Bil Browning

10 reasons why a march on Washington is a bad idea

Filed By Bil Browning | June 08, 2009 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: Cleve Jones, gay marriage, March on Washington, marriage equality, same-sex marriage

Chalk this up as one of the worst ideas ever. Speaking at Utah Pride yesterday, Cleve Jones announced plans for a march on Washington on October 11th. Of course, the focus will be on marriage equality. Witness the headline: "March on Washington for gay marriage rights is being planned for Oct. 11".

An activist who worked alongside slain gay rights leader Harvey Milk announced plans yesterday for a march on Washington this fall to demand that Congress establish equality and marriage rights for the lesbian, gay, and transgender community.

Cleve Jones said the march planned for Oct. 11 will coincide with National Coming Out Day and launch a new chapter in the gay rights movement. He made the announcement during a rally at the annual Utah Pride Festival.

There are 10 major reasons why this a horrible idea. My reasoning after the jump.

UPDATED: Pam Spaulding agrees that the march is a waste of time. The comments section on her post is full of interesting conversation worthy of checking out too.

  1. Planning a huge march on Washington isn't something you can throw together in five months. There's a lot of logistics required - hotel rooms reserved, acquiring the necessary permits, coordinating with DC police, laying out the purpose, program and messaging, etc.
  2. While National Coming Out Day is a swell time of year symbolically, the Mall is already reserved - and usually is up to a year in advance. With two other large events scheduled there already there's no way you could fit even more people in the space. My sources tell me that Cleve and Co have already been denied a permit for that day.
  3. Congress isn't in session on October 11th. What's the point of holding the march on a day when none of the participants can lobby the actual folks who can solve our issues? We'd be better off staying home and trekking to our Congress person's offices than going all the way to DC for a big gay circuit party.
  4. None of this has been coordinated with anyone other than a small circle of people. None of the large organizations have been consulted - although that's not necessarily a bad thing if you've got the grassroots behind you. A small circle of people is not the grassroots though; it's just a different cadre of wanna-be movers and shakers.
  5. This year's marriage fight isn't in California. It's in Maine. Maine voters will be facing a referendum to repeal* the same-sex marriage law the state recently passed. We've already lost in California; it's time to move beyond and focus on where it makes the best sense strategically to make a stand. Sucking time, resources and queerpower to work on a do-nothing march on DC is a tactical mistake.
  6. A march on Washington will not bring marriage equality to flyover country. It will help to prod conservatives to rally and focus energy and money into states like Maine (that could repeal marriage) or Indiana (where we've successfully fought off an amendment every year for almost a decade). In their zeal to bring marriage back to California, the coastal queers are willing to sacrifice us on the alter of domesticity.
  7. California is not the end-all-be-all of queer America. They've already sucked a huge amount of cash from our movement and middle America. Look at Arizona's amendment battle - which they'd already won once in an election - and how little money was donated to fight their second battle. The amendment passed this time after they were heavily outspent by the Mormons and affiliated groups. California will see marriage back on the ballot soon; they should march and organize in the state that will be voting. They need to reach California voters and not the folks in Arkansas.
  8. In this economy, not too many of us can afford to take a vacation to DC on such short notice. Those of us lucky enough to still have jobs don't want to take chances asking for time off to travel to DC. I'd rather make the house payment than buy plane tickets for two to DC, pay for a hotel while the city is already full of other events, buy incidentals and meals, etc. Travel costs alone is a house payment for me and there's not nearly enough time to budget it in. What happens when you throw a march and no one shows up because they can't afford to go?
  9. The majority of US queers still need basic protections from discrimination. So little emphasis has been placed on helping us achieve that basic hallmark of civil rights that a national effort is the only chance we have for protection. While the first paragraph claims the march is "to demand that Congress establish equality and marriage rights," the only section both the media and middle America is going to see is "marriage rights."
  10. Look back at the headline of the article quoted, or the fact that all of Cleve's quotes are about Prop 8, California and same-sex marriage to see how the spin on this is going to go. That vague term "equality" has already been devalued from the first headline. This is a public relations nightmare for flyover country.

Anyone got a good reason why we should march this year other than it would make us feel good to vent a bit since this won't accomplish anything useful? Any other reasons than "Because we want to!"?

*I made a correction to the post above to clarify that Maine isn't facing a constitutional amendment, but a repeal of the recently passed legislation allowing gays and lesbians to marry.


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Marches are for beggers - Tax Revolt is one way to demand. I'm tired of begging for what is mine to take. And yes, I feel 100% entitled and deserving of full federal rights RIGHT NOW, not in spite of the fighting gay-rights activists have done for decades but perhaps because of it.

New generations are being born everyday who grow up NOT seeing themselves as UN-equal; hopefully they will demand what is theirs to take without apology nor timidity.

