What is State & Union?
State & Union is a ground breaking journey into the world of lesbian families in the Deep South.
Set in Birmingham, Alabama, the film follows the lives of several lesbian families as they cope with living in a state that provides their families no legal protections. In a time that has seen equality become the ‘norm’ in many parts of the country, and a sea change in public opinion- on the books in Alabama, there has been no shift at all. Historically, these circumstances have made it very difficult for people to live comfortably ‘out’ in the Deep South, but these families have chosen to tell their stories…
* OUR FAMILIES ARE SPEAKING OUT!
And we are there to film it all…
If you are straight, or live in a Blue State, you may not ever have to think about your right to adopt your partner’s child, your ability to have a fair hearing in family court, whether there is a form for your family to register for school, whether you will be denied housing, or if you will lose your job, or whether your spouse will inherit your joint estate when you die... These families do.
During a year in which much of the country celebrates the fall of DOMA and the advent of equality, families in Alabama express excitement about the societal changes as well as increased frustration about the lack of material gains for the Deep South. However, they also express hope for a brighter future. Things are changing in Birmingham- acceptance is growing, and advocacy is intensifying. The strength of the community is at a new level, and the time for more rapid change is now. All of this is captured on film, in community events and family stories.
The families in this film are standing up for their voices to be heard, and we are asking for your help to make them as loud as we can.
Why is this Film Important?
State & Union provides an intimate and up-close look at the lives of a diverse cross-section of the Birmingham lesbian community for a year following the DOMA decision by the Supreme Court. The goal of the film is to provide the opportunity to understand a community undergoing rapid social change.
We believe that seeing and hearing the stories of these families can move the people of Alabama, and across the south, to understand the need for change. The change is not inevitable, it must be accomplished.
Stories Change Minds: They increase understanding and empathy.
For people in Alabama- Seeing your neighbor, your banker, your elected official, your nurse, or a mother your age, tell her story of struggle and resilience can help put a distinctly human face on why LGBTQ rights matter.
For people across the country- Witnessing that these stories are happening NOW, and injustice is not a thing of the past, can move people to continue to fight so that NO STATE LEFT BEHIND is a reality- and we can move forward as ONE AMERICA.
Why Birmingham, Alabama?
Alabama is the cradle of the civil rights movement, and as such, has great historical significance. Alabama also has a higher percentage of gay and lesbian families raising children than states WITH marriage equality.
And- Alabama has a bad reputation on LGBTQ rights… for good reason.
In the time since we started filming, Roy Moore, the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court wrote to all 50 governors urging a Constitutional Amendment banning equal access to marriage across the US. He believes that people of the same sex marrying will bring about “the ultimate destruction of our country.” The state legislature passed a resolution supporting a ‘constitutional convention’ to ban equal access to marriage across the US, even though Alabama already has a constitutional ban.
Even though there are an estimated 100,000 LGBTQ individuals in Alabama, help from National pro-LGBTQ groups has been slow to arrive. Indeed, Alabama receives only $0.31 in grant funding per LGBT person, compared with more than $10 per person in the Northeast.
But not all the news is bad… There is a new focus on the South, with Freedom to Marry, Family Equality Council, and Human Rights Campaign all announcing Southern Initiatives in the past year. AND Rates of acceptance of LGBTQ issues are changing faster in the Deep South than in many other places, with more than 36% of people in Alabama now reporting a favorable view of marriage equality. While that doesn’t exactly keep pace with the rest of the country, it is a shift of 16% in less than 10 years. And we know how this change happens- Researchers have found that familiarity breeds comfort, with knowing someone who is gay or lesbian cited as the most common reason offered for having changed one’s opinion!
We believe that hearing the stories these families tell, and being welcomed through the experience of this film into their homes and their lives, will move the needle of public opinion even further by accelerating this process.
And the really important reason you should support this film:
There won’t be true equality for LGBTQ people in America without the south.
Why support THIS southern project?
This film is conceived of, produced and directed by Southerners… mostly lesbians, all Alabamians. We did not fly in for the week; this is our home. Because we live here, and know the community we have been invited deep into the lives of our subjects. They welcome us as a part of their celebrations, and disappointments. We are invested in the change that this film will bring, because it will make our lives better. Nobody knows our stories better than we do.
Because No One should have to leave home to be 'at home'.
In supporting the production of this film you are supporting the creation of change- the building of community- and turning quiet allies into fierce advocates- in our effort to ensure that ‘no state left behind’ becomes a reality.
Who else is supporting us?
We have already raised $50,000 towards our principal production goal, a total of $150,000 from our local Birmingham, Alabama supporters. And we are thrilled to announce that we are the very first LGBTQ project to be funded by the Alabama Humanities Foundation.
Please be a part of history and join us in supporting State & Union.
