Being accepted into a new community can be a difficult time in a person’s life. And if that person has differences, it can be even harder to feel confident and at peace. SC Equality is one organization looking to change all that. Known for their vision – “a South Carolina in which everyone is equal,” according to Jennifer Tague, current director of operations – the organization works diligently to help individuals as well as institutions in our state foster compassion for the LGBTQ+ community.
Founded in 2002, SC Equality is already making a difference in the LGBTQ+ community and beyond. Education and outreach are two of the main goals, particularly in situations where people must work together harmoniously, such as a school or business. Teaching young people to be tolerant and understanding through valuable education is also key, according to Tague.
“We provide education and outreach to schools, business and organizations that are wanting information about the LGBTQ+ community and the youth,” she explained. “For example, we teach about youth issues, seniors issues and transgender issues. We also work toward better gay-straight alliances by working with schools that have these clubs, as well as schools that want to start them. It is important that we make the schools a safe space for our youth, and protect LGBTQ+ students from being bullied in schools across South Carolina.”
In addition to working with schools, businesses and organizations, another tenet of the SC Equality mission is working closely with the lawmakers of South Carolina for the best interests of the LGBTQ+ community. Most recently, SC Equality defeated a “transgender bathroom” (a bill modeled after North Carolina’s HB2) for the 3rd year in a row. “We are very proud to have fostered relationships with members of the South Carolina General Assembly to defeat all anti-LGBT bills at the State House,” said Jeff Ayers, Executive Director. “This was possible because of SC Equality’s presence at the State House and we will be introducing the Workplace Fairness Act in January with bipartisan sponsors (the first time in history Republicans and Democrats will be listed on a pro equality bill). SC Equality was also instrumental in the recent decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court’s decision to include same-sex couples (married and unmarried) to be included protection of the state’s Domestic Violence Statute. From the State House to the schoolhouse, SC Equality fights for full lived equality for all LGBTQ South Carolinians.
Indeed, a large part of SC Equality’s role is to deal with a few unpleasant truths about tolerance in South Carolina – and not only at the government level. While Tague recognizes how far the state has come, she is quick to point out that many other hurdles must be met, and the existence of SC Equality has never been more vital.
“Now that marriage equality is the law of the land, there are still more issues facing the LGBTQ+ community,” she said. “In South Carolina, you can get married on Sunday and fired on Monday. It is important to protect, educate, and change hearts and minds around the state.”
In essence, supporting SC Equality is important, even for straight folks, since a more harmonious school, business or government structure is beneficial to all. If you can’t financially support the cause, Tague suggests volunteering your time – and, if you’re pressed for time, spreading the word is another valuable way to help.
“We are always looking for people to give their time and talents,” she said, “but you can also follow us on Facebook, signup for e-mail alerts and share information with friends.”
To find out more about SC Equality or to become a sponsor, visit scequality.org or call 803-256-6500.