Session Type(s): Panel
Starts: Thursday, Jul. 17 10:30 AM (Eastern)
Ends: Thursday, Jul. 17 11:45 AM (Eastern)
Room: 140 E
Across the country, the religious right is losing the moral battles for LGBTQ equality, reproductive justice, and workers’ rights. So why are progressives losing so many legal and legislative battles? The answer is religious exemptions, the tactic being used by right-wing political forces to chip away at legal protections for LGBTQ individuals, women, and workers. This panel will dig into how these exemptions are being used, how right-wing groups are redefining “religious liberty” to push an extremist agenda, what the implications of the exemptions are at the state and federal level, and how progressives can use winning messaging to reclaim the “moderate middle” being targeted by these exemptions.
Heather joined GetEQUAL in May 2010. Prior to her work with GetEQUAL, Heather was the Chief Operating Officer at the New Organizing Institute, overseeing operations and expanding programs. Heather has also worked with organizations such as mySociety in the U.K. and with Idealist.org in the U.S., always focused on building community and pushing for tangible social change. A native of Lexington, KY, Heather holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in religion/philosophy from Berry College in Rome, GA, and a Master of Divinity degree from Wake Forest University Divinity School in Winston-Salem, NC.
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Kierra Johnson is the Executive Director of Choice USA, the leading pro-choice organization working to mobilize and provide support for the diverse, upcoming generation of leaders. Kierra has bolstered the conversation around youth and reproductive justice through her contribution to print, radio, television and online media, including the New York Times, RH Reality Check, Feministing.com, Newsweek,Fox News and National Public Radio.
Haling from the great state of Georgia, Kierra’s journey with Choice USA started when she was awarded the Maxine Waters Reproductive Freedom Fellowship in 2000. Kierra is the 2002 recipient of the Young Women of Achievement Award from the Women’s Information Network (WIN) and now sits on the advisory council for WIN. Ms. Johnson served as a Delegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention and currently serves on the boards of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Center for Community Change.
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Erin Matson is Co-Founder and Co-Director of Reproaction. A longtime organizer, writer, and leader for women’s equality, she previously served as Action Vice President of the National Organization for Women as well as Editor at Large for Rewire. She lives in Arlington, Virginia, and serves on the board of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Foundation.
Meghan Smith is the Domestic Program Associate at Catholics for Choice (CFC), an international organization that seeks to shape and advance sexual and reproductive ethics that are based on justice, reflect a commitment to women’s well-being and respect and affirm the capacity of women and men to make moral decisions about their lives. Meghan integrates CFC’s US policy activities and advocacy throughout the country by fostering relationships with collegial organizations, developing educational materials and compiling legislative and policy analyses. She represents Catholics for Choice on the Coalition for Liberty & Justice, a broad alliance of organizations working to ensure that public policy protects the religious liberty of individuals of all faiths and no faith and to oppose public policies that impose any single religious viewpoint on all. Ms. Smith holds a bachelor of arts degree in English and Creative Writing from Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts.
Sebastian Velasquez is an immigrant from Colombia, yet, after twelve years of living in the U.S., other Americans refer to him as a DREAMer. As a Policy Analyst, Sebastian manages the LGBTQ and Dignity for Young Pregnant and Parenting Youth portfolios and all of the state policy pertaining to abortion access, Affordable Care Act implementation, Medicaid expansion and religious refusals, among other policies. Sebastian is an alumnus of Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, where he majored in International Politics: International Law, Norms, & Institutions with a Certificate in Women and Gender Studies. Sebastian expertise pertains to identity politics and intersectional work around ethnicity, immigration status, race, sex, gender, sexual orientation and the connections with the reproductive justice movement.