Angela Brightfeather | June 8, 2009 2:28 PM

Reason #11.
If we march on DC at all, it should be for Hate Crimes, ENDA and DADT before mariage rights.
(Why you ask.)
Because incrementalism works both ways and we have been waiting far longer for basic human rights than for marriage rights.
Reason #12.
The last time this was tried, it almost destroyed HRC and people had to bail out one million bucks for the elephant in the room to be forgotten.

Because incrementalism works both ways and we have been waiting far longer for basic human rights than for marriage rights.

I think you just became my new hero for that!

I'm going to take this a step further and say that I flat-out don't give a crap about marriage rights. In fact, I find putting LGBT and marriage rights in the same sentenct to be an oxymoron. Same sex marriage does nothing for 25% of the acronym. I'd rather fight for ENDA and civil rights that benefit _everyone_ than whine about who I can and cannot marry.

And Bil is right: Flyover Country is going to be hit hard by this.

Matt Moonen | June 8, 2009 3:15 PM

Great post, Bil.

I just want to correct one thing: Maine is NOT voting on a constitutional amendment this fall. What will be on the ballot is a "People's Veto" of
the recently passed marriage law. If the Yes side wins, the law will be repealed. If the No side (us) wins, the law will be upheld and same-sex
couples in Maine will be able to marry. The constitution will not be affected either way.

Thanks Matt. I clarified the point above. You're right, an amendment is different from a repeal effort; I should have been more careful with my wording.

You already know my thoughts on this, but I thought I'd point this out as something that I don't think lgbt's really get:

None of this has been coordinated with anyone other than a small circle of people. None of the large organizations have been consulted - although that's not necessarily a bad thing if you've got the grassroots behind you. A small circle of people is not the grassroots though; it's just a different cadre of wanna-be movers and shakers.

that doesn't really explain it, but yeah. And i'd also like to point out that there's nothing wrong with the large orgs organizing something, and there's nothing wrong with something truly grassroots if it's a good idea. But this is neither.

You are obviously not familiar with the Human Rights Campaign. (I'm looking at you.)

Ummmm.... really? I think I've heard of them. They're a Danish disco revival band, right?

11. You didn't think of it first.

Because let's be honest, that's what this is about. One of our biggest problems is that we have no real national leader. Lobbyists who throw cocktail parties and spa weekends (I'm looking at you, HRC) don't count.

No one's risen to the top and to be blunt, people are too busy jockeying for position and undercutting someone else's efforts to do the work of actually leading.

And hell no, I'm not volunteering for the job.

You raise a good point, Matt. The various movement leaders are jockeying for position right now. Every group wants to be the lead org and many activists think they have the best plan. Until we've settled on someone or some group, I fear we'll remain as fractious and divided as possible.

Douglas Gibson Jr | June 8, 2009 4:13 PM

And who's fault is this? Who cares who is in charge. Let's just make some noise. It doesn't matter if you don't like it or I don't like it - someone likes it and wants to do it, so let them and get off their backs. You don't have to participate if you don't want to.

Reb Huggins | June 8, 2009 9:57 PM

Well, I'm all for letting folks do what they want, but we do need to consider the message sent for the whole community. This is proposed large event that even international eyes may be watching. Surely you don't want it to end up a disaster of some sorts? Let's have an equally attention-getting event, better planned for greater efficacy.

I certainly agree!!! I don't feel as if a true leader and organizer of LGBT rights, or social/civil rights has come out of the darkness.

Much appreciated. And as a Californian, I definitely want to say that the many, many serious brushfires you cite all over the country -- Maine, Arizona all over -- require a hell of a lot of attention and resources from the rest of the nation. .

This is one of the reasons I'm not eager for a 2010 ballot fight here, so fast on the heels of this last year. I want the energy and focus and ideas elsewhere, nationally, where the battles are already picked for us by legislation or campaigns in process. Meanwhile we regroup here thoughtfully, and, on a 1:1 level, without the bright lights & the costly campaign stuff, we Californians engage our fellow citizens in dialog.

Douglas Gibson Jr | June 8, 2009 4:10 PM

And I don't care about ENDA, because I have an employer who doesn't care if I am gay or not. We should all support everyone's rights.

Paige Listerud | June 8, 2009 5:39 PM

Glad to hear your employer is so broad-minded as to think your personal life is not his/her business concern. I hope in this time of economic downturn you will be laid off for some other reason and be forced to work for someone who is not so sensible.

