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Watch: Activist Adds Hunger Strike to Campaign Demanding Gillibrand File Bill to Add Gays to Civil Rights Act

Bounville

NYC gay activist Alan Bounville has stepped up a campaign to persuade Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a staunch supporter of marriage equality and a proactive advocate of DADT repeal, to file a bill adding gays and lesbians to the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Bounville is so determined that he has been holding daily vigils in front of her campaign office for weeks, and on the day of the election began a hunger strike.

DNA Info reports:

On Oct. 11, the vigil was expanded to a 24-hour protest and ended early Tuesday morning when Bounville started his hunger strike at an undisclosed location.

On Tuesday night, 18 hours into the fast, Bounville spoke to DNAinfo over the phone.

"I have a bit of a headache," he said. "What's keeping me going is these visualizations of Tyler Clementi jumping off that bridge. I keep replaying that in my mind." 

"The issue is full civil rights right now," he explained, in contrast to the more narrow, targeted battles favored by many mainstream LGBT advocacy groups such as marriage equality, the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and anti-bullying bills.

"None of this piecemeal, convoluted stuff," he said.

But even within the LGBT community, many believe that a campaign like Bounville's should wait for a time when there is broader congressional support.

"You can count on one hand the number of members of the Senate that supports this idea," Richard Socarides, a Chelsea-based gay and lesbian civil rights attorney and former White House advisor to President Clinton, said at the start of the vigil.

"Senator Gillibrand has been probably our strongest advocate for gay and lesbian civil rights in the entire federal government," he added.

Bounville was arrested in May with five other activists after chaining himself to the White House fence in a DADT protest. He was also arrested at a protest in February outside the NYC marriage bureau, demanding licenses be issued to same-sex couples.

In a video recorded at the beginning of his 'Civil Rights fast' on Tuesday, Bounville claims that Gillibrand is not a "friend" of the LGBT community — because no politicians are:

"Many people will say that Kirsten Gillibrand is our friend and that couldn't be further from the truth. Our United States Senators, our President, anybody, our House members, local politicians — none of them are our friends. They are, at best, our employees. Now if someone were to say, 'I think Kirsten Gillibrand is my friend,' my response to them would be 'well then you want her to be your friend.' I don't want my senators to be my friends. I want them to do the work that they are put into office to do."

Watch Bounville's video, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Comments

  1. Oh, please. I admire this guy's activism, but hunger strikes are ridiculous and ineffective unless one is a world figure like, say, Gandhi. This seems to be more about drawing attention to himself than to his cause.

    Posted by: Adam Sank | Nov 4, 2010 12:54:26 PM


  2. Am I the only one who thinks he's barking up the wrong tree? Gillibrand seems like she's already on the right side of the issue, and will be a "fierce advocate" for us. At least give her a chance to do something before hunger-striking her. Geez.

    Posted by: Jacob | Nov 4, 2010 1:01:47 PM


  3. While I admire Bounville's passion on gay rights, I think he's misguided on this one. First off, politicians are not our 'friends' they may be supportive or friendly to our causes, but they are elected officials who answer to those they represent.

    It seems to me he could target much better foes, not real 'enemies' mind you, those who oppose our rights. He'd find most of them at any local GOP headquarters. Thankfully we did not elect many of them here in NYC, but there were many in the outer boroughs.

    I was not happy the way Schumer picked Clinton's replacement, but Gillibrand has proven to be outspoken on gay rights, the only one of the top 7 winners to mention us in her speech on Tuesday. I voted for her, and think she is better than Chuckie is on our rights.

    Posted by: patrick nyc | Nov 4, 2010 1:19:48 PM


  4. I also admire his passion and there's certainly room for radicalism (which also makes the left of center look more centrist). And while he's certainly correct that our representatives are our employees, just like other employees they are people and they respond to relationships. So a good relationship (friendship) will bring better things.

    Posted by: David R. | Nov 4, 2010 1:34:27 PM


  5. David R. brings up a good point-- and one the Republicans learned a long time ago and have used to regularly run over progressives. When you actually HAVE a radical arm of your side, it causes your followers who aren't quite so radical to appear more centrist. Thus, for years, the really, really far-Right gets farther and farther wingnutty, while the simply far-Right looks more and more like THEY'RE the centrists. It strategically pulls the whole country more and more to the right. And if you don't think that's EXACTLY what's been going on in this country for the last thirty years or so, then get out your wallet, cause I have some swampland you're really gonna be interested in buying.

