The fight for equality didn't end with gay marriage. 5 acts of bravery you should know.

On June 26, 2015, love won. The Supreme Court ruled states cannot ban same-sex marriage.

There were quickie weddings. There were happy tears. There were rainbow filters on Facebook.

At the time, 60% of Americans felt same-sex marriages should be legally valid, so for many, it was a long-overdue celebration. Even the White House got in on the fun.


Photo by Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images.

But while most of us celebrated, sore losers and enemies of progress in every corner of the country got to work on anti-LGBT legislation, often described as "religious freedom" bills.

Anti-equality officials introduced these bills hoping businesses and individuals could cite religion as a reason to deny service or goods to LGBT people. Some of the potential laws were just related to marriage-related goods (think bakeries, florists, tailors), while others went even further, trying to allow taxpayer-funded foster care and adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBT parents and prospective parents.

Don't get it twisted: This isn't religious freedom. It's bigotry and bullying.

And in 2015, over 115 of these bills were introduced at the state and local level in 31 states.

Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma speaks to the legislature about the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images.

But when faced with cruelty and injustice, many brave people have stepped up to fight back.

You may not know their names or live in their cities, but these men and women are on the front lines continuing to fight for equality long after the confetti dropped.

They're the unsung heroes of a movement that didn't end in June 2015. And today, I'm singing their praises.

1. The members of the Charlotte City Council who passed a nondiscrimination ordinance despite the governor and legislature throwing shade.

The new ordinance added sexual orientation and gender identity to long-standing protections like race, religion, and age. Bars, restaurants, taxis, and stores in Charlotte can't discriminate against customers because they're gay or transgender.

The ordinance passed on a 7-4 vote after a heated three-hour public meeting. But in North Carolina, the state government can overrule city decisions, and legislators may strike down some or all of the new law.

2. The governor of South Dakota, who vetoed an unnecessary bill affecting the lives of transgender kids.

The mean-spirited bill, which would have required transgender kids to use the bathroom or locker room of the gender they were assigned at birth, shouldn't even have made it to the governor's desk.

Luckily, Gov. Dennis Daugaard vetoed the bill and put an end to the madness.

The presidents on Mount Rushmore may or may not be crying about the state of things in South Dakota. Photo by Always Shooting/Flickr (cropped).

3. The 400+ businesses that essentially told Georgia, "This is a terrible idea."

Discrimination is bad for businesses. Period.

That's why companies like Microsoft, Unilever, and Delta (which employs more than 30,000 Georgians) spoke out against Georgia House Bill 757, which would allow faith-based organizations to refuse education, charitable, or social services based on religious beliefs relating to marriage. The bill passed last week, but Gov. Nathan Deal says he will veto it.


Founder of Virgin Group Sir Richard Branson was one of the executives who publicly denounced House Bill 757. Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.

4. The Missouri Democrats who broke a record filibustering an anti-LGBT bill.

The eight members of the Democratic caucus began their filibuster on Monday, March 7, around 4 p.m. It continued for 39 hours into Tuesday evening, breaking a state record. It was done to prevent the passage of SJR 39, a bill that would write discriminatory language into the Missouri constitution.


The herculean effort made national news, and presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton tweeted their support. The filibuster worked temporarily, but the legislative session runs through May.

5. The Utah state senator who coughed and sneezed his way through a mini-filibuster.

When the legislature tried to rush a vote on an anti-LGBT bill with just three minutes left in the legislative session, state Sen. Jim Dabakis was having none of it. Instead, Dabakis, the only openly gay member of the Utah legislature, did what any hero in plain clothes would do: He stalled.

When it was his turn for the voice vote, Dabakis coughed, sneezed, and appeared to ponder his decision. Though the Senate president caught on and moved the vote along, it was too late and the bill was defeated.

You can see the vote and hear Dabakis' cheer-worthy stall in the video below.

All of these fearless acts of patriotism have taken place in the past month.

Coast to coast, the battle for equality and civil rights continues. Consider this is your wake-up call. But you don't need to be a local politician or business owner to make a difference.

You can help right now.

Vote. Speak up when you see discriminatory bills get traction in your city or state. Vote. Keep up with local news. Vote. Try not to get distracted by the glitz and gossip of the presidential election, as ordinances and laws passed locally have just as much — if not more — impact. Oh, and vote. Every election. Every time.

Because nothing, especially hate, beats an engaged, active citizenry.

Marriage-equality supporters protest at the federal courthouse in Ashland, Kentucky. Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images.

True

Some 75 years ago, in bombed-out Frankfurt, Germany, a little girl named Marlene Mahta received a sign of hope in the midst of squalor, homelessness and starvation. A CARE Package containing soap, milk powder, flour, blankets and other necessities provided a lifeline through the contributions of average American families. There were even luxuries like chocolate bars.