Douglas Gibson Jr | June 8, 2009 7:26 PM

Did you not read my post correctly? I said that we all should be supportive of each others issues. There was sarcasm in my post that you obviously missed. Oh and by the way, that GOD I chose to do something helpful to people over my lifetime instead of making myself rich. Because of that I do not have to worry about being laid off or having a mortgage that I can't afford. Once again, I say I thank GOD>

After the Jump | June 8, 2009 4:55 PM

I'm glad our community is taking an interest in helping. I wish we had this much help before Prop 8. I would however like to think we're smarter than constantly assuming things before reporting them on blogs and various soc net spaces. Here are some clarifications on the march. 1. The march organizers are thus far made up of dozens of community members that encompass larger orgs and grassroots groups from all over the country. They continue to reach out to put together a vast variety of members from every corner of the country including the fly over states. 2. D.C. has been contacted and the organizers have excellent and personal connections there. Be happy that we're connected. The other orgs that are so-called having marches have thus far not followed through and therefore are most likely ghost events. For example the so-called Million Man March for God has not responded to Mall Police requests for information after several tries and therefore probably not even marching. They have made no travel arrangements either. The permit has NOT been denied and is in fact in the process of being approved for our march. So check that anonymous source off your list as reliable. 3. The march isn't a - wear colorful clothes and blow your whistle - kind of march. It is rather a calculated effort to organize groups from all over the country. Specifically Cleve Jones (a lifelong activist and creator of the AIDS Quilt or Names Project) has designs on putting together leaders from each of the 435 congressional districts to take this movement to the next level for ALL our rights. Cleve makes it very clear in his speech at Salt Lake pride (carried by over 250 news organizations) "We ask for nothing more or less than full equality in all 50 states in all things governed by law" I'm paraphrasing. The point being this isn't about Prop 8 or California... it is in fact about ENDA and DADT and DOMA and state recognition of marriage equality in all 50 states. 4. The march does not have to be and will not be expensive. This is not a march of the 1993 variety. That is to say this isn't food booths and after parties. This is an effort to further organize and solidify those already organized in all 435 congressional districts so that we can have boots on the ground moving forward to do the real work. This is our way of being better organized than the opposition (who is very organized) in a governmental way and a way to reach every corner of the country for full equality. So if real work and real organizing turns you off this probably isn't for you. But if you're serious about winning, serious about expanding our movement from rallies and marches to real precinct work, with tabling and canvassing then this march is for you. I hope this clears some things up and that you will all join this effort to strengthen our movement. We need all hands on deck! Go here for more info: http://www.nationalequalitymarch.org

Matt Moonen | June 8, 2009 5:06 PM

If you were serious about "real organizing and real work," "real precinct work," and "canvassing" I would think you would want people to converge on Maine in October, just a few short weeks before the whole state votes on marriage. But instead of real precinct work and canvassing, you're sending people to DC...

After the Jump | June 8, 2009 5:19 PM

This is exactly the point. We're sending people to D.C. to organize local congressional based groups to be able to act in Maine and everywhere else. We are done picking and choosing pieces of equality. The time is now for full federal and every state equality. The march will solidify this organizing so that in an instant support can be had in Maine and everywhere else. Wishing and hoping for it are so 2008. Its time to put the ideas into action and the action into place as trained, informed organizers in all 50 states. See you in D.C.

http://www.nationalequalitymarch.org

Matt Moonen | June 8, 2009 5:40 PM

Nope. I will be in Maine working on the campaign. Doing things like, you know, canvassing.

Spectacular. So according to your logic, you'll have one person in each Congressional district in Maine trained the "March on Washington way" less than a month before the election. What good is that going to do? Those people need trained long before then. And if you draw more than one person per district to DC, that takes them away from working for change in a place where a battle line has been drawn. It's a waste of time that could be better spent elsewhere.

I agree with Pam and Bil; this is a BAD idea. I support marriage equality. HOWEVER, I would like to not have to worry FIRST about getting hired or fired because of my sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. Get me MY rights to live a a human being (read: inclusive ENDA) and then we'll talk about a march on DC for marriage equality.

We may pick and choose our fights, but why fight and waste precious resources (money) when you KNOW from the outset you cannot win? That's what this march is: a pointless waste of resources. President Obama has already said he wants marriage left up to the states. Maine and places like that are your battleground, not DC.

As for me, no I won't see you in DC. I have been unemployed for OVER 16 months. I can barely afford my bills; the trip to the state capitol for Lobby Day took what little spare cash I could scrape up for gas and such. A trip to DC is totally out of the question. You'd have to get 50 busses to bring people to DC for free AND pay for their housing, too. Who would pay for all that? You? Fat chance, right? Exactly.

Stop wasting any more of your time and resources. Drop the idea now.

Great post, Bil, and I completely agree with you: Yet another March on Washington is a terrible idea for all the reasons you stated.

There's one more aspect of how the awful economy affects this: We're in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. If a bunch of folks make a trip to Washington to have a rally, how will that play among the majority of Americans who are losing their jobs, homes and healthcare or are afraid they might soon? It will make us look like self-centered, probably rich, crybabies with whom the majority has nothing in common.

Let's not kid ourselves: That's exactly how it would come across in the mainstream media, let alone the right wing media. When times are bad, people look for others to blame, to lash out at. We won't win friends and influence people by having an expensive rally in DC while they fear the possibility of total personal financial collapse.