    The left needs to stop navel-gazing every time someone on the left does something genuinely activist-y or impolite (with cries of "oh, deary me! What if we make someone angry or upset! They might not LIKE us!"). We need a counter-balancing force to the far Right, and we're never going to pull things back to the genuine (rather than the phony right-wing) center, unless there is an actual radical, rude, trouble-making arm to Leftism so that those who are genuine centrists can function as GENUINE (rather than constantly further right-leaning) centrists.

    The Repugs don't fret and wring their hands like nervous nellies every time someone on the far, far right does something genuinely activist-y, 'cause they know it serves their ultimate purpose, even if they personally believe that activist is wrongheaded. The Left needs to grow a pair and quit it with the "ohmigod, should this person be doing that? Is this person going too far? What if this upsets someone important?" hand-wringing every damn time anyone does something slightly impolite or activist-ish.

    Posted by: bobbyjoe | Nov 4, 2010 1:56:52 PM


  6. You Go Alan!!!

    Posted by: Bboy | Nov 4, 2010 2:17:30 PM


  7. Bravo Bobby Joe. Completely well-said and on-the-money.

    Why don't the rest of you STFU about some guy who's willing to get sick or perhaps give up his life for his civil rights and YOURS. If you don't like his choice of target, why don't YOU pick a better one to starve yourself in front of.

    Really easy to criticize his self-sacrificing activism from the comfort of your keyboard while you stuff yourself with olives.

    Posted by: Zlick | Nov 4, 2010 2:24:35 PM


  8. THANK YOU ALAN! I must point out that the reason Obama is dragging his feet with equal gay rights is because he wants to be re-elected in 2012 and that wont happen if he wholeheartedly sides with us. But ask yourself if Republicans would come foward like Obama did by stating that being gay is natural and not a chosen lifestyle. Republican presidents ban gay groups from the White House and Obama has appointed over 100 gay leaders!

    Posted by: darlinkula | Nov 4, 2010 2:55:15 PM


  9. @Jacob, Alan HAS given Gillibrand a chance to do something! Didn't you read the article? He sat vigil with signs and banners outside her office for over a MONTH, AND multiple activists contacted her and spoke to her staff about filing the American Equality Bill! Alan is walking the talk, putting it all on the line to get our "friend" to SIMPLY file a bill for our full equality! How judgmental and mean-spirited of some of you to accuse him of doing this for self-glory!

    THANK YOU, ALAN! YOU ARE A HERO AND MY BROTHER!

    Posted by: Audrey GetEQUAL Smith | Nov 4, 2010 3:16:29 PM


  10. My two cents: Alan is doing exactly what needs to be done. I'm glad I'm not doing it.

    So thanks, Alan, for doing this for me and other LGBTQI people. I wish more people, including myself, had stones like yours.

    Ignore those who don't understand. We need all kinds of activism for this movement to continue.

    Posted by: Tanner | Nov 4, 2010 4:15:37 PM


  11. I love Alan, but, the only people who care about this are us. Aim at a Republican, FOX would be all over it.

    Posted by: Derek Washington | Nov 4, 2010 4:40:10 PM


  12. I support the cause Alan is starving himself for.

    Why aren't we hearing more leaders talk about adding LGBT people to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Doing so would make federal discrimination illegal, thus covering marriage, military service, employment, et. al.

    Plus, we have added other classes of people to the act over the years. It has been done before.

    Of course, many Americans don't believe that gay rights are civil rights, but isn't that a fight worth having...

    Posted by: Trog | Nov 4, 2010 5:20:36 PM


  13. @Trog: Exactly my point, too. I spent 2 weeks with Alan and Iana at the vigil, and it was a very powerful, moving experience. Why not make granting LGBTQI rights as simple as possible and take action? I was inspired to write the following letter to Obama, using Gillibrand's office as the return address, since that is the street where we lived during the vigil.

    October 26, 2010

    President Barack H. Obama
    White House
    1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
    Washington, DC 20500

    Dear President Obama,

    Thank you for your service to our country these past two years. I recall the night of November 4, 2008 so clearly. Having voted early with my boyfriend in Manhattan, I opted to spend the winter with friends in northwestern New Mexico, and arrived by Amtrak the night before in Gallup, NM. My friends picked me up at the station, and drove me back, an hour by car, to the high mountain desert landscape where I would spend the next three months. I awoke the next day to find two friends had just returned from casting votes for you; neither had ever cared to participate in the electoral system until you came along (one man was in his mid- to late-sixties).

    That night, all seven of us huddled in one of the few buildings on the land to watch election results around a laptop; this was the only structure on the land where we could pick up the wi-fi signal. The temperature dipped down into the 20’s, then the teens, and there was no stove to heat this small structure, so we shivered and froze and wrapped ourselves in blankets, and were happy to do so; we were happy to use the limited bandwidth and the stored solar power to watch you win the presidency, in the way you had won our hearts and minds. With the crisp smell of victory in the cold air, we stumbled off to bed. Upon waking, the land was covered in silver and white, the first snow of the winter. We awoke feeling a new vigor for our lives.

