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Activist Cleve Jones and Milk Writer Dustin Lance Black Call for National Seven-Week Equality Campaign Leading to Inauguration

GuestbloggerLongtime gay rights activist Cleve Jones and close friend of Harvey Milk, who conceived of the AIDS Memorial Quilt in 1983, today with Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, announce the initiation of a seven-week sustained campaign to demand legislators and President-elect Barack Obama draft and submit to Congress a comprehensive piece of legislation protecting the civil rights of LGBT Americans in all areas. Read their message below, and read about the campaign, AFTER THE JUMP...



On Nov. 27, 1978, gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk was assassinated in San Francisco City Hall. Thirty years later, his struggle continues.

On Nov. 4, 2008, millions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans of all races proudly cast their ballots for Barack Obama, helping to elect the first African American president of the United States. On that same day, voters in Arizona, Arkansas, California and Florida approved initiatives denying basic civil rights to GLBT citizens.

Like other Americans who voted for Obama, gay people supported our president-elect because we share his vision of a united America, and want to move forward to address the critical challenges facing our country and our planet.

We have always been willing to serve our country: in our armed forces, even as we were threatened with courts-martial and dishonor; as teachers, even as we were slandered and libeled; as parents and foster parents struggling to support our children; as doctors and nurses caring for patients in a broken health-care system; as artists, writers and musicians; as workers in factories and hotels, on farms and in office buildings; we have always served and loved our country.

We have loved our country even as we have been subjected to discrimination, harassment and violence at the hands of our countrymen. We have loved God, even as we were rejected and abandoned by religious leaders, our churches, synagogues and mosques. We have loved democracy, even as we witnessed the ballot box used to deny us our rights.

Like Obama, we never abandoned hope in the American dream of equality and freedom. We never stopped believing that the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights included us.

We have always kept faith with the American people, our neighbors, co-workers, friends and families. But today that faith is tested and we find ourselves at a crossroad in history.

Will we move forward together? Will we affirm that the American dream is alive and real? Will we finally guarantee full equality under the law for all Americans? Or will we surrender to the worst, most divisive appeals to bigotry, ignorance and fear?

It has been 30 years since Milk gave his life in our struggle for equality. We will not wait 30 years more. We demand that the federal government act immediately, decisively and unequivocally to ensure equal protection under law throughout the United States of America.

We call on President-elect Barack Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to draft and submit to the Congress comprehensive legislation protecting the civil rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens in all areas, including civil marriage, military service, adoption, Social Security, taxation, immigration, employment, housing and access to health care, social services and education.

We call on our country's leaders to take personal responsibility for involving our nation's religious leaders and the GLBT community in a national dialogue to encourage understanding and reconciliation.

We call on everyone to carry this message of hope and equality throughout our nation, to every place of worship, to every school and factory and shopping center, every city, suburb and farming town. We call on you to march together, demonstrate together, to pray together and dream together of a future America where, finally, all are free.

There are rare moments in human history when, suddenly and unexpectedly, the opportunity for great change and progress becomes possible. Obama has shown us the power of hope and the urgency of seizing that moment. Milk has shown us the power we possess when we make our voices heard.

We can accept no compromise.

We can wait no longer.

Now is the time.

We are equal.

READ about the Post-Prop 8 Campaign for Equality, AFTER THE JUMP...

Seven Weeks to Equality [official site]


We call on all supporters of equality to sustain and intensify the nationwide campaign of mass protests and nonviolent civil disobedience, for seven weeks, starting on Nov. 27, the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Harvey Milk, and to then gather together en masse, in Washington, D.C., on the morning of Tuesday, Jan. 20, to honor the inauguration of our President Barack Obama.

During the next seven weeks, we shall:

Strive always to maintain a positive message of hope and change.

Keep organizational structure to a minimum.

Encourage participants to express their anger and determination in creative, thought-provoking and peaceful ways.

Respect the media and law enforcement officers.

Avoid attacking people's religions. Hate language is always inappropriate.

Reach out immediately to racial and ethnic minorities, immigrant communities, labor unions, progressive religious denominations and other organizations working for social change.

Take your actions to downtown retail centers, transportation hubs and shopping malls for maximum impact during the holiday shopping season.

Insist upon a commitment from all participants to nonviolence when planning civil disobedience.

Study the history and traditions of nonviolent action. Angry marches and rhetoric can be cathartic, but do not necessarily help win hearts and minds to our cause. Effective forms of nonviolent civil disobedience often follow the peaceful, dignified and disciplined examples of Gandhi, the Quakers and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Remember always, and reflect in all your actions, that we are not fighting against anyone, or anything. We are struggling for equality.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, go to Seven Weeks to Equality.

