Love & Pride Responds To Attack By One Million Moms

“We will always stand by the LGBTQ community; we will always stand on the side of love,” says Love & Pride Founder Udi Behr.

Love & Pride, an online business founded to promote education and better understanding of the LGBTQ community, today responds to an attack by the anti-LGBT group One Million Moms related to their recent new expansion of their consumer reach and their support of the LGBTQ community.

One Million Moms, an anti-LGBTQ group that is part of the American Family Association, has attacked Love & Pride in a post on their website,seen here.

The American Family Association has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The following statement can be attributed to Udi Behr, Loveandpride.com founder and designer:

“I was shocked and saddened when our Love & Pride collection, available online and now at a major retailer, was attacked by the so-called One Million Moms, part of the hate group ‘The American Family Association.’ As a jeweler and LGBTQ ally for many years, this is the first time we have been targeted in such a manner. I am heartened by the support and positive attention we have seen online and privately from consumers across the country.

The Love and Pride collection has always been about love, peace, hope, pride and equality and our goal has always been to bring people together. Our support of organizations like the Matthew Shepard Foundation, Marriage Equality/USA and the Human Rights Campaign is part of that vision.

In fact, I currently have a collection of jewelry from Israel celebrating Christianity and history, a collection in another major mall chain celebrating the inner beauty of women, and a collection I been working on for 12 years that celebrates equality for LGBTQ people.

I do not do this as a political statement but as an artist and designer who cares about our world, cares about all people and wants to promote love and beauty. If you do not agree with that vision don’t buy my jewelry. But there is no need to reacts with hate or boycotts.

For me, jewelry is and always will be meant as a way to commemorate beautiful moments in our lives and a way to express love and affection.

The response by One Million Moms is hateful and divisive. Now, more than ever, we must work for a world that has less division and more love, respects diversity and allows all people to express their love for each other.”

Love and Pride has enjoyed strategic partnerships over the years with many companies, ranging from Fred Segal to Saks 5th Avenue and worked with television programs like The L Word and Queer as Folk. As a philanthropic and socially conscious business, they have donated over $500,000 to The Matthew Shepard Foundation, Marriage Equality USA and the Human Rights Campaign. The company is also in the midst of an expansion as an e-commerce brand to become a multichannel content-driven marketplace for LGBTQ people and their allies.

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Keep The Noise Out

9/11 changed my life, 11/9 destroyed every institution I believed in. The media, the government and the experts I listened to, the papers I had been reading and the TV I had been watching like most of my fellow Americans.

I can’t stop thinking how much time I wasted to help promote Trump, by watching the people I so trusted, the experts that were so smart and the TV personalities that I so loved and listened to.

Udi Behr, Founder and Designer of LoveandPride.com

I ask myself how Rachel, Chris, Mika and Laurence can truly look at themselves in the mirror and not feel guilty for believing and preaching false information. How can you profit from this media disaster? I trusted you, I followed you every night.

You were misled and used (to say the least) and you projected it onto me and millions of others! You joined this scam. No, I don’t hold you totally responsible, you are a link. But as the saying goes: “A chain is as strong as its weakest link”. This time, all links were equal — Fox News, CNN, MSNBC — None talked on issues, none talked on substance BUT all gave us Trump 24/7 for 18 months, all gave us stolen property stolen by our adversary Russia via WikiLeaks... not even fact checking, just using it, knowing this material can be so toxic! But who cares, Burger King, Coca Cola and Toyota, are happy with the rating!

Global warming or pussy — what sells better? What’s really important and will affect all of us and generations to come? Do you report that 2016 has been the warmest year ever? What this truly means to each and every one of us? How it will affect our children well after Trump is out of the White House?

Since election night I turned my TV off, did not read anything on and offline and went into myself in search of what was my part in this moment, what could I have done differently and what to do next. Step one, stop watching Cable TV, so goodbye Chris, Joy, Rachel, Laurence and Chuck, I am taking a break from you till you come clean, give back the extra money you made during this circus (in light of your high rating and bonuses), grow some balls and talk about what is really important. Our world, our water, our air, our food our medical and economic situation. I will focus on my loved ones, keeping the noise out, spend my time doing good things for others by helping my community and expanding my horizons. I will not waste Sunday on “Meet the Press” and do simple things like walk, read and just sit on a bench in the park enjoying the world around me. I will use 11/9 to redefine my thoughts and life, and make the changes I need too.


