The road to full equality – the National Equality March
Published Thursday, 08-Oct-2009 in issue 1137
Gay, lesbian bisexual and transgender people and their allies who gather in Washington, D.C. this weekend, Oct. 9-11, for the National Equality March will have plenty of opportunities to demonstrate, collaborate and commemorate.
Event organizers have released a lengthy slate of workshops, seminars, rallies, prayer services, memorial ceremonies and family events associated with the first large-scale demonstration for equal rights for GLBT people to be held in Washington DC since 2000 – the fifth of its kind on our nation’s capital.
“We’re not just joining together to demand equal protection in all matters governed by civil law,” said Tanner Efinger, event coordinator for the March. “We’re also coming together to organize, to strategize, and to give and receive training in how to bring about the change we demand.”
Longtime gay activist David Mixner, who in May called for a national march on Washington “to empower our young and to show the nation that anything less than full freedom is unacceptable,” is among the featured speakers at the Oct. 11 National Equality March (NEM) in Washington, D.C.
More than 30 speakers, representing the diversity of the GLBT community and its straight allies, will take the stage at a rally following the march on the west lawn of the Capitol.
“We are coming to Washington with new messages and new strategies to build our national movement,” said Mixner. “We will have one demand in Washington: full and equal and equal protection for LGBT people in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.”
Joining Mixner on the stage will be the national co-chairs of the march, Cleve Jones, Lt. Dan Choi, and Nicole-Murray Ramirez. Co-directors of the march, Kip Williams and Robin McGehee, also will be speaking.
Civil rights leader Julian Bond, will be one of the featured speakers. Bond was a founder Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and today serves as Board Chairman of the NAACP, the country’s oldest and largest civil rights organization.
Bond likens the National Equality March to the Civil Rights March of 1963. “We had a dream and marched on Washington to demand our rights; I am proud to stand with the LGBT community as they march for theirs,” he said.
St. Olaf college student Richard Aviles will be speaking on behalf of student activists from across the country, who have organized for the march and are descending on Washington.
Also speaking will be Judy Shepard, who lost her son Matthew to a murder motivated by anti-gay hate and who founded the Matthew Shepard Foundation in his memory. The Foundation is dedicated to working toward the causes championed by Matthew during his life: social justice, diversity awareness and education, and GLBT people.
GLBT leaders and organizations join national mobilization for full equality
Equality Across America, the new grassroots network calling for Federal action to protect the rights of GLBT Americans, quickly moved forward with plans for a massive national day of action on Sunday, Oct. 11, with less than five months to plan the event.
Major national GLBT organizations including the Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) have endorsed the march as have local and state grassroots organizations like Join the Impact Chicago, One Struggle One Fight and Freedom Democrats of Miami-Dade.
Oct. 11 has been observed as “National Coming Out Day” since 1988. As well, this year commemorates the 30th anniversary of the first March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.
“We’re marching this October to demand action from the Federal government to protect our rights in all fifty states,” said Kip Williams, one of the organizers. “Real equality can only come from the President, the Congress and the Supreme Court.”
Not only is Equality Across America bringing together veteran movement activists such as David Mixner, Torie Osborn, Cleve Jones, Anne Northrop and Nadine Smith, it will also give the stage to new organizers like Williams and Robin McGehee, who lead the successful “Meet in the Middle” rally in Fresno, California following the California Supreme Court decision on Proposition 8.
“We’ve got people from the Stonewall generation to the Facebook generation working together to win real equality,” said McGehee. “We’re tired of compromises and delays.”
The march in the nation’s capital is necessary to help supporters of equality focus their attention on the Federal government after decades of work at the state and local level according to Academy Award winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.
“The Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees equal protection under the law,” Black said, “but LGBT Americans are still denied that protection, now is the time to push for real equality, in all matters governed by civil law.”
Lt. Dan Choi, also a member of the march steering committee, is working to ensure a strong presence by GLBT and straight veterans at the march. “The majority of Americans reject discrimination in the armed forces, it’s time for Congress and the Administration to move on this and all issues of equality for LGBT Americans,” said Choi.
Equality Across America pledges more than a march as they have recruited volunteers in all 435 US Congressional Districts to pressure members of the House of Representatives. “We want to bring together all the different groups that support equality: young and old, gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, people of all races, faiths and backgrounds from every corner of this country” said Corey Johnson of New York. “We want every member of Congress to know that there are LGBT people and our allies in every single district.”
Equality Across America has also reached out specifically to HIV/AIDS activists, interfaith leaders and Youth organizers to create independent events during the weekend in DC, as well as to state equality associations to build local actions throughout the U.S. in conjunction with the march for those who cannot travel to D.C. on October 11.
“The LGBT struggle for equality is the civil rights movement of the 21st century,” said pioneer activist and City Commissioner Nicole Murray-Ramirez of San Diego. Murray-Ramirez who has been a part of every national march for GLBT rights, since 1979 says, “history has proven for us to achieve full equality we must be engaged in the suites of political power and the streets of activism.”
