HRC and Joanne Yepsen at NY Candlelight Vigil for Teen Suicides

The following post comes from Field Intern Sydney Morauer. Sydney is just one of 30 HRC staff that will be on the ground in 16 states by Election Day, working with HRC-endorsed candidates and engaging our membership about the upcoming elections:

On Wednesday night, Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY hosted an incredibly moving vigil for the teens who have recently committed suicide as a result of relentless bullying and hatred. The Skidmore College Pride Alliance and the Christian Fellowship co-hosted the event to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students on campus. After hearing from several student and guest speakers, the group of almost 300 students and community members lit candles and held a moment of silence for the teens who are no longer with us. The tribute was extremely powerful and encouraging to students who face bullying and to the LGBT community at large. It is so comforting to know that there is such strong support for standing up against such cruelty.

Joanne Yepsen, an HRC endorsed pro-marriage equality candidate running for state Senate in New York’s 43rd District, spoke at the vigil to express her support for the LGBT community and to pledge her dedication to represent all New Yorkers.

HRC is working to collaborate with the Skidmore College Pride Alliance and other students in the 43rd District to help elect Joanne Yepsen for New York state Senate. It is extremely encouraging to see a strong community of students invested in social change, and we look forward to working with them to make marriage equality a reality in New York.

To volunteer to help pass marriage equality in the state of New York, please email

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

National spotlight focuses on Burns

As Fort Worth councilman’s staff, volunteers continue to field e-mails, calls from bullied teens seeking help, Dallasites stage a 2nd vigil to remember teen suicide victims

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

PROUD COUPLE  |  Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns, right, and his partner, J.D. Angle, march with the city’s contingent in the Tarrant County Pride Parade earlier this month. Burns has garnered national attention with the “It Gets Better” speech he delivered during the Oct. 12 Fort Worth City Council meeting. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)
PROUD COUPLE | Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns, right, and his partner, J.D. Angle, march with the city’s contingent in the Tarrant County Pride Parade earlier this month. Burns has garnered national attention with the “It Gets Better” speech he delivered during the Oct. 12 Fort Worth City Council meeting. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

Joel Burns has been a familiar name and face in North Texas since 2007 when he was first elected to the Fort Worth City Council, becoming Cowtown’s first openly gay council member.

But in the last two weeks, thousands have learned Burns’ name and are hailing him as a hero of the LGBT community and the battle against bullying and teen suicide.

Fort Worth City Council’s Oct. 12 meeting started out as usual. But then Burns took his turn during that part of the meeting in which councilmembers routinely offer recognition to individuals and events in their own districts. But this time, Burns took on a national topic.

Struggling to choke back tears until finally giving up and letting the tears run down his face, Burns talked about several teenagers who were LGBT, or at least perceived to be LGBT, who had recently taken their own lives after enduring months, sometimes years, of anti-gay bullying and harassment.

And then the councilman told his own story, how he had himself been bullied as a teen and had contemplated suicide.

By the time he finished, everyone in the Council Chamber had risen to their feet to salute him with applause.

But it didn’t stop there. Burns posted the official  Fort Worth City Council video on YouTube as part of Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” campaign to encourage and reassure LGBT teens — and suddenly, Burns was an Internet sensation.

Newspapers around the world posted the video on their websites and it went viral on YouTube. Before he knew it, Burns was being asked to be on, first local and then national and international news programs, including The Today Show with Matt Lauer. On Wednesday, Oct. 20, Burns was a guest on Ellen DeGeneres’ television talk show.

During an appearance on Ellen, Burns said that the best part of the last two weeks has been the number of teens from around the world who have e-mailed him and contacted him on Facebook.

“The countless number of kids from around the world … who said, ‘I was in a really, really bad place and I was making plans to take my own life,’” he said. “The fact that they have reconsidered — that makes it worth me crying at City Council, the heartache for my mom and dad, worth every bit of all that because they’re still alive.”

While Burns has been traveling coast-to-coast speaking out against bullying on all of the network morning shows in New York, on cable news and on Ellen in Los Angeles, a team of volunteers has been sorting through thousands of messages pouring into his e-mail inbox at Fort Worth City Hall.

By Monday, Oct. 18, more than 20,000 e-mails had arrived after the video had been streamed 1.3 million times. On Thursday, Oct. 21, the number of YouTube hits passed 2 million, and the e-mail and Facebook messages continue to pour in.

The YouTube page has logged more than 27,000 comments.

Actually reaching Burns or his office this week has been almost impossible. His office phone switches to directly to voice mail.

The Fort Worth City Hall media office said they would pass a message to his office to contact Dallas Voice. But spokesman Bill Begley said he’d walk a message down to Burns’ office himself.

Will Trevino in Councilmember Kathleen Hicks’ office said that former staff and volunteers in Burns’ office had been working overtime trying to keep up with the flood of messages.