Yes, my team lost this election, but I do hope the winning team will do what’s right, and we can find a way to deal with the truths, no matter how painful they are. We are divided, no question, we need to find ways to unite again and to be one — Free people in a free country where we are all equal — this is the America we all should believe and want to live in. We are No longer only LGBTQ, now we need to be one LGBTQSP — S-straight and P-progressive — we should all join together to make sure we stand strong in keeping the progress we achieved in the last 10 years — protect it, and grow it.

I live in NYC and lived through 9/11 — it was personal on many levels, it was my city my neighborhood, my daughter Sapier was in the middle of it in her elementary school PS 234, located beneath the Twin Towers, and she wrote a beautiful poem “My world shut down” that was published in the NYT (yes I do claim bragging rights). After describing the moments of the attack, and the fear she and her classmates experienced, she concluded in her last 2 lines: “Good things will blossom out of it, I know it...” and I believe that her writing and spirit should guide me and us now. We must learn and grow from our 11/9 results, we must believe good things will happen from it... one day.

I was always accused of being too optimistic, and if so, yes I am guilty — guilty in believing in people, believing good will overcome bad, believing that we can learn and grow, and I want to believe our new president, a New Yorker, will do the right thing for all Americans and will not turn all we achieved backwards.

So let’s make sure we take the right steps, spend time on positive things, delve into philanthropy, volunteer, study, read and learn, do not waste time watching countless hours of TV, listening to the noise and nonsense and reading pointless commentaries we were subjected to in the last year and a half. Learn, change and grow, love the ones you are with, help the ones that are in need.

I, for one, already turned off my TV. I’m in search for what is next, how to do my part and make this world a better place for me and my children.

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Did God Send Us a Sign?

As the Winter Olympics were getting closer, as Sochi became the lead story in the news for so many reasons: security, terrorism, corruption, conditions at the hotels in the area, freedom of the press and LGBT rights, I couldn’t stop thinking, and wishing. Thinking about what was the right thing to do. Should I watch it? How can I take part in this Olympic event knowing what the host country stands for?

Also thinking: How could we make sure this mistake will not happen again? The Olympics are meant to symbolize fairness, dignity, compassion and inclusiveness. Russia should not have been picked to host any Olympic event, since it seems to oppose the basic principles of the Olympic spirit on multiple levels.

I was wishing for something to go wrong, an embarrassing moment that would expose Putin for the “leader” he isn’t, shaming his politics and beliefs, showing the world that the king is naked (on the horse, or off it).

Four months ago in a N.Y.C. café, during a meeting with Love and Pride’s new CEO and our PR person, in discussing Sochi, and what to do to elevate awareness for the situation, I was doodling and drawing the “Missing Link” logo on a napkin. A light bulb went off and we started planning our PR and marketing ideas, and designing the products to promote, sell, and raise money.

So we all went to work and in the last few months, produced over 5000 bumper stickers and 1,000 posters of protest, to send free to anyone that would commit to using and displaying them. I also designed the missing link pendant and a t-shirt to sell on the loveandpride.com’s site, pledging to donate one hundred percent of proceeds to Immigration Equality’s Russia Emergency Fund. We got thousands of people to join our campaign and hung hundreds of posters all over the country, even the world! We sold hundreds of pendants and t-shirts under the “missing link” campaign.

I was very pleased that we, and more importantly, our customers and friends, joined the fight to protest the anti-gay, anti-freedom, and anti-inclusion that Putin and Russia stand for, and the idea that we are having the winter Olympics in such a country.

On Friday February 7, the Winter Olympics’s opening ceremony kick-started the already questionable Sochi Games, for the world to see the glory of Russia, and boost Putin’s ego. As I was not planning to watch the ceremony, I was watching the news in my office, and the news opened up with the “Sochi debacle” of the five rings lighting, and one ring, the same missing one I drew four month ago, didn’t light. For real!