The National Equality March is scheduled to begin at noon Sunday, Oct. 11. Organizers have worked closely with D.C. authorities to negotiate the route of march, which they say will be a peaceful protest.
Organizers have created partnerships with other groups to create workshops, trainings, seminars and teach-ins throughout the weekend. Parties, concerts and other entertainment are being actively discouraged. “It’s not about another party, it’s about getting to work,” Williams said.
The march and district lobbying campaign are directed by a national Steering Committee of more than 60 members from throughout the nation, reflecting the diversity of the GLBT community. Operating under the auspices of the Tides Center, Equality Across America is a not-for-profit, tax exempt organization.
HIV-positive speakers and performers to be featured
As tens of thousands of GLBT Americans and their allies converge on Washington, D.C. this weekend to march for equal rights, they also will remind the nation and the GLBT community that the AIDS epidemic is not over as well as remember the more than half a million Americans who have died from the disease.
The Equality to End AIDS rally and vigil will take place Saturday, Oct. 10, the day before the massive Equality March. Equality To End AIDS will be held from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on the Ellipse, in front of the White House, and feature an inspiring roster of speakers and performers (most of whom are HIV-positive), culminating in a candlelight vigil.
“The weekend is about achieving full equality for LGBT Americans. We need to use that political power to remind the country that the AIDS epidemic continues. A great many young people will attend the march; we need them to continue the fight against HIV/AIDS,” said Cleve Jones, the founder of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt and one of the National Equality March organizers.
Gay and bisexual men are now 50 times more likely to acquire HIV than any other demographic. Among young gay men, HIV infections increased an astonishing 12 percent each year from 2001 to 2006; the only demographic group to see an increase in infections during that period. Even though treatments have extended life for many people with HIV, recent research indicates that, on average, people with HIV live 21 years less than their HIV-negative counterparts.
“Many of our most energized LGBT activists are too young to remember the devastating impact AIDS has had on the gay community. We must re-engage the larger LGBT community in AIDS activism,” said Charles King, President and CEO of Housing Works, which is the fiscal sponsor of the rally and vigil. “Ending the HIV pandemic is an issue of justice that must be their fight as well.”
Speakers and entertainers at the rally will include singer/actress Sherri Lewis, Broadway actress and former Miss America Kate Shindle, members of the Diva League and Inner Light Ministries Choir, Rev. Kenneth Glasgow, San Francisco Human Rights Commission Chairperson Cecilia Chung, Shawn Decker’s Synthetic Division, poet Brandon Plain, gospel rap artist Desencé, singer/songwriter Dudley Saunders, POZ Magazine founder Sean Strub, Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson and Bishop Rainey Cheeks. Many of the speakers and performers are people living with HIV.
A new generation of activism in media
While the weekend of Oct. 10-11 will see thousands of fair-minded Americans congregating in our nation’s capital for Equality Across America’s “National Equality March 2009,” the March also serves as a call to action for a new generation of activists – gay and straight – to join the movement for GLBT equality. The event’s goal is to reinvigorate the GLBT movement on a national level so participants can take their experiences home to their communities across America and convey the urgency behind their quest for demanding equal rights.
Logo, a division of Viacom Inc.’s MTV Networks, recently announced that it will support the March by participating in a number of events surrounding the weekend.
Most notably, Logo is joining the cause by “going dark” from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (the hours concurrent to the March) to emphasize the significance of the gathering. This is the first time in Logo’s four-year history that the 24/7 channel will not broadcast programming. Instead, a graphic message will urge viewers to visit the Logo Web site 365gay.com for information on the March and how they can get involved on a local level.
For those unable to attend the rally in person, live coverage from Washington, D.C. via Twitter updates will be streamed on www.365gay.com during the March, rally, and all weekend long. 365gay.com has served as an official outlet of information for the National Equality March since it was announced last June.
“The National Equality March resonates strongly with Logo’s gay and straight audience because we all expect equality in all aspects of our lives,” said Lisa Sherman, Executive Vice President & General Manager, Logo. “Our unprecedented action of ‘going dark’ underscores the significance of the event and what Equality Across America is hoping to achieve. Supporting the March reaffirms Logo’s ongoing commitment to the campaign for equality for everyone.”
Additionally, Logo will take part in this historic occasion by broadcasting two days of inspirational programming that look at some of the GLBT communities greatest activists (Bayard Rustin, Allen Ginsberg), inspiring activism stories (“Equality U,” “Rock the Boat,” “Coming Out Stories”), and some of the most pressing community issues (“Tying The Knot,” “The Ride: Seven Days To End AIDS”).
The Gay & Lesbian Times will have correspondents from San Diego following the National Equality March throughout the weekend.
Loyal readers of the publication – and now GLTNewsNow.com – can visit the Web site for complete coverage. Five correspondents will bring the latest up to date information about the March, guaranteeing San Diegans who could not make the trek to Washington, D.C. will not miss a thing. Additionally, Russell Roybal of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force will give you behind the scenes coverage and exclusive interviews that no other news source can give. Be sure to visit www.GLTNewsNow.com as we celebrate National Coming out Day and the National Equality March.