that means, Daddy Merrill...

Put me on the list of people not impressed by millionaire donors and philanthropists setting the agenda for the "LGBT movement".


Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | May 21, 2009 10:35 AM

You are so jealous of their skills and self direction you would deprive the movement of proper leadership? If you have none get some skills, get some experience, become self made and help. Or help first and get some skills, experience become self aware.

christophe | May 20, 2009 3:51 PM

While this issue is certainly important to New Yorkers, it really doesn't change things for this nation. With states passing different laws all over the nation we will end up a nation with a big mess of differing laws. What is really going to count in the long run is a federal law in which all states must follow, this is also true for marriage laws as well. I guess this and other LGBT bills from the few states that pass them must be looked on as slow progress but for residents of most states, nothing will change.

christophe | May 20, 2009 3:54 PM

SORRY, This comment above was meant to be put under the post about the Gender Identity bill for NY.

I know that you've been one of the people raising questions about LGBT activism and reaching out for a long time, so I have a few questions and hope that they can be raised in the spirit of ironing out a few details now.

6. Individual involvement and grassroots action are paramount to success and must be encouraged.

From my understanding, this document was written up in a secret, closed-door meeting of A-gays. Is that what passes as "grassroots" nowadays?

I have this sinking feeling that the LGBT movement is never going to learn the right lessons from the 2008 elections, both from the Obama campaign and Prop 8. There's no reason something like this could have been created in a more open format, what with the internet and blogs and facebooks and all.

Maybe it's meant to be read as more of something that a group of people wrote up and they hope others will sign on to, then fine. But it's looking like more participation is expected of other people.

2. Our organizations and individuals need to develop a collaborative and revolutionary new organizing model that mobilizes millions of supporters through emerging web and phone technologies.

It seems to me that part of what prevents that sort of mass mobilization in LGBT activism is the fact that so many people are excluded from the decision-making process. It prevents them from getting invested.

7. Success is measured by the civil rights we all achieve, not by words, access or money raised.

Scanning the list of people that attended, I'm seeing that some people in attendance limited qualifications in terms of having achieved civil rights (either at the state-level or locally, or through the courts, etc.), and lots of people's only qualification to speak on the topic seems to be their access and money.

Why were these specific people chosen? A group of personal friends? Behind-the-scenes qualifications? Maybe I'm just missing something.

I've been receiving emails and talking to people and hearing things like what Nick above said, and I'm know you've already addressed these topics on the Blend so I'm probably just missing something and the sooner people like me know what's up the sooner we can help spread the word, because:

4. We will hold elected officials and our organizations accountable for being transparent and achieving full civil rights by active participation when possible and active opposition when necessary.

that's something I can get behind!

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | May 20, 2009 5:08 PM

Concerning the "by what right do these folks consider themselves representative of the LGBT community generally to presume to put out such a thing?" type question, I say: If anyone can figure out some equitable formula by which the national (or even regional, or even city block) LGBT folks express "our" real viewpoint, the probably deserve at least one Nobel Prize. The only useful thing about trying to achieve that to the satisfaction of even 51% of the community would the enough heat and light to solve our dependence on foreign oil for a couple of decades.

Despite whether or not its authors have the proper credentials, their product is in generally pretty good. The only thing I cringe at is the unequivocal "separate but equal is never equal" clause, not because I don't disagree with court decisions drawing specific parallels to the U.S. Supreme Court's Brown vs. Board decision, but because (1) it's an argument that often isn't all that helpful in flyover country where the name of the game is to either get rid of a constitutional amendment that makes the whole discussion academic, or where (like in my Hoosier state), we're fighting off such an amendment just to preserve the ability for our lawmakers to have that debate. And (2) if separate is never equal then there are a lot of restroom signs that ought to come down.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | May 20, 2009 10:18 PM

1) Any group worth its salt has to explicitly reject being an adjunct to the Democratic and Republican parties like LCR, the Stonewall Democrats, NLGTF and the HRC. These people can be our allies if they choose to but although so far they've chosen to be our enemies.