My jaw dropped; I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing. This is the first story from the opening ceremony around the world? What a blow to Putin; what a blow to Russia’s image in front of millions of people! After spending 50 billion dollars, and after seven years of preparation, at the crucial moment when the world was watching you? You dropped the ball, or rather, the ring. WOW!

So many thoughts ran through my mind:

1. Did God send us a sign?

2. Hey Putin, I know where the missing link is, I’m even wearing one; I can send you one.

3. Wishes do come true, I couldn’t ask for a better statement — Karma is a bitch!

4. Reality is stronger than fiction.

So I do hope this will send a message and a sign to the Russian people — you must change your stance on human rights. You need to join the rest of the progressive world when it comes to freedom — freedom to express yourself, freedom of the press, freedom to love and freedom to be proud of who you are.

The light debacle was a sign. If it was not God (I will never know that), it was the energy of millions of people in the LGBT community, as well as their friends and family around the world.

We all know where the missing link is, it’s up to the Russian people to repair and reconnect it and what it stands for!

 

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The Rings Stand for Inclusion. So Do We, and So Can You!

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.

—Pastor Martin Niemöller 1892-1984

Over the past few months we’ve all heard about the anti-LGBT policies that President Vladimir Putin is promoting and legislating in Russia today.

Among many violations of fundamental, constitutionally protected rights of Russia’s LGBT citizens were multiple bans on pride parades in Moscow and other cities, hefty fines of LGBT rights groups under the pretense that they were acting as “foreign agents,” denial of registration to nongovernmental organizations associated with the LGBT movement, and regional laws broadly banning the “propaganda” of homosexuality to minors, which served as the model for the federal “propaganda” law enacted by Mr. Putin and unanimously passed by the Duma. Against this backdrop, violent attacks on LGBT people or those suspected of being LGBT are becoming commonplace.

The Olympic Games are about inclusion and the human spirit of individuals and nations. In the history of the Olympics, we have experienced moments of glory and moment of shame. We all remember moments that inspired us and individuals who gave all they had to win or reach the finish line.

I was a high-level athlete when I was growing up in Israel. I was a swimmer, one of the top in my field, and swam for two years for the Israeli national team. It was a long time ago, but for me swimming was more than a sport. It was a way of life and affected everything I did then, and even today, I believe. I often say to my close friends that the book about my life will be called Swimming Changed My Life. As an athlete, you learn a lot about yourself and your fellow competitors, and in my view, the most significant thing you learn as an athlete is to respect your competitor, whether you win or lose. It teaches you discipline and a great sense of morality.

In the history of the Olympics, we’ve had moments that did not embrace the basic ideas of this event: Hitler and Jessie Owens (1936), Munich and the terrorist attack on the Israeli delegation (1972), the Moscow boycott (1980), and the L.A. boycott (1984), to name a few.

The dilemma for the international LGBT community when it comes to Sochi is clear, but opinions on how to react and respond to the situation in Russia have been mixed. On the one hand there are the athletes who’ve spent nearly their entire lives working toward that moment when they will perform on this huge stage with the best athletes in the world. As an athlete myself, I know that for them, the idea of not going to the Olympics is extremely painful. When I was 16 years old, I was third in my country, and my coach had high hopes that I would swim at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow. She presented me with a four-year training plan she’d built with an expert and wanted me to sign off and commit to four grueling years of working toward that goal. After several sleepless nights, I decided to pass. I wasn’t willing to sacrifice so much. I quit competing and moved on with my life. When the 1980 boycott happened, I was thinking about all the athletes who’d been shut out after a lifetime of working. I couldn’t help but wonder how I would have reacted if I had swum twice a day for 365 days a year for four years, earned my ticket to swim in the Olympics and then been told that because of politics, I couldn’t go. Surely I would have been devastated, to say the least, and I’m sure that the athletes who couldn’t go were!

On the other hand there is social responsibility. Hasn’t history taught us anything? Can we take part in a major event that benefits a country that discriminates against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity? Should we help promote a country that practices unjust policies? Is the common good more important than the good of the individual?

I can’t say that I have a clear answer. I understand both sides, and I am really torn about it. What I do know is that we can’t sit idly by. We can’t be silent! Wrong is wrong. So here are some ideas for what we should do:

1. We invite all active members of the LGBT community and our allies to post our “Missing Link“ sign (pictured above) in your windows, on your cars, on your Facebook accounts — anywhere visible. At the very least, we must make sure that this problem is on people’s minds and in the public eye.

