Monday, August 31, 2009

Equality Federation Refuses to Endorse October March

Stop talking to buildings, start talking to people
Why now is not the best time for an LGBT march on Washington
By: Toni Broaddus
From the Washington Blade - 08.21.2009

EQUALITY FEDERATION, THE national alliance of state-based equality groups, will not endorse the proposed March for Equality currently being planned for October in Washington, D.C.

Although we cannot endorse the march, we will not oppose it. We understand the importance of a March to many activists — especially our youth — who want to be energized and radicalized by standing shoulder to shoulder with tens of thousands of other people who are passionate about equality for LGBT people. Many of us working in the movement today were inspired to this work by past marches, and we hope that will be true of future leaders.

But at our recent annual meeting of state leaders, the overwhelming sentiment surrounding the proposed march was frustration that our movement would divert any of its precious resources — especially volunteers and money — to converge on Washington without a specific goal and when most members of Congress will actually be in their home districts.

As one of our young state leaders told her Federation colleagues: We have to stop talking to buildings and start talking to people.

This is not the time for a national march. This is the time to be speaking in our own communities, to our elected representatives, to our neighbors and to voters.

For activists who want a life-changing experience, Washington is not the place to be this October. This year, Maine is the place where we are all needed most.

IF THE LOSS of the right to marry in California last year made you angry, you now have an opportunity to fight back against religious fundamentalists and stand up for marriage equality by making sure that we never again fail to successfully defend our hard-won civil right to marriage.
This October, I urge you to take a volunteer vacation in Maine. There, thousands of volunteers are needed to knock on doors, staff the phone banks, organize community meetings and speak one-on-one with voters. You can sign up online, get yourself to Maine, be assigned community housing and an action team and make a real difference in winning and defending equality. Or you can take that money you planned to spend on your $400 airfare and your $300 hotel room in D.C., and donate it instead to the Maine campaign now. As we learned in California, early money is critical to implementing a successful campaign.

Our ability to defend marriage equality in Maine will have far more ramifications for this struggle for equality than our ability to quickly throw together another march on D.C.

EVEN IF YOU cannot travel or donate money or participate in a long-distance phone bank this fall, you can still engage in critical work for equality wherever you live. Do you know, for example, what is happening in your own state legislature?

Over the next three years, state equality groups will be working to pass or amend non-discrimination laws in 20 states, so that LGBT people can find jobs and housing. In 21 states, we will work to pass anti-bullying and safe schools laws so that youth can grow up more safely and valued as individuals — and, I hope, to help stem a wave of youth suicides. In 17 states, we will work to extend relationship recognition to LGBT families and in 14 states we will fight to defeat anti-gay laws that diminish our families.

We cannot achieve these goals in the states without the active participation of community members and grassroots activists willing to knock on doors, make phone calls, attend lobby days, meet with legislators and speak up in their workplaces and churches and neighborhoods.

Each person reading this article has incredible power to make a difference — without traveling to Washington on a holiday weekend. Are you registered to vote? Do you know who all your elected officials are — at the local level, the state level and the federal level? Do they know how you feel about equality for LGBT people?

Achieving equality is not a walk in the park. It is a walk in neighborhoods and communities across this country, where we still need to educate Americans about the meaning and importance of equality to each of us, regardless of our sexual orientation, our gender identity or any of the cultural or ethnic or physical differences that separate us. Equality should unite us.
And equality should begin at home.
Toni Broaddus is the Executive Director of Equality Federation.

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