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  1. I apologize if this is off-topic, but I have to ask: where is/was the HRC in all of this? I genuinely wonder and unless someone can educate me otherwise, I have come to believe that the HRC is a joke of an organization run by wannabe A-gays, more interested in spending their supporters money on themselves and their do-nothing tuxedo dinner parties. Why is no one calling for their accountability to the community? The only "agenda" Joe Solmonese seems to have is to see himself in the news.

    Posted by: Bastian | Nov 14, 2008 8:20:23 AM

  2. This is undoubtedly inspired and inevitable. But the timing will be extremely problematic. Obama already has more critical priorities than he can possibly tackle in his first year, priorities that affect every American, not just GLBT Americans.

    It would be smarter, more practical, and ultimately more effective to strategize this as a slow build, culminating in something like a Seven Weeks to Equality campaign a year from now.

    If highlighted too aggressively in this political cycle, the opposition and the press will seize on this as a myopic and even irresponsible initiative or, worse, just ignore it. We cannot be seen to be insensitive to political priorities; that will only further marginalize us. Our cause is just and long overdue, but most people are not losing their homes, their health, and their sons and daughters just because we can't marry (I realize it's more than that, but you take my point).

    Let's not go off half-cocked. Ahem.

    Posted by: Rascal | Nov 14, 2008 8:39:18 AM

  3. I agree with Rascal on this one. We are all filled right now with a hope for change that Obama certainly inspired but to demand sweeping new federal legislation right now is impractical and could backfire Let's spend time doing grass-roots relationship building within religious communities and communities of color and bring this to the federal level a year from now

    Posted by: Mark | Nov 14, 2008 9:02:42 AM

  4. I wish that the release date of the movie could be moved up.... it would be amazingly powerful to people that are feeling fired up right now, and help keep the momentum going for protest and demands for change!

    As for the civil actions right now, instead of worrying that we have bad timing, that there are more important causes on peoples' minds, we should really be saying that that is precisely the point... there ARE more important things to people in their day to day lives, and that is why something as simple as our cause should be allowed to be advanced, so that focus can remain on those other things...

    Those that accuse us of detracting from 'big issues' are the ones who are actually to blame for the 'distraction'... if they were able to look past their bigotry, they would be able to restore focus on these causes, it's that simple.

    However, many seem to let their bigotry trump their financial well-being, their foreclosures, etc. Forgive me if I don't feel too badly for these people...

    Posted by: CK | Nov 14, 2008 9:18:16 AM

  5. Bastian, I agree with you on the HRC. I interned with another leading gay marriage advocacy while in law school and realized that organizations like the HRC, Lambda Legal and the like can be useless. The leaders have insisted that we all take a ‘wait and see’ approach. Their main reasoning is that they feel that bringing lawsuits in non-favorable jurisdictions will lead to further ‘setbacks’. Well, I think if you don’t ask you don’t get what you want. This apathetic strategy brought us very little over the past decade, except for some notable victories at various state and local levels. Well done to them, but I think their leadership has failed us overall.

    Posted by: Jason | Nov 14, 2008 9:47:40 AM

  6. RASCAL and MARK:

    there will never be a good time. no one will ever be waiting for us. we have to push, force, and shove to get our rights on their agenda. obama's a big boy - he can handle more than one issue at a time. If it's not the economy, it would have been terrorism. if it's not terrorism, it would have been school vouchers. we've been waiting long enough. it's time to make it happen. not after a year. not after the next election. now.

    Posted by: Nathan | Nov 14, 2008 9:54:55 AM

  7. Obama and Biden oppose Gay Marriage.

    Posted by: joe | Nov 14, 2008 10:17:03 AM

  8. I believe Obama and Biden oppose gay marriage because they're scared of alienating people in their constituencies--not because they are personally oppose marriage equality. I would surmise that they'd come out in support of gay marriage post-2012. The fact that so many of us want it now probably isn't sitting well with them. They'd rather we sit tight and wait (which the HRC is more than happy to concede to doing) rather than actually stand up for what's right. Don't get me wrong; I voted for them because we stand a better chance with a Democratic administration and Democratic Congress. However, in terms of political mapping, we often forget that our "left leaning Democrats" are actually on the right (albeit close to the center) of the political axis.

    Posted by: Jason | Nov 14, 2008 10:32:01 AM

  9. The website at sevenweekstoequality encourages "...all supporters of together en masse in Washington DC, on the morning of Tuesday, January 20..." I've already bought my ticket and reserved my historic-inauguaration-priced hotel room in hopes of protesting for equality with everyone else. I just need to know on which corner we are meeting.