If they want to be our allies it has to be on our terms. We're not here to raise money of hustle votes but to win our equality and the two strategies are contradictory and mutually exclusive.

2) The group has to immediately contact the AFL-CIO's Pride at Work constituency group to involve unions on the ground floor and to involve the broadest range of activist groups and activists.

This group is a little like the Committees of Correspondence, a good first measure. Now we need a whole bunch of MinuteGLBTpersons culled from the best activists in our communities. The original Minutemen didn't have a powdered wig among them and fought like Native Americans but they did win the battles. We won’t win without mobilizing and organizing activists from our own our communities.

3) To avoid being sucked into the quagmire of electoral politics the group should adopt a program of mobilizing our communities for persistent mass actions to compel passage of our agenda. That kind of action orientation will put us in a good position as the war and economic crises deepen.

"President Obama and Congress pledged to lead America in a new direction that included civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans."

Just out of curiosity, what's the documentation for the "and Congress" part of that opening sentence? Did Congress pass a resolution that was ignored by the infamous MSM? What was the vote in the Senate? the House?

When you start your BIG DEAL with a demonstrable falsehood in the first line, you lose me.

Paige Listerud | May 21, 2009 2:02 AM

Just to add some balance, getting everyone online to collectively write up and agree to a statement might take another 25 years. I'm amazed that 24 people finished it over the weekend. If Pam is an elite queer activist, then so am I, to the tune of $23,000 a year.

ENDA has been dangling in front of Congress since 2002. It passed the House after transgendered people had been thrown under the bus. I realize that doesn't constitute an official "pledge" from Congress to "lead America in a new direction" regarding LGBTQ. But that, along with top military consensus that DADT is worthless, signals that Congress may finally be able to roll on two major issues facing queer people in protection from discrimination.

As manifestos go, it's pretty short and simple, maybe a little too general. But I love the commitment to the B and T or LGBTQ. I got a little melty with its "leave no queers behind" attitude. I would like to know what the manifesto will be used for. Who is going to see these signatures?

Sorry that I haven't been in the comments, it's been a crazy last 24 hours for me in virtual and non-virtual space. Having a full-time job and full-time blog is sucking the life out of me.

Scanning the list of people that attended, I'm seeing that some people in attendance limited qualifications in terms of having achieved civil rights (either at the state-level or locally, or through the courts, etc.), and lots of people's only qualification to speak on the topic seems to be their access and money. Why were these specific people chosen? A group of personal friends? Behind-the-scenes qualifications? Maybe I'm just missing something.

Just to add some balance, getting everyone online to collectively write up and agree to a statement might take another 25 years. I'm amazed that 24 people finished it over the weekend. If Pam is an elite queer activist, then so am I, to the tune of $23,000 a year.

You know, while I was there I knew a couple of things that would be predictable: 1) there would be criticism about who was there and who wasn't there; 2) why this group (qualifications, what each brought to the table).

As far as it being some close group of friends, I knew only about half of the people there, and only as acquaintances, meeting all when I've been at a conference or event related to LGBT efforts. I even only know Mandy Carter based on our work on LGBT issues, I rarely see her outside of that context and we live in the same town! I don't run in the major "elite" circles and certainly don't have the access by default. Even in the age of the Internet, proximity (as in NY, DC, etc.) means real access to decisionmakers.

The issue of being at once called "elite" and questioning qualifications for the individuals there I can only speak to in terms of myself. As someone who has seen and spent my adolescence in relative poverty in crime-ridden Bed-Stuy and Hollis, Queens back in the day, I don't have to imagine what it's like to literally raid the piggy bank for grocery money. As far as qualifications, I can only speak to work I've done since launching the blog in 2004, I was not an activist before that time, never intended to be a leader, and while I do have a voice in the netroots, it was quite evident the grassroots was represented well by Nobel Peace Prize nominee Mandy Carter, who has 40 years of activism under her belt.

