With all due respect to Cleve Jones and David Mixner, who I've known and covered for many years, I think we seriously need to question the wisdom of convening a march on Washington this October.
Yes, LGBT people are angry and disappointed that President Barack Obama hasn't lived up to his promises and our expectations - something David knows about intimately, having been failed by his one-time friend Bill Clinton. Cleve, too, knows deeply about government scorn and neglect, having created the profound remembrance of those we lost as a result - the AIDS Memorial Quilt.
And I understand the call for a march. I am among Obama's critics - I am stunned that he has so flagrantly forgotten, despite being a constitutional scholar, that equality is the first core founding principle of this country, and as leaders in the civil rights movement so aptly pointed out - "justice delayed is justice denied."
That Obama is still allowing the military to kick out qualified gays who are willing to die for this country - at a time when we are fighting two wars and may be called on elsewhere in the world - is the pinnacle of absurdity. Congress, too, should be ashamed for not repealing the ridiculous "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law.
All that said, here are five questions about the wisdom of holding a march this October 10-12:
- If the point is to demand equal rights from Obama and Congress, wouldn't it be better to hold the march when they're in town and not over the Columbus Day holiday? Who's making the decision that this is what we all need to do - without any prior discussion from the "community" that's supposed to attend?
- Given the four month-deadline and the economic downturn - and no matter how bare-bones the production - who's paying for the stage, the equipment, the permits, the hotel-set asides, etc - all the vendors who will not make a contribution to the cause, will not defer payment or volunteer?
- Given that Maine is voting to repeal their marriage equality in November - shouldn't the LGBT nation's eyes be turned towards Maine? If they lose, we could have a domino effect in the Northeast and in California in 2010. There's also the effort to re-elect New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine - for without him, the effort to secure marriage equality there will suffer a tremendous setback.
- The ballot language for the 2010 initiative to repeal Prop 8 is due in September. Though outreach efforts are already underway, the filing date is a perfect time to announce a massive grassroots field and fundraising effort - considering that California is huge (one-eighth of all US residents lives here) and there would be only 14 months from that date to change enough hearts and minds to win in November. Why take people away from the 2010 effort for a three-day feel-good trip to Washington that few can afford to make?
- The aforementioned economic downtown is no joke. California is $24 billion in the red; on Friday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced $2.8 billion in cuts - with threats to shut down both the state's Healthy Family Program a health insurance program for over 900,000 children and Cal-Works, the state welfare program that gives the poor temporary financial assistance and provides the severely disabled with a caregiver. The state and local AIDS agencies are also losing considerable funding. "Government doesn't provide services to rich people," says Mike Genest, the state's finance director. So folks in California are going to be asked to help out - as well as being asked for money for gubernatorial candidates and the ballot initiative, to name just a few. Isn't that money better spent here than on a march on Washington that may not yield any tangible results?
At least one person agrees with me. This is from Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California:
It will take all of us being focused and doing everything we can to win marriage back in California. EQCA is focusing our resources on doing grassroots field work in California and being on the ground where the work needs to happen. That is what we need to do to win marriage back.
EQCA will also support our brothers and sisters in Maine and will encourage our volunteers to go to Maine in October to help them defeat their anti-marriage initiative in November 2009.
For people who are concerned about poverty and social and economic issues as I know David Mixner and Cleve Jones are - it seems an odd time to re-direct resources and attention without something close to an assured outcome.
Given their considerable talent for inspiring others, I would humbly request that David and Cleve consider shifting their attention to helping LGBT people, people with HIV/AIDS and our allies (labor, teachers, nurses) at the state and local levels survive this very difficult time while also pressing hard for full equality. Linking arms to confront the problems immediately before us only strengthens our sense of community as we all become foot soldiers marching to fulfill the promises of the American Dream.