Cleve Jones is a longtime LGBT rights and AIDS activist and author. He conceived of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt and co-founded the San Francisco AIDS Foundation in 1983. He worked as an intern in Harvey Milk's office in 1978.
Response To David Mixner's Call For A National March On Washington For LGBT Rights
One of the great pioneers of our movement, David Mixner, has issued a call for a national march on Washington, D.C. this fall. In his call to action, David powerfully articulates the frustration and impatience growing among supporters of LGBT equality throughout the United States.
Over the past six months I have been contacted by many of the emerging new leaders of the grassroots movement created in the wake of Proposition 8, some eager to organize a march on Washington. Up until now, I have discouraged plans for a march, based mostly on my memories of the cost and difficulties of previous marches. I also had high hopes for our new President and the Democratic majority in Congress.
As I write this, we in California are still waiting for the State Supreme Court's decision on Proposition 8. Today is the 30th anniversary of the White Night Riots and tomorrow is Harvey Milk's birthday. Next month we will observe the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion and the birth of the modern LGBT Movement.
Across the country, a new generation of LGBT leaders is rising up, learning how to organize, speak out and fight back. These young activists reject compromise and delay; “the tranquilizing drug of gradualism,” described so aptly by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They are demanding nothing less than full equality under the law for LGBT people in all fifty states.
In my travels throughout California and around the country, I have been stunned and inspired by the determination and fearlessness of our young people. This is the generation that is going to win. This is the time to unite and push – as we have never pushed before – to achieve victory.
Sadly, at the very moment we are poised to reach our greatest goals, President Obama and the Democratic leaders of Congress have turned their backs, forgotten their promises and betrayed our trust. In recent weeks House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has stated that repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act is “not a priority.” President Obama has ignored the appeals of brave young people serving in our military as they are drummed out of the services for being gay or lesbian. Indeed, Lt. Daniel Choi who recently “came out” publicly, was dismissed from the army, even though he is a highly valued fluent Arabic speaker and a veteran of the Iraq war.
Apologists for the Democrats counsel caution and patience. They speak of “political reality.” The time has come to change that reality.
I applaud and endorse David Mixner's call for a national march with the following four suggestions:
— Schedule the march for the weekend of October 10 – 11, 2009. This is National Coming Out Day and the 30th anniversary of the first national march. Several subsequent marches and AIDS Memorial Quilt displays have also occurred on those dates. The Columbus Day holiday provides a three-day weekend for many and the weather is generally favorable.
— Have one demand only: “Full Equality Now – full and equal protection under the law for LGBT people in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states.” Let's stop settling for fractions of equality. Every compromise undermines our humanity. We must declare our equality.
— Organize the march from the grassroots with a decentralized internet-based campaign. Keep it simple; avoid bloated budgets and cumbersome structures. The primary objective must be to turn out the largest possible crowd. We don't need elaborate and expensive staging or fabulous dinner parties and concerts – we need a million or more people in the street demanding equality now.
— Encourage and enlist our allies in the broader progressive movement to build the march. Involve the labor movement, racial, ethnic and immigrant communities, progressive faith leaders, peace and social justice advocates and other supporters. LGBT people of all ages and races recognize the challenges facing our nation and our planet. We are eager to stand, as equals, with our fellow citizens in meeting these challenges.
We are on the verge of a new chapter in the history of our country and our movement. There is a bold new spirit and a powerful new resolve within our communities. Now is the time. We are equal.
(cleve jones image – bkusler on flickr)