That's another reason why another march would be a huge tactical mistake.

I'm with you, Bil. With all respects to Cleve Jones, who is a redoubtable pioneer, the march MO that worked so well for us in the 1970s is not something that works for us today.

Among other things -- our enemies aren't impressed if a lot of us march. They don't care if we're angry. If we turned out a billion people in the Mall, they would still quote the Bible against us because they believe they're "right." The people in Congress who are open to our arguments already know how many of us there are.

I would rather see our resources and energies put into efforts that is more practical, and surer to get some results.

Plus I think that all the "secret meetings" are going to stir up a lot of disgust in the community, and will diminish support for the march.

True that. They know we exist. That's not the issue.

They turned out, what, 12 million people for anti-war protests right before the war in Iraq, and didn't Bush refer to that as a "focus group" or something like that? Let's move on.

Consider this, also. The progress we're making is at the state level, not with the Feds, who, by the way, will follow when there is a critical mass of progress in the states.

Also consider that 200 people from Bangor, Maine, will make little or no difference at a march in Washington. On the other hand, if they march at home in Bangor, they are quite likely to have greater impact and get local coverage which is where it matters. And if another 200 march in Portland...

Arranging for people to march locally will be much easier, less expensive and far more effective than a march on Washington. So Pam, Bil and Karen are correct, IMHO. And if there are similar marches occurring on the same day in Wichita, Laramie, Stockton, Bellingham, Joplin, Beaumont, Akron, and everywhere else (March Across America - without leaving home!) we will continue making the progress we need so that Barack Obama and his administration will wake up and follow along.

I completely agree. This would also deflate the "wasteful spending" image because folks would be spending money in their own states and communities. If march proponents really have fostering local action as a goal, wouldn't it be better to act locally in the first place?

A better use of resources would be to march on State capitols on October 11th. If there were 50 marches in 50 state capitols on National Coming Out Day that might send a message to the populous and state legislators who actually vote on or make law.

Very good idea! In fact since we wish to have equality in all fifty states instead of state by state wins, we might actually prove a greater point if everyone inside of their states marched... and then at some point in the near future, march together in Washington!

Douglas Gibson Jr | June 8, 2009 7:33 PM

Thanks to the responses from http://www.nationalequalitymarch.org. Now if everyone would just read them before they make a comment about why the march is such a bad idea.
Go Cleve!

Douglas, when I visited the site you mentioned, I saw no responses. It was a very simple webpage to sign up for updates on the march. It had no links, no comments, not even text telling us why a march is a good or needed event.

What am I missing?

I'm confused about where this focus on individual states and marriage equality is coming from. It sounds like Jones is calling for an LGBT civil rights march. Not just a marriage equality march and not a Prop 8 march. At least, that's what it sounds like here:
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hpk3P3mSaLRU6GIpbJTi-0zWpZkAD98M3QO00

A lot of young people were galvanized for LGBT rights in the past year. Why not take advantage? A march could keep the momentum going and maybe build up some more.

Why is Cleve up in arms? Prop 8.

What did the media pick up as the headline? Gay marriage.

What's the hot topic in the news right now? Gay marriage.

When you talk to the average person on the street right now, what do they think is our most important priority? Gay marriage.

There's no way we can avoid that "equality" is going to get overlooked for gay marriage.

So, why can't we bridge the message? It's a basic PR technique. Gay marriage is only what attracted the media's attention, now all we need to do is shape the message the way we want it. When the media ask their questions, we give them a taste, then insert our own planned message. For example:

Mr. Reporter Man, "How has Proposition 8 affected the gay rights struggle?"

Us, "Prop 8 fueled the fire, but we want to remind everyone how much work still needs to be done on hate crimes legislation and ENDA."

or

Mr. Reporter Man, "Why is gay marriage so important to you?"

Us, "Gay marriage is certainly important, but equality is most important to us. Equality in the workplace, equality in the courts and equality in the military. Wedding vows are only an extension of full equality under the law."

We don't need to let the media control the message. They can only use the soundbites we give them.

"The march does not have to be and will not be expensive."
Apparently you haven't paid for a hotel in DC recently! If there is *any* other event in town AND a march on Washington, hotel rooms will be a minimum of $200+++/night. The federal rate, which is usually a lowish median price, for hotels in October (the highest of the year) is $233/night. You have to spend at *least* two nights and more realistically three for an event like this. So, you are looking at $500-700 minimum just for the hotel, which doesn't include travel, food, drinks, etc. Even with roomates to share the hotel costs, this runs into real money. Frankly, expecting people to shell out about $1000+++ each for an event like this IS expensive and unrealistic given the current economy.

not sure why an afternoon march on a sunday requires a 3 day hotel commitment in d.c. or even one.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | June 8, 2009 9:07 PM

Why does the threat of a series of mass marches in DC and SF, or regional and local marches and rallies frighten Democrats?