    You have asked three things of me, Mr. President. The first was my vote. You were rightfully hungry, and I slavishly leaped tall buildings in a single bound to get not just mine, but as many as I could get to feed you. The second thing you asked of me was patience, and that, too, I have given. Finally, I recall that you asked me to hold your feet to the fire. At this moment in your presidency, and in my struggle for civil rights, I am ready to light the figurative match that may just singe your soles.

    I would like for you to take a moment, pull back, and view the world through my eyes. In 2008, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people could get married in the state of California; within months, they were told they could not. Just this month, my lesbian, gay and bisexual brothers and sisters were told they could finally serve openly in the military (transgendered people are still, apparently, unworthy of serving in the military); days later, they were told they could not. We are all still waiting for repeal of President William J. Clinton’s appalling policy of dishonor under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). We are still waiting for repeal of the reprehensible Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), yet another Clintonian boot to our necks. We are still waiting for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). At the federal level, the law of land in America permits employers to fire LGBTQI people from their jobs simply because of who they love or how the align their bodies with their spirits; federal law still allows hospitals to deny access to my husband (that is, if I could marry him), and to make life-altering medical decisions on his behalf that would affect us and our family.

    Our children are killing themselves, Mr. President, because the law of the land is, in fact, one that omits LGBTQI people; the law of the land is one that deems me and my brothers and sisters and our children not worthy of the same dignity and respect as you and your family. Our lives are not valued. As hard-working, productive, tax-paying, loving, compassionate citizens of this country, we are glaringly held up to the world as worth less than every other citizen. This is a barbarous truth; it is a truth that you uphold with your inaction. Your lack of movement to deliver full and equal civil rights actively rallies those who target us with violence. This week’s “Comment” in The New Yorker informs readers, “...hate crimes targeting gays have increased in the past two years.”

    I anticipate your rebuttal, Mr. President. I have heard it again and again. DADT will end on your watch; the Matthew Shepard Act; AIDS funding (your repeated linking of AIDS to gay rights feeds the very monsters who target us as diseased - when have you linked AIDS to racism?); your “It Gets Better” video message to bullied teens. These are estimable acts, a number of which no other sitting President has taken. I will not deny you that. You must understand, however, that we are still waiting for FULL EQUALITY under the law. All of these separate measures are merely political ping pong balls. In essence, they are the equivalent of the “Jim Crow” laws that targeted African Americans as separate (not equal) in the last century. Mr. President, I remain seated far in the back of the civil rights bus.

    Just a few weeks prior to your third birthday, you were gifted with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a gift called for by President John F. Kennedy, and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. You were granted rights equal to those who targeted you and your family, equal to those who deemed your life worth less than their own. Did passage of that Act eradicate racism? Of course not. You must agree, however, that today the Ku Klux Klan thinks twice about lynching African Americans. You grew up to become the first African American President of the United States of America. The gift given you from Presidents Kennedy and Johnson (only after decades that saw thousands and thousands of deaths and incidents of violence) made possible the opportunity for you to reach your fullest potential. I demand you give that same gift to my children. Mr. President, I am commanding you to lead. Let us not forget who works for whom. Now is the time. Pay it forward, Mr. President.

    As a citizen of New York City, I am represented in the United States Senate by Kirsten Gillibrand. Senator Gillibrand has voiced support for legislation that would meet this end. Just over a year ago, Senator Gillibrand stated, “It’s time to extend every basic right and freedom to every member of America’s LGBT community.” As our advocate in the Senate, she now has the opportunity to introduce the American Equality Bill (AEB), so that it may wend its way to your desk. AEB is a very simple, six-page piece of legislation that would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (please see www.aebnow.com). In the tradition of the non-violent civil disobedient acts of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I and members of the group QUEER SOS! have been holding a vigil outside of Senator Gillibrand’s campaign office at 15 West 26th Street in Manhattan since September 27 of this year. Our vigil has been ongoing for 24 hours a day since October 11th (National Coming Out Day). We are demanding of our Senator that she act on her words by introducing, or at the very least go on record promising to introduce, the American Equality Bill (please see www.queersos.com). Yes, we are willing to sacrifice to bring to an end your “separate and yet not equal” policy, Mr. President.

    More importantly at this hour in the fight for LGBTQI civil rights, however, is that you, Mr. President, are the one person whom we have elected to set the moral and behavioral tone of our country. I would have appreciated your video message to bullied teens much more had you stated exactly what you were doing for these suicidal children so that “It Gets Better” for them. You have that opportunity now. I implore you to address the nation and Congress on national television as to what steps you are taking to bring full equality and civil rights to all citizens. You can advocate for these children by calling for AEB.

