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Activists: LGBT Communities Must Ally with Others to Ensure Equality for All

When President Barack Obama announced Tuesday in Las Vegas that now is the time for “common-sense comprehensive immigration reform,” he echoed a crucial portion of the national LGBT Creating Change conference in Atlanta.

Now is the time for immigration reform and now is the time for LGBT people to accept that immigration reform is part of their movement as well, said numerous activists throughout the Creating Change conference, held Jan. 23-27 at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Atlanta. The 25th annual conference, which is held in a different city each year, drew more than 3,000 activists from across the country as well as China and Taiwan.

While President Obama didn’t speak publicly about LGBT families during his Jan. 29 speech on immigration reform, he included provisions for bi-national gay and lesbian couples in his framework for reform, as well as the principles of the DREAM Act — “legislation that provides a streamlined path to citizenship for young people who came to the country as children and are going to school or serving their country.”

Jose Antonio Vargas, a gay Pulitzer-winning journalist who “came out of a second closet” when he revealed to in a 2011 New York Times Magazine essay that he was an undocumented immigrant, was presented the Creating Change Award during the Jan. 25 plenary. He urged attendees to pay attention to the issue and to stand up for their friends and allies in the movement.

“As immigration reform becomes the key issue of this year, we must advocate for each other so no one is left out of the conversation,”Vargas said.

There are approximately 11 million undocumented people living in the U.S. and in the past four years, the Obama administration has deported more than 1.5 million undocumented people — including LGBT people.

Rea Carey, executive director of The Task Force, gave a State of the Movement speech on Jan. 24, and said while we can embrace recent victories on the marriage front as well as the reelection of President Obama, there is still much to be done to ensure all of those within the LGBT family are not left behind.

“If there is one message we can take away from Election Night 2012, it is that we are not alone. We are not alone as a movement, as a people, and we need to make sure no one else is alone either.

“Yes, this is our moment — an LGBT movement moment. But, if we are to be truly transformational as a movement, we must use this moment to not only benefit LGBT people but the country as a whole. That is our leadership challenge as a movement,” she said.

What now?

Carey also sat in on a panel that discussed national LGBT political strategy under the next four years of the Obama administration with other top leaders: Jamie Ensley, vice chair of the Log Cabin Republicans, who lives in Atlanta and is also a board member of Georgia Equality; Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality; Sharon Lettman-Hicks, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition; and Kirk Fordham, executive director of Gill Action, a organization founded by philanthropist Tim Gill which funds state-focused campaigns to defeat anti-gay measures as well as help pro-LGBT candidates and policies.

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The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) is a civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and same gender loving (LGBTQ/SGL) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS.