PFAW VOWS TO FIGHT "HOSTILE CLIMATE" FOR GAYS

18 States Targeted in Push for Hate Crime &

With anti-gay activity at record levels around the country, People For the American Way, Thursday, announced it is stepping up efforts to protect Americans against hate crimes and discrimination based on sexual orientation.

At a news conference at its Washington, DC, headquarters, PFAW officials outlined plans to target legislative efforts to 18 states where gay rights bills are in the works or the state is a battleground because of ballot initiatives or other measures. The effort will enlist PFAW members and activists and work in coalition with other gay rights groups to help build support for these bills. The states targeted for action are: Hawaii, California, Oregon, Colorado, Washington, Utah, Texas, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Michigan, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.

The 18 states singled out for legislative action accounted for nearly two-thirds of the total anti-gay incidents included in the Hostile Climate 2000 report, which was issued concurrently today by People For the American Way Foundation. Hostile Climate, which has reported annually on anti-gay activity and trends since 1993, shows that out of 374 incidents covered in this latest report, 230 - or 62% - took place in the 18 target states. (For more on this year's report, visit our Hostile Climate page.)

"Equality is not just a slogan - it should be the birthright of every American without exception," said Ralph G. Neas, President of People For the American Way. "Hostile Climate 2000 shows us the compelling facts about the obstacles to equality that confront gay men and lesbians in America today. In the coming months we will be working with our own members and activists and with allied organizations across the country to take these facts to the lawmakers and to make the case that they have the power - and the obligation - to tear down those obstacles."

PFAW has been involved for a number of years in efforts to enact gay rights legislation. Last year's edition of Hostile Climate was distributed to many state lawmakers and PFAW Board members and activists were actively involved in persuading the New York State legislature to enact hate crimes protection for gay men and lesbians. The campaign announced today represents a significant increase in PFAW's legislative gay rights activity in the states.

"Our message to the legislators is simple and direct," explained Neas. "Now is the time to guarantee equal justice for gay men and lesbians and to declare that we will not tolerate hate crimes or discrimination based on sexual orientation. The nation is ready to move forward and it's time for our lawmakers to follow the people's lead."

Click here to view our fact sheet on the target states.

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