    Understand that I appreciate the enormity, the immensity, the complexity and the gravity of the job you embraced upon your Inauguration. You inherited possibly the most disastrous state of the union imaginable. I get that. But get this - I will no longer watch idly as my children die at the hands of tacit encouragement by your inaction. Anything less than full equality under the law supports more homophobia, more transphobia, and more violence. Anything less merely illuminates the fact that you, Mr. President, have virtually never drunk from a separate water cooler.

    Compared to the limitless buffet of possibilities available to your beautiful daughters, Sasha and Malia, my queer children, as of now, are starving on mere crumbs. Sexual orientation and gender identity are as unique to one’s humanity as a footprint. I challenge you, Mr. President, to be the man that your daughters probably already think you are. If you truly want health care for all Americans, you will ensure we are all protected equally under the law. Civil rights is health care. Were he alive today, 13-year-old Asher Brown of Houston,Texas could tell you that.

    Call for the American Equality Bill now, Mr. President. Yes, You Can.

    Respectfully,

    Joseph L. Birdsong
    Office of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
    15 West 26th Street
    Waiting Outside for Civil Rights
    New York, NY 10010

    Posted by: Joe Birdsong | Nov 4, 2010 5:40:23 PM


  14. I support his cause and respect and appreciate his commitment, but a hunger strike---if carried out over an extended period---could cause him enormous physical damage and possibly death.

    I'd rather have living activists than dead ones, and many conservatives would be all too happy to see another dead gay men.

    Posted by: Paul R | Nov 4, 2010 6:23:10 PM


  15. Join the campaign for The American Equality Bill (AEB) at: http://bit.ly/AEBnow

    Read the AEB at http://bit.ly/AEBsponsorshipDraftJuly4

    The AEB Project is all volunteer and all grassroots - designed to empower YOU and everyone to take the bill to your Congress person and/or Senator to demand it be filed now.

    With a FILED BILL - the struggle for Equality will BEGIN for REAL!

    Join the AEB Campaign - for EQUAL CIVIL RIGTHS NOW!

    Posted by: Tif, AEB Campaign Facilitator | Nov 4, 2010 7:59:50 PM


  16. Wait, so to protest kids killing themselves, Alan is...killing himself too?

    I've got no problem with radicalism and many of the points raised before this are completely valid with regards to a radical arm of the left being needed to balance the Tea Partiers.

    HOWEVER, Alan has refused to do any homework on the matter and in doing so has alienated nearly every activist he's ever worked with, up to and including Todd Fernandez, who imagined the American Equality Bill (Todd has done everything in his power to distance himself from Alan).

    Schumer would have been a more intelligent target because of his committee positions. A dozen different Congressional members would have been more intelligent targets due to their histories and pull in the House. And yet Alan goes after our biggest ally during her first election campaign. Alan was informed about all of this after he began his actions and instead of listening to anyone else with any kind of experience or expertise on the matter, his pride would now allow him to back down. This action is driven by ego and ego alone. Not every action Alan has done has fallen into this category, but in this particular instance, he has put his own need for attention ahead of the movement.

    Posted by: Chris Reynolds | Nov 4, 2010 8:41:21 PM


  17. Alan is an adult and does not need to be protected from himself. I happen to think he chose a poor target for his campaign, but we need all kinds of non-violent activism to make progress. Shaming people into action does (sometimes) get results when schmoozing doesn't.


    Posted by: Skye Winspur | Nov 4, 2010 9:23:26 PM


  18. STUPID. STUPID. STUPID.

    Activists and their do-anything-for-attention are making us look like complete assholes.

    Now we have suicide by starvation. We have become the fringe of the fringe.

    Posted by: Timmy | Nov 4, 2010 10:31:49 PM


  19. This smuck needs some sleep. Nobody is going to bat an eye that some queen is starving himself. Other than this blog, I haven't seen sqat on the MSM about this boob.

    Posted by: Marty | Nov 4, 2010 11:25:46 PM


  20. alan is willing to die for equal rights. what are you willing to do?

    Posted by: pork | Nov 6, 2010 4:24:34 PM


  21. He already quit! What a pussy.

    Posted by: Dan Choi | Nov 6, 2010 8:07:02 PM


  22. This “suicide by starving” attempt is counterproductive. It is 2010, grow up.

    We make progress by educating people, not by trying to “embarrass, humiliate or shame” people. This childish stunt should be ignored by the media.

    Posted by: Jennifer Long | Nov 7, 2010 12:30:48 PM


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