Over these past few weeks, we've seen building pressure on Obama to act on his LGBT promises from the campaign trail. More and more high-profile military officers have been discharges, two laws related to LGBT benefits and rights were proposed in Congress, several states have legalized or will legalize same-sex marriage, the mainstream media has been actually reporting and asking questions about gay and lesbian troops, and, well, the queers are getting mad.
I've been surprised by the level of outrage and the demand that we do something from the community ever since last year's elections. How many times has someone demanded we boycott a product, company, state, or a country over these past six months? How many times has the impatience become so palpable it spilled all over a magazine cover or ended up as a long screed in the comments of a blog?
Of course, I'm all for acting and speaking out. That's half the point of this website that I (along with everyone else) have devoted so much time to maintaining and promoting (the other half is to listen). The angrier the better, since one of the defining traits of the LGBT community in the period between Andrew Sullivan declaring the AIDS crisis over in 1996 and Obama winning the election in 2008 was complacency.
Is it the massive insult a powerful segment of our community suffered after Prop 8 won? Is it that Bush was a brick wall to hit our heads against on queer issues while Obama looks and sounds movable? Is it that we've finally been able to see that the Religious Right doesn't, and never really did, have the stranglehold over American politics the media always thought they did? Is it that blogs, online organizing, and other decentralizing tools have moved the power to decide how angry we are away from a small group of LGBT journalists, celebrities, and organizations back to the grassroots? Is it the series of state-level marriage wins we've had in New England and Iowa?
And what do we do now? Several high profile gay activists have announced their support for a march on Washington, but is it a good idea?
There hasn't been an LGBTQ march on Washington in years because of the standard arguments against it: it costs of lot of money that could be spent on other projects, it's a logistical nightmare to organize, it won't do that much to push representatives and Senators who don't know whose geographical constituency is represented by the marchers, and it centralizes our demands on the federal government when some of our biggest advances are being made on the state level. On the other hand, it would focus media attention on us, would pressure the White House, and would help organize future actions as people got to interact face-to-face.
David Mixner proposed such a march:
I adore President Obama but not enough to allow his team to delay my freedom for political convenience or comfort. It is unacceptable.
My plea is for our LGBT leaders to call a March on Washington for Marriage Equality this November and if they won't do it, I appeal to our young to come together and provide the leadership.
We need to come together in a display of powerful community unity to empower our young and to show the nation that anything less than full freedom is unacceptable.
And NAMES Project founder Cleve Jones endorsed the idea.
While both their proposals described the need for action, and discussed some of the technical aspects of a march, they didn't really get into how it would be helpful. So I leave the question to you all: is a march on Washington a good idea in 2009?
If we had a march, what would it be about?
The other important question would be: what do we demand in such a march? Mixner already said that it would be a march for "Marriage Equality," not "LGBT rights." He expands:
Clearly there are other issues that should be on the agenda for the march but marriage equality is the lynchpin that deals with so many of those issues. The most striking outside that institution would be the freedom to serve in our nation's military - and that weekend I think we could have a separate powerful event to highlight that.
If the march is about marriage, why would it happen in our nation's capital? That's an issue that's being decided on the state level, except for DOMA and in the very unlikely case where the Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage. DADT, while an important issue for the well-being of those who work for America's largest employer, doesn't encompass near as many workers as would be encompassed by ENDA.
Add to that the fact that there are so many other issues that are causing impatience and anger in our community. Employment discrimination, school bullying, police arresting gays who just want a little love, trans folk being hassled over bathrooms, hate crimes, poor media representation, abstinence-only education, the gay-straight income gap, and every other insult and injury we face on a daily basis are what's making us angry, not just DADT and DOMA, even though they're a part of the problem. I'd hate to see those experiences on all fronts be co-opted by the movement against those two laws.
Cleve Jones says that the march should be about:
-- 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.
I assume "full equality" means legalizing same-sex marriage.
Is it possible to decide on something to march about? Not something that we'd all agree about (as if that were possible), but something that would easily understood, speak to the majority of LGBT people, and would help us materially? Marching for "LGBT rights" won't cut it. There's more anger and energy in our population over the past half-year than there was in the last decade, but is it about tangible harms to us or is it about us being insulted?
But we would need a unified message so that it seems like, you know, we were mad about an issue and then decided to march, not the other way around. If we did do a march, what would it be for?