Remembering the lost ones
Wednesday was Spirit Day, designated to remember young people who have committed suicide as a result of bullying. Many wore purple to show solidarity for efforts to stop the bullying based on actual or perceived sexual orientation.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined the call for an end to bullying by releasing an “It Gets Better” video earlier this week and wearing purple on Spirit Day.

More than 200 people gathered in the Caven parking lot off Cedar Springs Road and held a candlelight vigil marching to the Legacy of Love monument at Oak Lawn Avenue.

Marchers carried purple signs that read “Hope” and “It Gets Better.”

At the monument, organizer Ivan Watson read the names of recent suicide victims and a moment of silence was observed for each one.

Watson said he was inspired to organize the vigil after hearing about Asher Brown, the recent Houston suicide victim.

Organizer Steve Weir of billed the event as a peace march and vigil in memory of those who died and a stand against bullying D/FW area. He said that school policies must change to make schools safe for LGBT youth.

Rafael McDonnell from Resource Center Dallas said he searched bullying policies of school districts across the state and found none that specifically addresses bullying based on sexual orientation. Austin’s comes closest, he said.

McDonnell also said that Philadelphia’s school system passed a comprehensive anti-bullying policy that specifically addresses sexual orientation and sexual identity.

“It’s in Lew Blackburn’s hands,” McDonnell said.

Blackburn is the DISD trustee who has shown the most interest in crafting a policy that will protect LGBT students and those perceived to be.

The “It Gets Better” campaign continues. Randy Potts is the grandson of evangelist Oral Roberts. His uncle was gay and committed suicide. He is recording an “It Gets Better” video this weekend.

To watch video from Wednesday’s vigil, go to

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 22, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

DVtv: Spirit Day vigil on Cedar Springs

Hundreds gathered on the Cedar Springs strip in Dallas on Wednesday evening, Oct. 20, for a second vigil in as many weeks to honor and remember the many young people who’ve taken their own lives in response to anti-gay bullying and harassment.

—  John Wright

2nd Dallas vigil for gay teen suicide victims planned Wednesday on Cedar Springs

If you missed last week’s vigil on Cedar Springs to honor gay teen suicide victims, there’s some good news. You’ll get another chance to break out your glowsticks and candles on Wednesday night.

A Peace March and Vigil in Memoriam will begin at  6:30 p.m. on Wednesday in the paid Caven parking lot behind Zini’s and Skivvie’s near the Cedar Springs strip, according to co-organizer Steve Weir.

The vigil will be one of many similar events across the country on Spirit Day, Oct. 20, when we’re all supposed to wear purple.

“We’re expecting about 200,” Weir said. “I think after the Joel Burns thing, people started to say, maybe I could take a minute and go do this. Hopefully we’ll have a pretty good turnout and some people who are actually moved.”

Weir said he doesn’t think a lot of people knew about the previous vigil hosted by the DFW Sisters on Sunday, Oct. 8. Besides, who’s to say we shouldn’t have another?

Weir said Beaux Wellborn and a representative from Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats are slated to speak, before a march down Cedar Springs Road to the Legacy of Love Monument.

UPDATE: Here’s more on the vigil from co-organizer Ivan Watson:

Hello to all of you! I am so overwhelmed by the positive response this event has generated! I hope that it can educate, inform, inspire and empower all of the participants, as well as show the community that we care about each other. Can’t wait to see you there, just wanted to give you a run-down of what to expect. I am asking everyone to gather in Caven’s pay lot tomorrow at 6:30, the actual short program will not start until 7. We will have three speakers, who will speak briefly about the purpose of the rally, some ways to get involved and help those who are victims of bullying, or for the younger attendees, how perhaps you can get help in your own life, and also we will talk about some legislation that we need to support to get some things changed. After the short program it should be pretty close to dark, and we can light candles and have a silent march down Cedar Springs to the Legacy of Love monument where we will conclude there with a 10 minute candlelight vigil, a minute to remember each teen who took their life during the month of September due to anti-gay bullying and harrassment. Once again, I can’t say thank you enough to all of the help and assistance that I have received in planning this event, especially Steve Weir, thank you, and I hope it all goes well! If you have any questions, please ask!

Ivan Watson

—  John Wright

WATCH: ‘A Vigil for the Lost’ on Cedar Springs honors victims of anti-gay bullying, harassment

The names of gay suicide victims were read during a brief ceremony at the Legacy of Love Monument.

About 100 people gathered on the Cedar Springs strip Sunday night to pay tribute to the many young victims of anti-gay bullying and harassment who’ve taken their own lives in recent weeks.

Turnout was surprisingly strong given that the vigil had been publicized primarily on Facebook. However, the Dallas Voice appeared to be the only media outlet present.