Because they unleash the pent up anger of our communities and direct it at the Congress and the White House, both controlled by bipartisan bigots.

Because building them creates new political formations independent of and opposed to the two parties of bigotry.

Because they allow the movement to raise a serious program of militant cutting edge demands that lobbyists would never have the guts to raise with Congressbigots. Lobbyists value their ‘power’ relationships with movers and shakers like Reid, Kennedy, Pelosi and Barney Frankenstein who’ve all demonstrated that far from being our friends they can be our bitter enemies.

Examples of this independent, militant program are:

1) Passage of an omnibus anti-discrimination bill that would make it easy to win awards from bigots who discriminate in housing, education, employment and access to social services and medical care. (The current laws are restrictive and make it hard to sue. ENDA would have changed that which is why the Democrats and Republicans ganged up to shred ENDA.)

2) Passage of a law mandating harsh prison terms for bigots who discriminate or who call for or endorse violence.

These laws should apply equally to our LGBT communities, the pro-choice and women’s movements, African Americans, Latinos, Asians and Pacific Islanders, immigrant workers and trade unionists.

3) Demanding that the White House order the dismissal and courts marshal of any military officers guilty of bigotry.

4) Demanding that the White House and State Department open US Embassies and Consulates to GLBT folks fleeing death, torture or imprisonment at the hands of homobigoted governments like the US puppet governments in Iraq, Afghanistan and Central America.

5) A Manhattan Project to fund research, treatment and social services for those affected by HIV/AIDS and other killer diseases.

6) An end to bailouts and welfare for the looter rich until every American has a good job, good housing, good nutrition, good medical care and good education.

Can you imagine Joe Solmonese buttonholing Nancy Pelosi (one of the richest members of Congress with a fortune estimated at $131 million) and demanding that welfare for the rich be ended to pay for needle exchanges and condoms to help addicts, faggots and people in minority communities?

In the long run a combination of persistent mass marches featuring cutting edge, “won’t take no for an answer” demands is what will bring us victory while continued reliance on bigots in Congress and the White House will just add to our string of defeats.

Are the people suggesting a march on DC the same leaders who got us into the fight for marraige in Hicksville California? I think we've taken enough of their advice. I'd prefer to forget about marraige and concentrate on job security, housing protection, safe schools, etc...
We should be looking for leaders who understand that politicians aren't saints, who don't live in a self righteous dream world, but who are rational enough to create effective strategy. Where we could find such people in this self destructive crowd is anyone's guess.

Donna Pandori Donna Pandori | June 8, 2009 10:29 PM

What's the point of a march when no legislators are going to be there. This is stupid.

Further, reading these posts prove how divided our own community is - "my issue is more important than your issue". Give me a break.

What are we fighting for? EQUALITY! Equality encompasses all issues - Marriage, DADT, ENDA, etc. You can't prioritize elements of equality, all elements are important. Someone who doesn't have a family can't fully relate to the importance of marriage, someone with a LGBT friendly employer can't fully relate to the importance of ENDA, someone who has never served in the military can't fully relate to the importance of DADT. We need comprehensive civil rights legislation. Screw this piecemeal crap. AND we need it at the federal level.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 8, 2009 10:55 PM

Obviously what is needed is more centralized planning. We need a "federation" of all LGBT orgs so that we can control our message. It's formation should be as public as possible and fully reported on the Gay media outlets and whatever mainstream outlets that wish to cover it. It is time for each org to give up something to center around core issues. Whomever leads is far less important than an organized theme and plan of action. Not all orgs will choose to belong, but it is time for us to have a 500 pound gorilla rather than many 15 pound gorillas shooting off ideas from the hip that underscore our disorganization and lack of unity.

And yes, those organizations that form the federation should also plan to merge their management costs and eliminate the scandalous financial waste of multiple management teams trying to accomplish the same things without talking to one another.

Don't you see that it won't be a disaster for those who participate. It will energize them so when they get back to their own state they will be ready to do more to work for equal rights in their own state. Failure is a subjective term. The most important thing is to get out there and get our demands in front of the people. Sitting on our hands has not done the job. We need to get active and do anything that we possibly can to move things along. Politically correct is over. It hasn't worked.

That's called "training" not a "March on Washington." It wouldn't be a disaster for them to be trained in activist work; it would be a PR disaster for us to call for a March and only a few people show up. It'd be like throwing a party no one comes to.

The response was above in this dialogue

I'm not sure what you're referring to, Douglas. Please respond back using the threaded comments so there's no misunderstandings. Just click the "Reply to this comment" link under each comment to respond back to that person/thread.

