Thursday, June 11, 2015

The LGBTQ BOOM in Arkansas

Editor's Note: This post of COP 24/7 was pre produced in preparation for our on road travel to a national conference. Due some technical difficulties,. the post had to be re-edited and posted to reflect breaking news.

The Peanut and Jelly of Marriage Equality

Judge Wendell Griffin (pictured right)  has spoken and ruled that Arkansas must recognize some 500 same sex
marriages that occurred during that breaking May 9-15 window provided by Judge Chris Piazza's move to allow such marriages. As this story broke open and it hit the internet, airwaves, social media and went global, the usual suspects namely AG Leslie Rutledge and Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) hunkered down with vitriolic rebuttal of his judicial decision.

Although there were catcalls that Griffin should have recused himself since he had openly performed marriages, he felt that this had nothing to do with his service on the bench especially since the case was sent before his court for a ruling. This is in stark contrast to the total foot dragging and side stepping of the Arkansas Supreme court which has done very little to rule the state marriage equality case but continues to opt for the impending SCOTUS ruling later this month.

COP 24/7 has cited Griffin as a total ally who has never waivered on his affirmation of the law and his interpretation of it. Plus Mr. Griffin has been steadfast in his support and participation in numerous local LGBTQ focused activities including Truthful Tuesday's and the recent religious exemption effort.

Most interesting of Judge Griffin's verbiage about the case is the following explanation of what he determined about Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration Director Larry Walther. Walther had argued that a legal technicality known as "Rule 60(a)" prevented the state from recognizing the licenses. As reported by the Advocate ( Griffin observed the following:

Elementary school grammar students are taught and know that the word "and" is a conjunction, meaning that it functions in grammatical usage to connect separate ideas, concepts, and realities. For example when one uses the term "peanut butter and jelly, anyone who knows anything about peanut butter and jelly understands that two very different foods are mentioned. Peanut butter is not jelly. Jelly is not peanut butter. They may be on the same slice of bread to constitute tasty ingredients for a sandwich. That fact, however, does not make them one and the same.
"The same reasoning must be applied to the language in Rule 60(b)," Griffen concluded. "'Clerical mistakes' and 'errors ... arising from oversight or omission' are not the same things. They are different realities (like peanut butter and jelly)." You tell em Judge Griffin, its so elementary.

Dollars and Sense in the LGBT Community

COP 24/7 has been exploring various aspects of the "LGBT construct" in conjunction to a variety of news items, investigative stories and other assorted related materials addressing the ebbing and flowing of dollars within the gay community including Arkansas.

There has been vigorous debate and throw down dialogue about who, what and how much funding is being spread around in the LGBT community. This platform has made a conscious effort to share as much insight, spotlights, "hot lights" and highlights of the sources of dollars that some times or at times don't seem to make sense in the gay the community.

In a January 2015 report titled, Vital Funding: Investing in LGBT Health and Wellbeing crafted by Justin Brown and B.F. Maulbeck, the duo cites that domestic foundation funding for LGBT health topped $50.4 Million dollars for 2011 - 2013.

Nearly half (46 percent) of these grant dollars were for HIV/AIDS, and the remaining 54 percent addressed health issues ranging from breast cancer to mental health and suicide prevention. Health captured about 17 percent of the total $301 million in domestic LGBTQ funding for 2011-2013. This makes health the second most-funded LGBTQ issue—though it is a distant second, capturing a much smaller portion than the 41 percent for civil rights.

According to a Kaiser Foundation 2013 state health fact sheet , Arkansas received, $13,187,490 to cover up to three categories ranging from CDC funding to the Ryan White program. Unfortunately there is no line item in the state budget that allows for any state dollars to be used for prevention or interventions. In recent months, this platform has inquired about "awareness dollars" slated to fund proposal from local community based organizations that were denied without explanation. To date ADH was to supply updated information to the Arkansas HIV Planning Group. COP 24/7 will update as the information is released. Over the last decade, ADH have issued Request for Applications that have been modestly funded, climaxing at the $90,000 level in the last cycle of which also resulted in a 90 % turn back amount which was redirected to support its Community Connectors Initiative encompassing outreach, linkage and retention in care and prevention messaging.

Over the last two decades, there has been a plethora of programming that supported capacity building in the stated either funded by ADH or other national entities. The Elton John Foundation website showcased its support of such efforts that have also had either direct or indirect programming in Arkansas. $200,000 from EJF supported the launch of  BTAN networks (with intensive training and capacity-building support) in six new cities: Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Oakland, San Francisco, New Orleans, and Baton Rouge. Each the BTAN networks will consist of at least 20-30 trained treatment advocates. In the third quarter of 2013, the Institute will launch 3-6 additional BTAN networks. Arkansas was to be among those newly established sites which was fiscally sponsored by Better Community Developers in 2013, there was an initial local training but to date there was none of the promised outcomes actually realized in the area.

Another renewal $125,000 went to support AIDS Community Research Initiative of America ( ACRIA) to facilitate technical assistance and capacity building across the south, again including Arkansas. EJF had supported ACRIA's Southern United States work to the tune of $500,000 since 2009.

The funding was to support a new series of technical and capacity building assistance programs in three cities while continuing to support previous participants through on-going follow-up. ACRIA’s objectives are to (1) provide participants with HIV prevention, treatment, and care-related information, using a health literacy model; (2) demonstrate an increase in HIV prevention, treatment, and care-related knowledge among participants; (3) develop an agreed-upon service integration plan with each participating agency, tailored to its specific needs; (4) provide coaching and mentoring in New York City for three participants from each city; (5) increase participants’ awareness of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and the implementation plan, including the specific impact it has on their work; and (6) assist agencies in developing strategies that will meet the goals and objectives of the Strategy.

Consequently sessions were held locally, a participant identified for the NYC mentoring, however no formal strategies were developed or deployed in the community. Since there work in the area, this organization has not followed up with any other capacity building or monitoring in other outcomes from their work. And so there you have it, another snap shot of just a few of the programming that has been fully funded to increase Arkansas' infrastructure with sights on sustaining proposed strategies, concepts and the next big ideas. And so it goes...

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