Also, I was the only blogger there. Given we're trying to break new ground, it was a surprise to see I was the only one representing that whole sphere. Actually, I also found myself many times during the meeting as a voice bringing the concerns regarding regional diversity of political progress on this front. I also was keenly aware that I was one of those attending who had to represent POC and concerns that LGBT minorities would have about the effort.

I raised multiple times the fact that I live in a state where holding absolutes over elected officials' heads was a real mistake; it was apparent that the frame of reference of many, simply because they don't live in states where equality is at best treading water. In many cases in flyover country, you have a candidate who's only merit is that they won't do anything anti-gay, vs. a flat out bigot wingnut. There's no scenario where you can hold a pol to the Priniciples where you draw the line in the sand in those circumstances. There are many times where you're battling back and amendment, not battling for the passage of pro-equality legislation. So I tried to represent that POV as well.

Honestly, I don't think anyone would be happy with the composition of the group no matter what. There would be criticism about regional, racial, experience, gender diversity, insider/outsider status -- just about anything you can think of. One of the things I do know is that I'm well aware of the virulent criticism about these matters that has occurred offline between those who are questioning any and all aspects of this effort since it went public. All I can do is explain my role in what transpired, what I believe, and say that my participation was to do the best that I can do represent the spheres I inhabit. That's it. I can't do anything about someone who thinks I shouldn't have been there, or they could have done a better job, etc. I can't change any of those things.

Maybe I should not have been there, maybe the list of attendees should have been announced beforehand -- btw, I guarantee you that a decision to do that would have been equally problematic for other reasons you're all quite aware of. Our community does a lot of thinking out loud and bickering in public, not all of it productive. That's not a defense of the way the group was brought together, mind you, just an acknowledgment that you either take the heat on the front end if you're public, or on the back end if you are not public prior to embarking on something like this. Besides, the merit of this project and its success or failure is really determined by buy-in, and "what comes next."

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | May 21, 2009 10:19 AM

"What kind of government are you giving us Dr. Franklin?" the old woman asked.

"A Democracy Madam, if you can keep it." he replied.

Our American "Founding Fathers" worked in complete isolation from the vast majority of the people or even their colonial assemblies so that they could act in a coherent and selfless manner. Not all of them were up to the task and left to go home.

Reading the above it seems to me that you and yours have done much the same. Rather than pick and mew and seek out something to disagree with I thank you Pam Spaulding for being a part of the selfless minority who helps. Yes perhaps some in attendance had money, but Pam I am sure you were chosen for reputation. A number of the "Founding Fathers" had money but they gave us a document that, with the later inclusion of the Bill of Rights, has empowered individuals more than any country had done ever before and would still be the envy of most of the world's population today.

Thank you Pam for being a "Founding Lesbian" giving service beyond yourself.

Two major things keep me a little dubious currently:

1) While the group says it's not about access to power, funds raised or "just words," the vast majority of participants were big money folks, political operatives (and several Stonewall Dems board members) and Pam, the lone blogger who deals in "just words" to move our agenda forward. And while "just words" is given as a negative, I don't see any real action items in the manifesto.

2) You don't start a grassroots movement by meeting in secret with a select group of people. That's the antithesis of grassroots.

That said, while I have an issue with folks like Charles Merrill representing our community, I think Pam hasn't been given enough credit for attending. As she said above, she was given the weight of not only "representing" bloggers, but also people of color and those of us who don't live in Super Happy Gay Friendly Land. I don't envy that position in the least.

Good luck with this Pam. It's a worthy goal and gets an A+ for the idea. The execution though, gets a D- from me.

Keep inviting the NGLTF, HRC and other orgs to write here. Maybe they will someday advertise, although I doubt it. They come here to raise funds. You aren't kidding anyone. Unlike you, everyone on the Dallas Principles list is a dedicated activist and not looking to profit from the community or into careerism.

Charles, I completely disagree with you, but I'll take it off blog so I don't violate the Bilerico Project terms of service.

Stonewall Girl | May 24, 2009 4:30 PM

There were no current National Stonewall Democrats Board members present. We were individuals representing ourselves, our experiences, our values, and a desire for greater, more comprehensive and faster change. No one was there representing any organization. There were no ED's by design, but there were folks whose experience covered a very wide and comprehensive degree of diversity.

A number of people who were invited did not attend for whatever reason, I am told. I had my initial doubts and questions. I had certainly had a history of disagreements with some the of the folks present. Several, I met for the first time! Time was of the essence and we moved quickly, openly among ourselves,and professionally. I am honored to have been a small part of The Dallas Principles.

We should look at the results! That is the bottom line!

p.s. Pam was amazing, most impressive!

Current National Stonewall Dems, no. Past board members, yes. Current state or local board members, yes.

It's not that I'm trying to tear it down, it's mostly that a lot of what I see about the document are very worthwhile goals - but were then broken by the group setting the standard.

Four of the folks are Bilerico Project contributors and I know that they're upstanding people with the best interests of the movement at heart. I don't think there was any ill-intent by the group. It just reeks of a small group chosen in secret from an exclusive mailing list for fundraisers and donors that proclaims that grassroots action is needed and it's not about fundraising or access to power - when it obviously was to be part of the group. It wasn't grassroots - it's astroturfing.

While, I find the statement fine, I guess I don't get the point. It seems to be everything that was stated is what so many of us are already doing- so it feels like stating the obvious.

As someone who has a constituency that I supposedly represent, and who has friends on the group of conveners, it would have been nice to been included before you came up with the "principles."

But at this point, exclusion is such a part of the daily modus operandi of our movement its not surprising.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | May 21, 2009 9:55 PM

I think the point is a unified statement that can build broad alliances between a variety of LGBT orgs so that we perhaps cease working at cross purposes. W.E.B. Du Bois wrote:

"A little less complaint and whining, and a little more dogged work and manly striving, would do us more credit than a thousand civil rights bills."

The essence of the Dallas Principles is simple: Full legal equality now. No excuses. No delays.

If this appeals to you go out to the local office of your members of Congress and ask for votes to enact equality legislation now. Tell your stories. Be creative. You are empowered to take action. Involve your friends. It does not get more grassroots than that.

If you want ideas of what to do, sign up to the larger community of people who believe in full legal equality now.

If you want to do something else is fine too. But DO something.

Juan Ahonen-Jover

colored queer | May 21, 2009 9:14 PM


It is wonderful that you represented minorities at this gathering and I'd like to bring some issues to your attention in the hope that you would take it further to educate folks.

As a queer person of color I hope that while representing LGBT POC you questioned the lack of people of color in leadership roles in gay orgs across the board and widespread racism faced by LGBT POC in gay orgs which are mostly white and some factions of gay community. I find that principle "we shall not leave any member of our community behind" contradictory as we all know how gay institutions dominated by white boys/girls push their own agendas while using trans or immigrant rights when it fits their agendas.

For example, please see another bilerico post from yesterday by Yasmin Nair and the attacks on her by a group of white gay US citizens (UAFA supporters) in binational relationships for expressing a different perspective and advocating for broader immigration reform which will help millions of vulnerable immigrants (of color) in this country and prevent their abuse by employers or US citizens spouses or partners (as opposed to UAFA which helps primarily white US citizens in relationships with mostly white Europeans who are least likely to endure abuse by US citizens). One can imagine the opportunities for abuse of LGBT immigrants by US citizens in a relationship with immigration consequences. A recent report by GMHC documents the growing infection rate of HIV in immigrants after they arrive and get infected in the US. We have all heard the horror stories of abuse of foreign spouses by US citizen males.

Although Yasmin doesn't say but I do that these attacks were partly inflicted on her because of her color. She just questioned the statements of a leader of gay org Immigration Equality about their analysis of good immigrants (those who fuck US citizens) vs. bad immigrants (those who are poor, HIV+, colored and single). This leader of IE wants certain types of immigrants to be living in this country as she said in a recent interview. As a queer person of color I find these positions of a white led group very troubling. I hope that you do too as you carry our voices to influential people who are deciding agendas for the entire LGBT community including people of color and I hope something is done to hold these people accountable for their troubling messages.