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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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."
- 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.