World War II may have ended, but its devastation lingered. Between 35 and 60 million people died. Whole cities had been destroyed, the countryside was charred and burned, and at least 60 million European civilians had been made homeless. Hunger remained an issue for many families for years to come. In the face of this devastation, 22 American organizations decided to come together and do something about it: creating CARE Packages for survivors.

"What affected me… was hearing that these were gifts from average American people," remembers Mahta, who, in those desperate days, found herself picking through garbage cans to find leftover field rations and MREs to eat. Inspired by the unexpected kindness, Mahta eventually learned English and emigrated to the U.S.

"I wanted to be like those wonderful, generous people," she says.

The postwar Marshall Plan era was a time of "great moral clarity," says Michelle Nunn, CEO of CARE, the global anti-poverty organization that emerged from those simple beginnings. "The CARE Package itself – in its simplicity and directness – continues to guide CARE's operational faith in the enduring power of local leadership – of simply giving people the opportunity to support their families and then their communities."

Each CARE Package contained rations that had once been reserved for soldiers, but were now being redirected to civilians who had suffered as a result of the conflict. The packages cost $10 to send, and they were guaranteed to arrive at their destination within four months.

Thousands of Americans, including President Harry S. Truman, got involved, and on May 11, 1946, the first 15,000 packages were sent to Le Havre in France, a port badly battered during the war.

Thousands of additional CARE Packages soon followed. At first packages were sent to specific recipients, but over time donations came in for anyone in need. When war rations ran out American companies began donating food. Later, carpentry tools, blankets, clothes, books, school supplies, and medicine were included.

Before long, the CARE Packages were going to other communities in need around the world, including Asia and Latin America. Ultimately, CARE delivered packages to 100 million families around the world.

The original CARE Packages were phased out in the late 1960s, though they were revived when specific needs arose, such as when former Soviet Union republics needed relief, or after the Bosnian War. Meanwhile, CARE transformed. Now, instead of physical boxes, it invests in programs for sustainable change, such as setting up nutrition centers, Village Savings and Loan Associations, educational programs, agroforestry initiatives, and much more.

But, with a pandemic ravaging populations around the world, CARE is bringing back its original CARE packages to support the critical basic needs of our global neighbors. And for the first time, they're also delivering CARE packages here at home in the United States to communities in need.

Community leaders like Janice Dixon are on the front lines of that effort. Dixon, president and CEO of Community Outreach in Action in Jonesboro, Ga., now sends up to 80 CARE packages each week to those in need due to COVID-19. Food pantries have been available, she notes, but they've been difficult to access for those without cars, and public transportation is spotty in suburban Atlanta.

"My phone has been ringing off the hook," says Dixon. For example, one of those calls was from a senior diabetic, she remembers, who faced an impossible choice, but was able to purchase medicine because food was being provided by CARE.

Today, CARE is sending new packages with financial support and messages of hope to frontline medical workers, caregivers, essential workers, and individuals in need in more than 60 countries, including the U.S. Anyone can now go to carepackage.org to send targeted help around the world. Packages focus on helping vaccines reach people more quickly, tackling food insecurity, educational disparities, global poverty, and domestic violence, as well as providing hygiene kits to those in need.

From the very beginning, CARE received the support of presidents, with Hollywood luminaries like Rita Hayworth and Ingrid Bergman also adding their voices. At An Evening With CARE, happening this Tuesday, May 11, notable names will turn out again as the organization celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the CARE Package and the exciting, meaningful work that lies ahead. The event will be hosted by Whoopi Goldberg and attended by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter, as well as Angela Merkel, Iman, Jewel, Michelle Williams, Katherine McPhee-Foster, Betty Who and others. Please RSVP now for this can't-miss opportunity.

Courtesy of CeraVe
True

"I love being a nurse because I have the honor of connecting with my patients during some of their best and some of their worst days and making a difference in their lives is among the most rewarding things that I can do in my own life" - Tenesia Richards, RN

From ushering new life into the world to holding the hand of a patient as they take their last breath, nurses are everyday heroes that deserve our respect and appreciation.

To give back to this community that is always giving so selflessly to others, CeraVe® put out a call to nurses to share their stories for a chance to be featured in Heroes Behind the Masks, a digital content series shining a light on nurses who go above and beyond to provide safe and quality care to patients and their communities.

First up: Tenesia Richards, a labor and delivery nurse working in New York City who, in addition to her regular job, started a community outreach program in a homeless shelter that houses expectant mothers for up to one year postpartum.

Tenesia | Heroes Behind the Masks presented by CeraVe www.youtube.com

Upon learning at a conference that black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women's health, Richards decided to take further action to help her community. She, along with a handful of fellow nurses, volunteered to provide antepartum, childbirth and postpartum education to the women living at the shelter. Additionally, they looked for other ways to boost the spirits of the residents, like throwing baby showers and bringing in guest speakers. When COVID-19 hit and in-person gatherings were no longer possible, Richards and her team found creative workarounds and created holiday care packages for the mothers instead.

Keep Reading Show less