We have a multi-pronged fund raising effort- that includes the support of Living in Limbo, inc. a non-profit whose Board of Directors is comprised of leaders of the LGBTQ, Business, and Arts communities in Birmingham. In addition to this indiegogo site, We are garnering local support, from corporations, institutions, and individuals who have become advocates for change.
We have (Greatly Appreciated) local partners, including the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Equality Alabama, The Birmingham Museum of Art, The YWCA of Central Alabama, Birmingham Aids Outreach, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Our friends at EQAL had this to say:
"This documentary gives much needed attention to the realities of living life in a 'state of in-between,' or as the film title suggests... living in limbo. We are thrilled to be a part of this project and know that it will have a profound impact on how we, and others, view our community.” Ben Cooper, Chair of Equality Alabama
We have (Greatly Appreciated) national partners, including Freedom to Marry, Family Equality Council, National Center for Lesbian Rights. Their leaders had this to say about State & Union-
“State and Union shows and tells the stories of lesbian families in the South -- their love, their humor, their struggle and their strength -- and will help spark the conversations that grow support and lead to change," said Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry.
“Family Equality Council continues to raise our voices toward fairness for all families, and we are proud to stand alongside Living in Limbo for this instrumental documentary that delivers the opportunity for these Southern voices to be heard.” Family Equality Council Executive Director Gabriel Blau.
"The moral obligation of our movement is to make certain that no one is left behind. While many of us have enjoyed amazing progress, in many parts of this country there are huge gaps. The vision of Dr. King that "none of us are free until all of us our free" is our new rallying cry. To not answer that cry would be a substantial moral lapse. This important film shows that our work is not yet done and that we owe it to our entire community to assure that we ALL hit the finish line together,"Kate Kendell, Executive Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights
WHO ARE WE?
Lauren Jacobs, Carolyn Sherer, Michele Forman, and Lara Embry
Our team is led by Producer Michele Forman, an award-winning documentary filmmaker, and co-founder and director of UAB’s Media Studies Program. Michele has directed and produced documentary projects for film and television since 1997, earning an Emmy nomination in 2001 for Coat of Many Colors. She served as associate producer on Spike Lee's Academy Award®-nominated film 4 Little Girls, a feature-length documentary for HBO about the bombing of the Sixteenth Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963. Michele began her film work at Harvard University, double majoring in English and filmmaking, and started her career in development at Spike Lee's 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks.
Serving as Co-Directors and Co-Producers are Carolyn Sherer, and Lara Embry, Ph.D. Carolyn is a critically acclaimed and award winning fine-art photographer whose exhibit of photographs Living in Limbo: Lesbian Families in the Deep South, premiered at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, drawing the largest crowds in the history of the institute. The exhibit, which is now traveling the country, has already helped to change perceptions of LGBTQ people in the Deep South, as well as inspiring this documentary. Carolyn's photography focuses on issues of identity, fusing the personal with the universal. Her fine-art photographs have been featured in numerous museum exhibitions and collections of photography and contemporary art. State & Union is her documentary film debut.
Lara is a clinical psychologist, activist, and writer. She was awarded the Justice Prize by the National Center for Lesbian Rights in 2009, and continues to work on behalf of LGBT rights through her work with theTrevor Project. As a psychologist, Lara has worked with LGBTQ individuals and families in the South whose lives are made more difficult by the social and legal discrimination they face. She brings this understanding to story development as well as interviewing of participants.
Lauren Jacobs is Production Coordinator. Lauren is a recent graduate of The University of Alabama with a degree in Telecommunication and Film. She is using her focus on Media Production to coordinate production, as well as serving as an additional cinematographer and sound recordist, on State and Union. As a student, she contributed to various documentary projects, including a half-hour television show Alabama Art Seen, which profiled artists living and working in Alabama. Lauren served as a leader of UA's LGBTQ+ student group Spectrum, she is currently a contributing editor for autostraddle.com, where she has published writing on pop culture and LGBTQ issues.
We are trying to raise $100,000 via crowdsourcing.
We are a non-profit, so donations are tax deductible.
Plus- you will be able to show your support with our fabulous Alabama swag!
(Water bottle shown from front and back)
If you want to come to a screening, but can't make it to Alabama, we will get you tickets for a screening near you!
WHY WE NEED YOUR HELP:
Project Status: We have been filming since August 2013, following our families through an event filled year. We need funding to be able to continue production and hire a professional editor to weave these stories into a documentary feature length film. We are working with the goal of producing a fine rough cut for submission to festivals in late 2014, as we seek a distributor. Your dollars will go straight to production, as our staff is overwhelmingly volunteer.
Other Ways You Can Help
Send this to your friends- tell them, 'I support this, and I want you to also!'
Even if you can't give a dime, if you have friends who care about justice, the Deep South, and changing hearts and minds- you can help a bunch by sharing this site with them!