2. At and around the Olympics, everyone from free nations, LGBT or not, should wear a ribbon or the “Missing Link” pendant in celebration of the LGBT community. I plan to sell this piece through the “Missing Link” campaign, and one hundred percent of the revenues will go toward Immigration Equality’s Russia Emergency Fund.

3. Do not choose Russia as a vacation destination or spend money there in any way. Implement a “no honey, no money” policy.

4. Hurt the ratings of the Olympic broadcast by only watching what you absolutely must. Money talks; B.S. walks. Our networks must know that we will not tolerate Olympics in countries that don’t respect all individuals and the Olympics’ original spirit of equality and humanity.

LoveandPride.com and I are starting the “Missing Link“ campaign to help raise awareness about the injustices that the LGBT community in Russia is facing on the eve of the Olympics in Sochi. Like my company, I am committed to fighting for inclusion and ending discrimination against all people.

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No Honey, No Money: States That Hate Will Ultimately Lose Out

Two weeks ago I was walking down Fifth Avenue with Cathy, Sheila, Michael and Robert, four great people who make two great couples. I’ve been a part of the New York City Pride Parade in one way or another every year for the last 30 years, but this was not just another Pride march; it was a victory march! I felt privileged to walk with these warriors who have fought for marriage equality from the start to the now-nearing end!

There is no question that this war is won! It will be completed soon, but it’s not over yet.

I met Cathy and Sheila and Michael and Robert eight years ago, when I launched my Love and Pride website at St. Bartholomew’s Church in Midtown Manhattan. We began our involvement in the fight for marriage equality in a beautiful ceremony of exchanging vows and rings. In front of a full church of 500 people, both couples exchanged rings (that I designed) and vows, and that was the birth of our line, Love and Pride. It was one of the most beautiful nights of my life and the beginning of a great journey: meeting great people from a plethora of amazing organizations and taking part in what I strongly believe is our generation’s primary fight for civil and human rights.

Since that night in the church, I’ve witnessed a lot of victories and as many setbacks. Since then we’ve never stopped finding different ways to help the fight, be it by raising money or by raising awareness.

One of my proudest moments was when, in 2007, we stood with our friends from Lambda Legal in Union Square and launched our 1138 collection, giving to random people on the street 1,138 roses, each with a different federal right attached to the rose. We’re revisiting that statement in our current campaign, which I’ll come back to.

As I walked down Fifth Avenue on a sunny day, with thousands of people on the sidelines, cheering and celebrating LGBT pride, and witnessed my friends’ emotions and excitement as tears rolled down their faces as they marched in celebration of the basic idea that love will always win out over hate, and as I was learning from Cathy that she had been the head of Marriage Equality New York since her first march in 2006, with just four people and six signs), I was thinking to myself, “Every gay man or woman everywhere in the U.S. and the world deserves this, and we must continue the fight.” It’s not over. I believe in the basic Lincolnian idea that none of us is free until we are all free.

So what next?

It is clear that it’s not only the wind of justice that is at our back but, very importantly, public opinion, organization, and money.

Things have changed and continue to change. I believe that if we all continue the fight and don’t stop but increase the pressure even more, we will leave our mark on history, and my children’s generation will live in a much better world than the one I grew up in.

In my view, there are two ways that we can win this battle sooner rather than later:

Politics

We must vote in all elections! In this fight, midterm elections are as important as presidential elections, and governors are as important as presidents. Let’s not forget the 2010 midterm elections and what a different result we got in 2012 when we showed up and voted — and woke up to see that America had taken a turn to the left in many ways, including on gay marriage!

Money

With this weapon we can really make a difference, and quickly! It’s what I call “no honey, no money.” We need to fight with our wallets by letting the public in major states and cities that still discriminate against LGBT persons (hello, Miami) know how much money is in the marriage equality business. We should make them aware of the revenue and prosperity that these events bring to cities and communities that embrace this basic right. (New York is estimated to have enjoyed $275 million in revenue directly from “gay” weddings in the first year!) We also need to rethink where we want to live as people, and where we want to spend our money. Should I go for vacation in a state that treats all people equally, or should I go to a state that discriminates? Do I want to spend my time there? Do I want to buy a winter house there? Do I want to send my kids to school there? Do I want to live and work there? Today — after DOMA — we have a choice and the power, and we must use it.

