The Alliance for Full Acceptance (AFFA), a Charleston-based organization focused on promoting LGBT “Acceptance Without Exception,” has been extremely active the last year.

Aside from building coalitions with the NAACP, Camp Hope (a program for at-risk children), the S.C. Progressive Network and the Unitarian Universalist Church, AFFA grew 12 percent and now has between 450 and 500 members.

According to a statement from the Board of Directors, “We have made a whole lot of both small steps and large strides and there is no denying that all of them put together have produced some real change and acceptance here in Charleston. The GLBT community is out, active, and contributing positively to the Charleston community like never before.”

In 2007, AFFA also sponsored speaking engagements at multiple South Carolina venues and worked with Winthrop University on a study of long-term care needs of imminent retirees and the particular health concerns of LGBT workers in the state.

Other public outreach projects received national news coverage. The organization was responsible for a series of billboards along I-526 that presented a message of acceptance to people coming into and leaving Charleston. Movie theater advertising was also placed. Although a single complaint led to the removal of the ad, it was visible throughout the busy Thanksgiving holiday.

Another successful media campaign targeted radio. AFFA produced a series of 24 radio shows, all hosted by Charlie Smith, a local real estate broker. The program focused on local and national LGBT issues and grew to be the most listened-to talk show in its timeslot.

The organization was also instrumental in obtaining local press coverage of Sean Kennedy’s anti-gay murder. Before representatives pitched the story to the Post & Courrier there was no coverage of the slaying in the Lowcountry. AFFA facilitated an interview between the local press and Elke Kennedy, Sean’s mother.

Apart from its advertising and media efforts, AFFA administers grants from the Freeman Foundation, which are used to assist groups that serve LGBT youth in the Carolinas. In particular, the monies are disbursed to organizations that support LGBT youth during their coming out process. This effort is crucial because the groups funded help queer youth develop a sense of empowerment and leadership.

AFFA helped families with LGBT members by offering support meetings, social activities and printed resources. Over 25 families participated on a regular basis and the special events — picnics, zoo trips and parties — were marked by a sense of camaraderie and community.
Added to all this, AFFA, which is a non-partisan organization, took steps in 2007 that changed the political landscape in South Carolina.

Individuals within the group were involved in the establishment of the new South Carolina Stonewall Democrats, a group that aided the volunteer effort for Charleston to host the historic CNN/YouTube debate. The event marked the first time in presidential election history that the public provided the questions for the candidates.

AFFA was influential in the decision of the South Carolina Democratic Party to set a goal of including three openly LGBT delegates in its contingent to the National Democratic Convention. On the GOP side, AFFA met with with Log Cabin Republicans and S.C. Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn McConnell to bolster support for LGBT-inclusive hate crime legislation introduced by Sen. Robert Ford and Rep. Seth Whipper.

Last fall, when the Human Rights Campaign announced it would support a non-transgender-inclusive version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), AFFA expressed its strong support for the original version that included protections for the entire LGBT community.