What we don't need is another LGBT organization or committee. We have enough. They spend more than meeting than doing. Let's do and let's do it now.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 9, 2009 12:36 PM

That is what I proposed above Douglas. Organize around core themes and quit the nonsense of trying to appeal to everyone on every nuance of their issues. Eliminate duplication of services and hit key targets harder with fewer "chiefs" and more "Indians"(no offense implied to Native Americans).

DID YOU NOTICE THE GREAT EXAMPLE JUST GIVEN YOU? WHILE WE BEND OVER BACKWARDS TO OFFEND NO ONE WE ARE PROGRESSING NO FURTHER.

Then train them. We can do both. In fact some states are already do this. We can do more than one thing at a time.

If people in Maine, etc aren't trained by the state organizations within a month of the vote, it is not because of a March on Washington. It is because of the ladk of organization and leadership in state organizations. This is an LGBT equal rights rally and we all should be doing everything possible to support it.

Thank you Bil for telling me how to operate your website. I don't think I need instruction. I have been replying to the individual comments using the reply to this comment link, however sometimes your system does not work with my computer for some reason. I will be more specific when I reply in the future.

Off topic for the thread but on topic for this reply, Bil, have you considered switching to Disqus for your comments? It's a pretty slick system, and it allows comments here to be connected to more of the person's comments on other blogs (and vice versa), as well as facebook, twitter, linkedin, etc.

I absolutely agree with *most* of the "Top 10 Reasons Not To March on Washington," particularly those around the poor timing, lack of time to organize properly, and misguided focus on marriage when we still have more than 30 states without non-discrimination laws.

However, I will go on record to note that large Marches on Washington are NOT futile simply because they "don't accomplish anything" and cost money. As our friends in the feminist community have shown us at the wildly successful March to Save Womens Lives (2000 & 2004), rallying the troops, harnessing the anger, gathering en mass with your compatriots is an act of bravery for many and a revitalization of the spirits for many more.

I often tell my mother that the various large scale protests/rallies I have attended over the years do not necessarily accomplish anything in and of themselves. However, that is not always the intention or the point of these rallies. To simply be in a huge crowd of others, knowing they share your passion and your mission, is a powerful and emotionally invigorating experience. At the March(es) to Save Womens Lives in DC and the Iraq War Protest in Atlanta in which downtown ATL and the CNN building were shut down, were all large events that reinvigorated my commitment to the causes and made me feel so much less alone. For those of us living in "flyover" states, we don't necessarily receive the encouragement of huge numbers of supporters- we're much more likely to see hundreds of folks protesting AGAINST equality.

That IS a good reason to have a March on Washington. Though... let us reconsider the date, timing, and messaging!

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 9, 2009 12:43 PM

I reiterate for reasons of common sense. We need fewer Gay "organizations" (because they are seldom organized) and more centralized planning. JUST LIKE THE RIGHTWING AND FUNDYS HAVE!

March on Washington 1993 - Robin Tyler brings the MOW idea to grassroots activists who reject the idea because they want to concentrate on organizing in states. Tyler goes to Elizabeth Birch at HRC & to Rev. Troy Perry of MCC and they declare there will be a March on Washington in 93. Tyler's company is hired to be the main event organizer. Many who were at the MOW in the late 80s stay home, many who had never been to a MOW attend.

Cleve Jones was involved in the 80s MOW and in bringing the Names Project AIDS Quilt to D.C. several times. He is not ignorant about logistics. The 80s grassroots MOW started with a small group of activists and the idea caught on. I think Cleve may abandon the idea if the grassroots say now is not the time. He is not Robin Tyler...

I Myszenski | June 10, 2009 11:56 AM

The Millennium March on Washington (2000). A few self identified leaders called for a march, lots of controversy over it being a march for elite, white, gays. Poor outreach to grassroots groups. But it steam rolled ahead and happened. Its the joy and curse of our movement that we have so many opinionated and passionate people. We overcome obstacles to get things done even when we don't have any agreement on why we should be doing them.

I think the March is going to happen regardless, the only question is do you want to be at the table now and help shape it or not?

generally avoid this format of answering arguments, feeling it is a lazy shortcut on my part and that i should take the time to write a stand alone piece. felt answering specific points would be more clear in this case. The amount of energy people are putting in to discrediting the idea of an October 09 action in DC is terribly frustrating to me. I have been organizing large and small actions for over 20 years and understand the work and expense that goes into mass actions.

1. Planning a huge march on Washington isn't something you can throw
together in five months. There's a lot of logistics required - hotel
rooms reserved, acquiring the necessary permits, coordinating with DC
police, laying out the purpose, program and messaging, etc.


It is not the job of protest organizers to reserve hotel rooms. It
is a good idea tho to line up free housing via local friendly churches
and community members with basements for sleeping. coodinating with
police can certainly be done in 1 month, let alone 5. If it takes more
than a week to lay out the purpose and message, and if there aren't
speakers and artists willing and available for any rally that may be
part of the march, then there is a bigger problem than date and
location. I have been involved in organizing large protest actions -
yes, there is a lot of work involved , but it is not impossible to do
so on short notice.