“A Vigil for the Lost,” organized by the DFW Sisters, began in the parking lot of the Oak Lawn library, where the Sisters passed out programs, glowsticks and ribbons. The Subway store on Cedar Springs donated 200 sandwiches.

One of the Sisters was wearing a “Veil of Tears” that was laid over the back of a pickup truck in the parking lot. People were encouraged to use Sharpies to record on the veil anti-gay epithets that have been used against them. Attendees scrawled things like “Faggot,” “Fucking Queer” and “God made AIDS to kill faggots.” The Sisters said the Veil of Tears would be burned following the vigil.

From the library, the mourners walked silently down the north side of Cedar Springs Road, taking up more than a full block at times, to the Legacy of Love Monument at Oak Lawn Avenue. Revelers outside bars on the strip asked what the vigil was about as the marchers walked silently past.

At the monument, the names of youth who’ve committed suicide were read, between refrains of “Stop the Bullying” and “Never Again,” during a brief ceremony. Video and more photos from the vigil are below.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Houston LGBT equality group plans protest near Asher Brown’s school

An LGBT equality group is organizing a protest and vigil on Tuesday afternoon near Hamilton Middle School, where gay 13-year-old Asher Brown was “bullied to death.”

According to the Facebook page, the event is being organized by the Foundation for Family and Marriage Equality, which is described on its own page as a “Houston social justice organization committed to equality for families headed by GLBTQ couples.”

From KTRK in Houston:

The demonstration is set to begin at 3pm across the street from Hamilton Middle School. That is the time that school lets out. Organizers of this event are calling it an anti-bully human rights demonstration and while it will highlight the case of Asher who was a student at Hamilton, the event will address the larger trend that we have seen across the country.

Sadly in September alone nine teens committed suicide across the U.S. because they say they were in some form or fashion bullied at school. Organizers and advocates say schools need programs in place and that states need to pass laws to protect kids like Asher and prevent further tragedy.

“Everybody was feeling really bad about this what has happened to Asher Brown and I think people were just kind of tired of it,” said rally organizer Barry Ouellette. “We wanted to get out and do something about it and make sure that action is taken.”

—  John Wright

P-Town Holds LGBT Youth Suicide Vigil

Last night JMG reader Scott emailed us these cell-cam photos of Provincetown’s vigil for LGBT youth. Don’t forget tonight’s vigil in NYC, mentioned two posts below this one.

Joe. My. God.

—  John Wright

Tomorrow In NYC’s Washington Square: Glowstick Vigil For LGBT Youth

Sunday at 9pm thousands will gather in Manhattan’s Washington Square Park for a You-Are-Loved vigil for LGBT youth. (No candles, open flames are strictly forbidden.) Facebook event page:

The vigil will start promptly at 9:00pm in Washington Square Park underneath the arch. Please bring your own glowstick if you have one as there will be a limited amount available. We will have at least 1,000 glowsticks to provide. The event will culminate in a chalking session in honor of the 2nd annual “You-Are-Loved Chalk Messaging Project.” This project is meant to provide uplifting messages as well as shed light on the amount of bullying, harassment, self-injury, and suicidal thoughts that disproportionately affect queer youth.

Confirmed guests include the Trevor Project, Ali Forney Center, GLAAD, and Heritage of Pride. I will attend and document the event for JMG. Now where does one buy a glowstick in NYC?

Joe. My. God.

—  John Wright

Rewards for info on Lisa Stone’s disappearance

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to an arrest and indictment in the disappearance of Lisa Stone, a lesbian from Dallas who’s been missing since early June. To submit a tip to Crime Stoppers, call 877-373-8477 or go here.

In addition, Stone’s longtime friend Tina Wiley says a separate $5,000 reward is being offered by an anonymous source for info leading to Stone’s safe return, as well as the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for her disappearance. For information about the second reward, e-mail

About 75 people reportedly attended another vigil Aug. 6 outside the northeast Dallas home Stone shared with her partner. Relying heavily on Facebook, Stone’s friends have done a remarkable job of keeping her disappearance in the news, as the Dallas Observer, White Rock Lake Weekly and Mesquite News all reported on the vigil.

Above is a video featuring scenes from vigils outside Stone’s home. The video, posted by Wiley, is fittingly set in part to the Williams Brothers’ “Can’t Cry Hard Enough,” which was featured in “Brokeback Mountain.”

With police reporting no new information in the case, the outlook of Stone’s friends is perhaps best summed up by Tammye Markle in the White Rock Lake Weekly: “Our first hope and prayer is that Lisa will come back to us. However, it has been two months and the reality is that the chances of that happening are slim.”

—  John Wright

Holocaust vigil for LGBT victims


On Wednesday, Jan. 27, Equality March Texas organized a vigil to remember LGBT Holocaust victims.


The vigil began at the Highland Park fountain and proceeded down Oak Lawn Avenue to the Legacy of Love monument.

—  David Taffet