Let’s find a positive way of explaining to the voters and residents of states that do not support equality that it will be costly. They are going to lose hearts, minds, people and, ultimately, profits. The last thing we want to do is hurt businesses that are run and operated by LGBT people or our allies and family, wherever they are, but today we have the means to research and find out if a business or local government is LGBT-friendly or not. (Goodbye, Trump; hello, W!)

After June 2013’s historic Supreme Court rulings, I feel strongly that we are moving the gay revolution toward its last chapter, but we need to push strong and hard through until we reach the finish line.

In celebration of this great victory, and in recognition of how far we still have to go, we will be delivering 1,138 roses to the Supreme Court steps to show our support for equality and to remind the country that this fight is far from over. You can also say “thank you” by “joining” our event virtually on our Facebook page, which will ensure that your name is written on one of our giant “thank you” cards, or by standing proudly with us on July 24 at 11:38 a.m. on the steps of the Supreme Court.

It’s close, and by clicking and purchasing and voting, it’s in the power of all good and decent people, straight or gay!

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How Fashion Can Spur Marriage Equality Momentum

In 2005 I met former executive director at Marriage Equality New York (MENY) and current co-president of Marriage Equality USA (MEUSA), Cathy Marino-Thomas and her beautiful wife Sheila at loveandpride.com‘s opening ceremony. In front of a large crowd, they exchanged wedding vows affirming their love and commitment to one another. I thought: this woman really knows how to make an entrance. Since then we’ve developed our relationship into a beautiful friendship that’s also a powerful partnership advocating for marriage equality.

loveandpride’s launch coincided with MENY’s rise beyond New York politics and into the national arena. Cathy’s and my mutual admiration led us to join forces and fight for what I believe is the main civil rights issue of our generation — full LGBT equality.

In loveandpride’s short history, we’ve been consistently active in fighting for the community on all fronts — designing special jewelry pieces to raise awareness about LGBT discrimination in our military, the dangers of bullying, and replacing hate with tolerance — and coordinating them with media-friendly stunts to maximize attention.

Our newest endeavor is a special Marriage Equality Pendant I designed specifically to represent MEUSA, and the struggle and beauty of our fight for equality. Two matching dog tags symbolize both our victory over Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and how it takes two halves to make something whole. Couples can choose to engrave and share the tags between themselves. I designed the pendant to be simple, so it would appeal to different tastes. And, I made sure it was affordable too, so as many people as want to proudly wear it can.

2012-07-24-images-MEpendantnewanglehighres.jpg

The best part is: all proceeds go directly to MEUSA. One hundred percent. I’m making no money on it, and I only hope it raises a huge pile of cash for MEUSA. Let’s face it — besides hard workers, great volunteers and influential supporters, money is an essential ingredient for MEUSA to keep doing their vital work, helping overturn discriminatory anti-marriage laws in many states and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and promoting marriage equality at every level of government.

But there’s another level to it, too — one that gets me really excited to think about. If the pendant really catches on, and it becomes ubiquitous — think of the effect that could have on the majority of straight people for whom marriage equality still isn’t on their radar yet. I’m not talking about the haters, but the great many people in the middle. Imagine someone sees the pendant on the person sitting across from them on the subway. Twenty minutes later they notice it around the barista serving their latte at Starbucks. There it is again on the person right next to them in the elevator up to the office. Sooner or later, curiosity will get the best of that person, and they’ll have to blurt out — What the heck IS that thing, I’ve been seeing it everywhere all of a sudden!

I envision a powerful way for people who care about marriage equality to visibly display their support to friends, family and probably most importantly, strangers — -in an election season, no less. This has the power to spark conversations, change minds — and if enough people begin wearing it — I believe it could really accelerate momentum towards marriage equality for everyone. Isn’t that exciting?