2. While National Coming Out Day is a swell time of year
symbolically, the Mall is already reserved - and usually is up to a
year in advance. With two other large events scheduled there already
there's no way you could fit even more people in the space. My sources
tell me that Cleve and Co have already been denied a permit for that
day.

I don't know what the Mall schedule is, but if, as is cited elsewhere, the other events expect 130,000 some people it does not preclude yet another event taking place. The mall is a very large area with several spaces that can be reserved. I've been to events (organized with much less than a years notice) with well over 100,000 people, and people on the other end of the mall didn't even know it was going on.


3. Congress isn't in session on October 11th. What's the point of
holding the march on a day when none of the participants can lobby the
actual folks who can solve our issues? We'd be better off staying home
and trekking to our Congress person's offices than going all the way to
DC for a big gay circuit party.


This is a protest, not a circuit party. The function of a march is
not to visit individual congressional offices - that is the function of
a lobby day, and while sometimes planned in conjunction with a march is
not traditionally the purpose of organizing a march.

4. None of this has been coordinated with anyone other than a small
circle of people. None of the large organizations have been consulted -
although that's not necessarily a bad thing if you've got the
grassroots behind you. A small circle of people is not the grassroots
though; it's just a different cadre of wanna-be movers and shakers.


This is sounding more and more like a pissing match between
organizations who want to be seen as "the leaders" of the "gay
movement". Just as annoying as the infighting within the antiwar
"movement".


5. This year's marriage fight isn't in California. It's in Maine.
Maine voters will be facing a referendum to establish a constitutional
amendment to ban* repeal the same-sex marriage law the state recently
passed. We've already lost in California; it's time to move beyond and
focus on where it makes the best sense strategically to make a stand.
Sucking time, resources and queerpower to work on a do-nothing march on
DC is a tactical mistake.


This year's equality fight is nationwide. It is a tactical mistake
to treat the campaign for equality on a state by state basis. It is a
mistake to reduce the conversation about equality to the issue of
marriage.


6. A march on Washington will not bring marriage equality to
flyover country. It will help to prod conservatives to rally and focus
energy and money into states like Maine (that could repeal marriage) or
Indiana (where we've successfully fought off an amendment every year
for almost a decade). In their zeal to bring marriage back to
California, the coastal queers are willing to sacrifice us on the alter
of domesticity.


The argument that we should not make too much noise or it might
inspire the homophobes to ramp up their efforts is a non-starter. A
march will not magically bestow marriage equality to anyone - this is
confusing an individual action with the overall campaign. Marches are a
form of mass communication, not a method of instant gratification.

7. California is not the end-all-be-all of queer America. They've
already sucked a huge amount of cash from our movement and middle
America. Look at Arizona's amendment battle - which they'd already won
once in an election - and how little money was donated to fight their
second battle. The amendment passed this time after they were heavily
outspent by the Mormons and affiliated groups. California will see
marriage back on the ballot soon; they should march and organize in the
state that will be voting. They need to reach California voters and not
the folks in Arkansas.


What does this have to do with a national march? It seems to point
more towards the argument that a national movemt, in addition to
separate localized work.

8. In this economy, not too many of us can afford to take a vacation
to DC on such short notice. Those of us lucky enough to still have jobs
don't want to take chances asking for time off to travel to DC. I'd
rather make the house payment than buy plane tickets for two to DC, pay
for a hotel while the city is already full of other events, buy
incidentals and meals, etc. Travel costs alone is a house payment for
me and there's not nearly enough time to budget it in. What happens
when you throw a march and no one shows up because they can't afford to
go?


This is not a vacation, this is not a circuit party, this is a
protest. Travel costs can be defrayed by local groups chartering buses,
carpools. Buses can park at the Shady Grove Station and folks take the
metro into town. It happens, it works. Those who can't afford the
travel should organize local and regional support protests where they
live instead of arguing no one should gather. Organizers should be
talking to friendly churches and local activists to put up those who
intend to stay in the city overnight. The protest is on a Sunday -
there is no day of the week that would guarentee that everyone who
wanted to attend would be off work or could arrange the day off.


9. The majority of US queers still need basic protections from
discrimination. So little emphasis has been placed on helping us
achieve that basic hallmark of civil rights that a national effort is
the only chance we have for protection. While the first paragraph
claims the march is "to demand that Congress establish equality and
marriage rights," the only section both the media and middle America is
going to see is "marriage rights."


A national effort is needed, so we should not have a national march?
Those who step up to help make this a reality can help to refine the
message. Initial calls to action are just that.