    Hopefully the organizers will include more detailed instructions, otherwise I fear this effort might end up like that of No On 8...disorganized and unsuccessful.

    Posted by: peterparker | Nov 14, 2008 11:34:26 AM

  10. While I agree with all of the comments regarding the ineffectiveness of the HRC, I would like to point out that without Lambda, we would not have gay marriage in any state, and sodomy would still be illegal in many. Lambda is a highly efficient, powerful and successful organization that has directly impacted each of our lives, with numerous legal victories for various gay rights in many states under its belt, not to mention the most profound victory for gay rights in the U.S. Supreme Court in my lifetime, Lawrence v. Texas. In contrast, organizations such as GLAAD and the HRC cannot point to a single legislative, social or political victory for which they can credibly take any responsibility. Lambda is an organization worth our charitable donations.

    Posted by: Ted | Nov 14, 2008 2:19:27 PM

  11. A very powerful, moving and thought provoking manifesto.

    Though I understand RASCAL's and MARK'sI have to agree with NATHAN (and MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. in his "Letter from the Birmingham Jail") that there will NEVER be "a good time" or "a better time", or "an appropriate time", in the minds of oppressors, for the oppressed to stand up and demand fairness and equality. There will ALWAYS be some other issue of importance and there will always be another crisis to distract.

    The fact of the matter is, when it comes to the right time for ending discrimination, segregation and unfairness, the RIGHT time is ALWAYS right NOW.

    Posted by: Zeke | Nov 14, 2008 2:38:37 PM

  12. Good luck getting that ahead of the Economy, the Iraq/Afgan War, and Healthcare.

    Posted by: Matt | Nov 14, 2008 5:00:18 PM

  13. Well Bastien and Jason
    Lambda Legal has never liked the idea of individual taking their marriage rights to court. They do not think the courts favor them and lets face it with the Bush Administration appointments they would prefer we all stay away for a LONG TIME on THIS issue.
    As for HRC, as an org, was founded to focus on the Federal Level. And a lot of us remember the anger state gay org had for HRC cause they felt HRC would divert local contributions, that they could not effectively advocate from DC or just plain power/turf wars. So HRC always trys to be sensitive when it comes to state issues.
    They have become more and more involved and continue to ask the state how they can help.
    With money and resources, with advice at times but I have to tell you HRC had be asked a few times in the No on Prop 8 to NOT be visibe. That local faces and signage would be better suited.

    But here is what they did provide...and you can see this for yourself on their web site

    AND this is dated Oct 17th OK
    The HRC California Marriage PAC contributed 750,000 dollars this week to Equality for All, the coalition in California that’s fighting to preserve marriage equality in California by waging the “Vote No on Prop 8” campaign. This contribution includes a generous incentive gift of 120,000 dollars from Tom Bombardier, John Fowler and the Human Rights Campaign. The donation brings HRC’s total cash contribution to the effort to defeat California’s Proposition 8 to 2.85 million dollars.

    And they helped mobile boots on the ground amatter of fact in the NY Times the other day an HRC volunteer was qouted.
    They also have a state of the art TV station in their DC headquaters that was used.
    At state dinners and the National Dinner direct appeals for contributions and volunteers were made.
    They did work with Marriage Equality CA in whatever way they were lets ask them...remembering that they were also helping elect Barrack Obama president a more open and avail Congress and in MY state of NY were mobilizing money and volunters to defect a Rebublican State Senate so our own marriage law can be brought up.

    Posted by: MCnNYC | Nov 14, 2008 6:15:44 PM

  14. About the Milk film pic:

    were there really "one way - no turn" signs like that in San Francisco, back in Harvey's time?

    I'm thinking no. I hope they used some modern digital technique to remove them.

    Posted by: Chris | Nov 15, 2008 12:22:07 AM

  15. "one-way no-turn" signs? Yeah. There were.
    That is a real picture of Harvey Milk, not of Sean Penn.

    Posted by: Donald | Nov 15, 2008 3:41:39 AM

  16. I should be noted that HRC's contribution to the No on Prop 8 campaign exceeded $3,000,000.

    Posted by: Michael Crawford | Nov 16, 2008 10:48:22 AM

  17. This Cleve project didn't work either? I just heard today the National Equality March has been cancelled.

    Doesn't anyone know how to get anything done?

    Posted by: Mark C. | Aug 3, 2009 11:04:34 PM

  18. Wait - this was a fundraiser, too? Do we know what was done with the money Cleve raised? Any accounting?

    Posted by: Andrew | Aug 3, 2009 11:10:34 PM

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