Last month loveandpride held an event in THE OUT NYC, New York’s new straight-friendly urban resort, to launch the Marriage Equality Pendant. There was one question every media outlet who interviewed me there asked: WHY? Why — as a straight, married man with two children — do you care so much about the LGBT community — raising both money and awareness? WHY?

I decided to write my list of “whys” to put the issue to rest once and for all:

(WHY) Because I care... (WHY) Because I want to...(WHY) Because I believe in love... (WHY) Because I can... (WHY) Because it’s wrong to deny human rights to anybody... (WHY) Because it’s unjust... (WHY) Because it’s important... (WHY) Because I have friends and family that are a part of the LGBT community... (WHY) Because it’s the right thing to do... (WHY) Because it’s important to me that my children learn about love and equality and protecting the rights of the minority... (WHY) Because it raises money, which LGBT groups need to manifest change in this country...(WHY) Because I believe I can reach out beyond the LGBT community to help.

I like to call myself the “F” in LGBTF — for “Friends & Family” of the community. Only by reaching outside of the LGBT community to build more straight allies will we grow large enough and become strong enough to win this fight.

All the time, I find people questioning my motives because this struggle doesn’t have a “direct effect” on me. I completely disagree with that statement. It does so have a direct effect on me. This is the world that I live in and raise my children in. I share experiences with and interact with people from all walks of life. When anyone is denied their right, I feel it, I see it, and I live it. Inequality is simply not an option.

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Love and Pride: How I, a Straight Man, Fight for LGBT Rights

In 2004 I saw Gavin Newsom interviewed by Larry King on his decision to legalize same-sex marriage in San Francisco. His combination of passion and rationality made a lasting impression on me. I knew I had to become a force to help bring about the acceptance and approval of legalized same-sex marriage across the U.S. But how was I going to contribute? I realized I could use my talent as a jewelry designer to create pieces that were as much social statements as they were fashion statements. I would make wearable art prominently displaying words like “love,” “pride,” “equality,” and “tolerance.” I would reach out to pro-LGBT organizations like the Matthew Shepard Foundation and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and try and collaborate with them. My idea for loveandpride was born.

I’ve been asked many times why this topic is so important to me. I’m a straight, happily married man with the world’s two most amazing children, so why fight for LGBT rights? I’d tell you that’s a really stupid question, except I don’t believe stupid questions exist, so let me explain why the answer is clear, simple, and obvious to me.

First of all, I reject discrimination for any reason. I always wonder whether I would have been asked “why?” if I had been part of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Discrimination is unacceptable in all its forms.

Secondly, for me, it’s personal. I have friends and family members who are part of the LGBT community. Also, many of my colleagues in the jewelry and fashion industries are queer. I like to tell people I’m the “F” (for “friends and family”) in LGBTF.

When I hear conservative rhetoric about same-sex marriage, it always strikes me how critics speak almost exclusively about the bedrooms and sexual behaviors of LGBT people. But marriage is so much more than that! Sex is an important part of marriage, but I believe it’s love and devotion that walk couples down the aisle.

When we launched loveandpride in 2005, we structured it so that a portion of the proceeds from every purchase on the site would go to organizations that support the LGBT community. Besides the Matthew Shepard Foundation and HRC, we are also currently supporting Marriage Equality USA and the Mercury Phoenix Trust. In our seven-year history we have donated over $380,000 to these organizations, as well as to Lambda Legal and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN).

Today, instead of donating a portion of all sales, we frequently partner with one of our favorite causes to design special pieces, donating a full 100 percent of the net proceeds to our charity partner. For example, 100 percent of the proceeds from the “Erase Hate” pendant go to the Matthew Shepard Foundation, and 100 percent of the proceeds from the “Love & Equality” pendant go to HRC.

We’ve also initiated some powerful stunts to bring attention to the inequality dividing LGBT and straight Americans. I was stunned and furious to learn that the number of benefits that the U.S. federal government affords heterosexual married couples but denies their same-sex counterparts is over 1,000 — 1,138 to be exact. Significant financial assistance involving Social Security and tax benefits, and critical matters like visitation rights, are still being selectively granted on the basis of sexual-orientation discrimination. We decided to distribute 1,138 roses — each with a fact sheet attached about our government’s state-sanctioned discrimination — to people passing Union Square’s Abraham Lincoln statue, beginning at 11:38 a.m. We followed that up by collaborating with Lambda Legal on an entire collection of necklaces, bracelets, and earrings for women and men featuring the number 1,138 in every design. The impact and success came on every level, from the public’s awareness about state-sanctioned inequality, to donations flowing to a pro-LGBT organization dedicated to fighting the problem, to establishing loveandpride as a sustainable, profitable, well-known brand not just for the LGBT community but for everyone who believes in diversity, equality, and tolerance.

