This post appeared on my blog, Ameriqueer, on July 8, 2009, but as people are making decisions about whether or not to book tickets out to the National Equality March in DC in October, I thought it'd be just as good now to help folks consider an alternative use for that cash that may go a LOT further to help us maintain already hard fought and won Equality. After all, Steve Hildebrand himself says we can not overturn California's Proposition 8 in 2010 (or even in 2012 for that matter) if we lose in Maine in 2009.
Yesterday was the anniversary of the heartless murder of Charlie Howard in Bangor, Maine--a gay man beaten and thrown off of a bridge by a group of teenagers. Today, Stand For Marriage Maine, a group of anti-Marriage bigots, showed their respect by announcing they're one step closer to putting all us uppity gays back in our place--they have enough signatures to get an anti-Marriage Equality Constitutional Amendment proposal onto the November ballot (that is, of course, if ALL of the signatures are valid). This will turn back the clock on the fifth state in the Union to recognize Marriage Equality.
It doesn't matter that back in June these so-called Christians broke the 8th Commandment to get these signatures. Citing Free Speech laws to legally deceive people into signing the petition, they handed Maine citizens identically worded petitions telling them one was to support a ban on gay marriage, and one was to reject a ban on Equality. These folks will stop at nothing to try and shove us back into the closet, and out of existence--despite what Pennsylvania Senator John Eichelberger says. They're going to try to destroy Equality by any means necessary.
Which is what its going to take for us as well.
All our means, everything we have. We can spare NOTHING to stop Maine from becoming the next Prop 8 state. Every dollar we can spare, every hour of volunteer work and campaigning needs to be funneled into Maine.
This October 11--National Coming Out Day--long time LGBT and AIDS activist Cleve Jones has organized a very peculiar march on the Mall in Washington D.C., commemorating the 30th anniversary of the First March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. He is attempting to mobilize a national in-district lobbying effort. You can bet that every gay in America is tempted to book their flight and hotel now so that they can be there in the magic of the moment.
Imagine the energy of being there with LGBT people and allies from all over the entire country--from California to Florida to Maine! The camaraderie, the historic speeches, the sense of being part of something big! Never mind that Congress and the President won't even be in town--it'll surely make the Cable News networks, and the gay media will cover the speeches and those there will never forget the power of that moment.
That's certainly what the people who attended the 1987 and 1993 Marches can attest to--the power of being there, the electricity and the immenseness of it. I wasn't at either of those two marches, and I wish I had been. I think that Marching on Washington is a momentous thing that one never forgets and holds special as one of those amazing life experiences. I am very tempted to attend this march, despite my budget issues and the fact that this is the middle of the school year. I want to be part of this amazing experience!
Flights aren't too bad--$250-$300 round-trip on Northwest Airlines. I can leave on Friday and return on Monday, only missing two days of class. If I drive or take a bus up to Chicago, it can be as low as $200! Hotel could be about $400 for the weekend. Dinners in D.C.--if I eat very cheap--might be able to slide in under $50. Of course, $25 coffee budget. $100 beer budget.
A conservative estimate puts me as my Congressional District's Representative on the Mall, marching for my voice, at $825+. Not bad for a life experience I will never forget, that's for sure.
However, what if I took that $800 and sent it to Maine? What if one person in each of those Congressional Districts that Mr. Cleve Jones wants represented takes $800 and sends it to Maine? Well, we could make a $348,000 contribution to Maine Freedom to Marry. What if Maine Freedom to Marry got $800 each from TWO people in all 435 Congressional Districts--rather than fly them out every day for a year as Dan Savage suggested in his June 16 Stranger: Slog column "Civil Disobedience: A Proposal?" $696,000 for Marriage Equality!
Evan Moody from Maine Freedom to Marry says that the organization is trying to raise $55,087 by next Sunday "to counter the number of signatures Stand for Marriage claims that they've gotten" in support of the ban. Imagine if, instead, $348,000 in donations came rolling in. That's a great start for their campaign that is in need of MILLIONS of dollars by Autumn.
Take my breakdown of the cost of going to D.C. and compare that with what Evan Moody says $800 can go toward in Maine:
- $33 buys a tank of gas for an organizer
- $62 buys 100 pieces of direct mail
- $328 buys office space to open a new field office (currently we have four)
- $800 buys one weeks pay for two field organizers
- $1,078 buys one 30 second television spot
In his June 15 Bilerico column entitled "Cleve Jones Responds: 10 Reasons Why a March Isn't A Bad Idea," Mr. Jones says, in response to criticism that the March on Washington is a masturbatory exercise in self-gratification for the comfortable coastal gays, "In fact, only Federal action will bring full equality to all of our people in all fifty states... The 14th Amendment of the Constitution is supposed to protect us all."
However, Maine is facing a state--not Federal Government--attack that is going to have very wide-reaching national implications. Says Maine Freedom to Marry's Moody, "After Prop 8, this is going to be THE FIRST marriage initiative that is going to be defended at the polls" In his defense, Jones wants to march for ALL Equality issues: DOMA, ENDA, DADT, DPBO, ELHDA, UAFA, Hate Crimes--to protect against another Charlie Howard, another Matthew Shepard. However, Marriage Equality gains around the nation have energized and motivated our community and our movement to action and involvement. A loss in Maine may discourage this fervor and stall the momentum nation-wide for all of these LGBT issues. Think about the fallout after the heartbreaking losses in gay and lesbian America's heartland on ballot issues in the 2004 election. Said Moody, "This is not just about Maine this is about the future of the Marriage Equality movement."
Are you going to indulge yourself, go to D.C., meet the famous Cleve Jones, rub shoulders with the LGBT elite and gratify your urge to be "part of something big?" Or will you actually put your money to good use, stay home and deny yourself the ego-stroking by quietly doing something amazing and donating to Maine Freedom to Marry to help them battle this attempt to end our inertia by the well-funded forces on the right? Its so tempting for me to take this once-in-a-lifetime trip to D.C., but my heart tells me otherwise. What about you?
Evan Moody reminds us of the urgency of this decision: "We have the opportunity to be the first state in history to defend marriage equality at the polls. The anti-equality lobby knows this, and they are going to be putting everything they have into this referendum."