Coming Out in the South: “We Decided We’re Tired of Living a Lie”

July 8, 2014 by Eric Cameron, Digital Media Specialist

When English teacher Tippi McCullough and her partner of 14 years Barbara Mariani traveled from their home state of Arkansas to New Mexico to marry, they expected it to be one of the most joyous days of their lives. Forty-five minutes after exchanging their vows, McCullough received a call from the Little Rock school where she had taught for 15 years telling her she was fired for signing a document that declared she was, in fact, a lesbian.

In 29 states, it's legal under state law to fire or refuse employment to a person based on sexual orientation, and 32 states lack explicit laws banning discrimination based on gender identity. Barbara and Tippi’s story helps illustrate the real work yet to be done in securing equal rights and protections for all LGBT Americans, and yet for Barbara and Tippi, it also illustrates the critical impact they can make by sharing their stories with their friends and neighbors.

“If you want progress, you have to have people come forward and say, ‘Hey this is normal. This is okay.’” says Barbara. “Because it’s that silence that perpetuates the discrimination that we have here in the South.”

Watch Tippi, Barbara and other LGBT Arkansans share their stories in the video below:

This summer, join Tippi, Barbara, Ty, Andrea and others across the South as we begin the conversations we need to move equality forward. HRC will provide you with all the tools and resources you need; all we ask is that you get the conversation started!

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