If I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that you do not find love; love finds you. America was inspired by visions of equality, and I feel strongly that now is the time to fight for the principles this country was built upon — equality to love, equality to marry, equality to live your life the way you want.

Under the Obama administration, we’ve witnessed great progress toward full equality. Obama ended “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and the sky didn’t fall once LGBT men and women began openly serving in our country’s military, just as bravely as all our soldiers. The same applies to same-sex marriage: Ask any Dutch man or woman, or our neighbors in Canada, and they’ll tell you that allowing it brings nothing but good!

I resolutely believe electing Obama to a second term will help manifest what’s been denied millions of people far too long: equality! I’ll fight for this with every tool I have, including talking and blogging about it and donating money, which is the oxygen that pro-LGBT organizations and allies need to continue fighting for these rights. That’s why we chose to celebrate loveandpride’s seventh anniversary, including our expansion beyond jewelry and the launch of our redesigned website, by donating $2,500 in June to openly gay candidates running for office this fall who support marriage equality. We’ll select these candidates according to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund’s endorsements, and our donation will be made through Campaign Political Action Committees (CPACs) that support them. We originally wanted to donate 20 percent of all sales two days in May to these candidates, but unfortunately that runs afoul of complex campaign finance laws, so we had to opt for Plan B.

Personally, besides helping elect officials who will legislate equality, I want to inspire all open-minded, pro-equality people to donate this election cycle. And beyond that, I want to champion the idea that philanthropy is cool, for whatever causes excite you. What I won’t do is sit on the sidelines and allow inequality to continue as this country’s norm.

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My First Gay Wedding

I grew up in the aftermath of the worst Jewish tragedy on record — the Holocaust. My father was a Holocaust survivor — a victim of hate, purely because he was a Jew. As a young boy, he was forced into hibernation from his family for over five years, seeking refuge in strangers’ houses. He constantly feared for his life — and tragically lost his own father and most of his family, all because of hate and ignorance.

For me this is not a story, a movie, or a TV series. This has been my reality my whole life.

My dad never completely recovered from what he experienced, and his suffering took a great toll on me and the rest of our family. Growing up in this environment made it very clear to me that I would not tolerate any hate, and would fight to my core for equality and freedom for all.

As a young man, I moved to New York, where I found a city that embraced me for who I am and for what I have to offer the world. New York is filled with people from all over the globe - all walks of life, all colors, all religions, all sexual orientations. I learned very quickly that you are judged in this city by how productive you are and what’s in your heart, not where you come from, who you sleep with, or who you love.

One of the most amazing people I’ve had the chance to meet in this vibrant metropolis is my dentist Joey. We met through his brother-in-law, someone I grew up with in Israel. I knew Joey before he came out, during, and after — he was always a great guy! Joey became a very successful dentist with a huge practice in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood.

Thirteen years ago Joey met a beautiful man named Roberto. Their meeting was the beginning of a huge love story that blossomed into a beautiful family with three children, who share the same biological mother. They are a true model of stability and love.

When America’s acceleration towards marriage equality (at least, in the more progressive states and localities) swept New York State last year, Joey and Roberto finally won the right to get married — and they were just married last month! I was honored to be invited and proud to be a guest at my first legal gay wedding. I have been a part of the fight for a long time, so for me it was a very meaningful moment. Also, if I knew Joey and Roberto as well as I thought I did, their nuptials would be nothing less than fabulous! For my gift, I chose to give them a set of coffee mugs and shot glasses from Peter Ibruegger Studio, sold on loveandpride.com, the LGBT e-commerce jewelry and lifestyle website I co-founded in 2005. They were registered at Tiffany & Co., but what gay newlyweds don’t need glassware emblazoned with mustaches and bow ties?

