New project at CCHR focuses on LGBT civil rights
Leaders of an Atlanta museum want the space focused on modern and historic civil rights to contribute to a national push to ensure LGBT rights, particularly in southern states.
Wednesday marked the formal launch of the LGBT Institute, housed at the Center for Civil and Human Rights less than 15 months after the museum opened.
The museum includes galleries on LGBT issues and connects its history to the civil rights movement. But officials heard from LGBT organizations and individuals who wanted more, and they began planning the new project last fall.
LGBT Institute interim executive director Ryan Roemerman said organizers hope to perform research in cooperation with universities and host events connecting independent groups already working on LGBT rights beyond same-sex marriage.
"It's the perfect time and the perfect place to shine a spotlight on issues that don't often get a platform," Roemerman said.
The project's programming board members are a mix of researchers and people with a background in personal or professional LGBT advocacy. Member Tracee McDaniel, who founded the Juxtaposed Center for Transformation and identifies as a transgender woman of color, said she's pleased with the group's diverse members and the Center for Civil and Human Rights' involvement.
"It lets other people know that this is about human rights for all people — whatever identity you have or labels others associate with you," she said.
Tim'm West, a board member, said the LGBT Initiative will address a broad variety of issues.
"Marriage does not make life wonderful for all," said West, a gay man who works with Teach for America to improve classroom environments for LGBT students. "For some, it's the one box to check. For others, there are four or five more that we need to work on."
Details still are in the works, but organizers have settled on three broad areas of focus: education and employment, public health and wellness, and criminal justice and safety. A new exhibit inside the museum details Atlanta's LGBT community since a 1969 police raid of a New York bar sparked the Stonewall Inn riots, considered the start of the modern gay rights movement.
This summer's Supreme Court ruling establishing same-sex marriage has prompted organizations working on LGBT rights to focus on "lived equality," said Beth Littrell, an Atlanta-based senior attorney for Lambda Legal. Littrell said LGBT people may be discriminated against for their gender identity or sexuality, but also feel targeted for their race or income.
"We're all, to a certain extent, underfunded and under-resourced," Littrell said. "Having a space that is dedicated to highlighting injustices in all incarnations can only help us become a stronger community."