10. Look back at the headline of the article quoted, or the fact
that all of Cleve's quotes are about Prop 8, California and same-sex
marriage to see how the spin on this is going to go. That vague term
"equality" has already been devalued from the first headline. This is a
public relations nightmare for flyover country.


This doesn't make sense in a list that argues more time and
resources should be spent on individual state marriage fights.

Is anyone on here a Homosexual? Or just a bunch of Morons brainwashed by Obama?

As well as calling for the Millennium March in 2000, (I worked one year on it but quit because
I knew that money would be missing, and could not
stop the people on the board who were involved
in it), I also was the first to call for the
1979 March on Washington, and line produced that
stage; I also, along with Steve Alt, called for the 2nd. March on Washington, (1987) and produced
the stage. I was the co-producer of the main
stage in 1993. I worked hard on all of these marches, and was not paid, except for the Millennium March, in which I raised my own salary.
I also was the first to call for a 5th March on
Washington, only wanted to do it in 2010, so that
people would have a chance to save up money, and our community would have a chance to organize
locally, and regionally. In a telephone conversation I had with Cleve, he was very much
against a national March saying it would drain resources from local communities. This was only
a month prior to Cleve announcing this National March in 2009.
So please do not say that somehow Cleve
is a grassroots organizer, but I am a top down
person. The fact is, this 5th March, is totally
top down, undemocratic, and too rushed. Will people go. Yes, those that can afford to save the
money up in 16 weeks, will go-and attendence will be large. But none of the Marches have moved the National Democratic party one-inch. Cleve wants everyone to go back after the March and organize in the 435 congressional districts. (something HRC already does). For what, to support Obama, who has betrayed us, and the National Democratic Party. Our community is like a battered woman. Those of us who are Democrats, keep going back again and again as they fuck us (for 35 years) again and again without our consent. This is called rape. So, why do we keep going back thinking they will change their behavior. A March organized to get the LGBT community to sit out the next national election, would have gotten their attention. A March in 2009, a non-election year, is just what they want. The ad hoc committee that organized against the Millennium March for not being democratic, are the same hypocrites that are supporting this March, because it appears to be progressive.
It is a done deal, it will happen. But it probably will destroy any
chance of a March where we could have held the
Democratic party responsible. Two hundred or two
hundred thousand or two million on a mall don't matter. Until we are willing to Divorce the Democrats, they will not give us one damn thing.
Robin Tyler

However much gay marriage is at the focus of our community, I have to say I'm frustrated by how its sucked all of our resources and giving only those with privilege the benefits of this fight. I work with queer/trans youth who are homeless at a nonprofit in San Francisco. Our young are homeless, contracting AIDS, mentally and emotionally traumatized, unable to get a job or an education, and have absolutely no one to turn to besides the small handful of resources San Francisco can offer. Gay marriage is NOT going to help us. Why is there no one to turn to? Because the boys in the Castro and all the nonprofits are spending too much time and money focusing on what the priveleged sect of the queer community wants instead of listening to the queer youth, queer people of color, people living with AIDS, et cetera. And by this I mean we are placated and silenced systematically. There aren't enough safe spaces for queer youth however it doesn't seem to be a priority of our community leaders to provide us with space. (Even just one room). Let's start focusing on ALL our issues. When there is a march for ALL equal civil rights for queer people, you can bet i'll be there. But I will NOT settle for less. Not to mention, there hasn't been a successful marriage in my entire family. Why would I buy into an institution that 1-doesn't work and 2-in discourse is used as a way of social control and places value on some relationships over other ones. I don't want to get married but I certainly will want my lover to have the same rights as any other relationship. Divorse is frickin' expensive people! and in my opinion gay marriage=gay divorce eventually. If we are fighting for our rights let's fight for ALL OF THEM! Don't we think we deserve it? I do admire Cleve, though, and he has been helpful to a group of us activists in San Francisco hoping to get more resources to youth. I'm hoping he'll step up to the plate for us even more. I have been invited to speak at the DC rally and I am very torn. I would love to shed some light on the issues that queer youth face however as a queer person (who recently was a youth, i'm 25) I am poor and its dangerous for me to travel. Let's start encompassing the entirety of our community. Let's demand equal civil rights across the board! Our elders and those with privelege need to start supporting those of us who don't have what we need to survive. It comes down to life and death for homeless queer youth. daily. and the more I hear about gay marriage the more I am sickened by the lack of response to our other issues. (sigh)

Well, my partner and I just participated in the Equality March on Washington and it has proved the naysayers WRONG! 150,000 of us from the GLBT community carried our message to the nations capital. All of this was done without any corporate sponsorship, without the HRC, with many naysayers such as Mr Browning and in a matter of months. It shows the power of the social networking. I was amazed at the number of young people at this march. I attended the march in 2000 and this one although smaller was different. The young people, gay and straight were marching for their rights. The future looks bright for our community...we will continue to push forward while others stand on the sidelines and criticize!