Joey is Jewish — something I share with him — and the couple decided to have a Jewish wedding. But they’re gay, and I’m straight. I have to admit — I was confused about what I should expect from their wedding. Would it be “It’s Raining Men” or “Hava Nagila” — oy vey or oy gay?

Well, I got the answer the moment I walked into the reception hall and saw the crowd. I saw children running around, Jewish grandmothers, friends, coworkers, extended family, best friends, but mainly; a whole lotta love. It was not a “gay wedding” — it was a wedding. It was music and dancing and performances, but it was really all about the love and commitment these two men share with one another.

After I decided to write this post, I sat down with Joey and Roberto and asked them a few questions about their wedding - everything from funny topics like Did you coordinate your wedding suits? and Did either of you invite your personal trainer? to more personal questions like How do your children feel about you being married? and whether any of their vendors were initially surprised about working on a same-sex wedding.

There were two answers that greatly touched me that I would like to share with you all.

When asked about how their children felt about the wedding they Joey replied, “Our children were watching the news with us when they announced the passing of the law allowing gay marriage in New York State. They were jumping for joy! My oldest daughter presented this current event orally to her school as a class project. She was very proud to announce that her two dads were going to get married. We had our civil marriage service at City Hall the same day she gave her presentation. At school, she was applauded and thanked by many students in her class. What a great gift it is to be applauded for being yourself!”

Roberto added, “Our religious ceremony and party were on May 12th. After the service, our daughter broke down and cried. She was so touched with joy that our love was finally recognized and applauded. Our son Jacob also cried during the ceremony. He was our Best Man. My youngest daughter, Sophia, couldn’t stop smiling and danced all night at the reception. This was a joyous occasion and triumph for all of us.”

It’s really incredible to see how much a true family unit Joey, Roberto and their children are. I think they are an authentic example of what family is supposed to be, no matter what the dynamic is.

Another short story Joey shared was when he found out that one of his housekeepers who had been working with the family for years decided that their wedding was wrong and that she would not attend. Joey said, “One of my own housekeepers did not come because of what she is taught by her church. She called our marriage an abomination. I really struggled with that. At first, I wanted to fire her and never allow her to be in my house again. But then I decided that would make me exactly like her. She struggled with her comment, and we went head to head on it. I could not understand how she could work for us and accept our gay dollars and be part of my family for years. We thought of her as our friend. When we sat down and discussed why she would not come, she explained the conflict with her church. But I didn’t’ believe she really felt that way inside. Was she really fine with being a part of our life and family — as long as we didn’t have any legal rights? Was it just about the money and not her relationship with us?

I quoted Leviticus to her and pointed out how judgmental of a book it is. I asked her if she eats shrimp, and she said yes. I explained that the book says no one should eat any bottom dwellers. She told me she likes shrimp. I asked: How is this different? You’re deciding to follow certain Biblical teachings, but not really living ‘by the book.’ A few days later she came back to me and reaffirmed how much she loves us, and how I made her think a lot. I spoke with a Catholic priest, who is a patient of mine. He gave me great insight to this situation. He said not to be angry with her. He explained that religion is like a triangle. Some people stay in the corners of the triangle and do not mix what they were taught with what they experience. Most people stand in the middle of the triangle, where what they were taught and what they experience mix and influence each other. She is blinded by what she thinks, when she could instead choose to believe what she wants. The day before the wedding, she hugged me and told me that she respects me and loves our family. It was her way of making it right.”

One thing that I love about Joey is that story doesn’t make him angry. He is strong enough to understand that some people have not been taught about love, and that love is not a decision, but an emotional connection with a person. He proves that by waking up every day with his beautiful husband and their wonderful children and living his life the way that makes them happy.

This is where I go back to my own life experiences, and the way I see the world in the shadow of my dad. Discrimination is never forgiven. It destroys your soul, it destroys harmony, and it stops you and the world from growing and progressing.

If you had the chance to be at Joey and Roberto’s wedding you would have had the chance to see love, to feel love, to embrace love just as simply as that.

Sometimes you learn lessons in school, or at church — but I learn my lessons from life. I learned it from my dad — and as long as I can and have the means, I will fight for equality, acceptance, tolerance, and what always guides me in life — love.

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