Editor's Note: Guest blogger Monique Ellison is an ordained minister and LGBT activist in Washington, DC.
The LGBT community has a great opportunity this fall. Council Member David Catania is expected to introduce legislation that will bring marriage equality to the District. As states pass marriage equality laws, the opposition pushes back. LGBT advocacy organizations are working hard all over the country against lies, fear mongering, even bald hatred.
We, along with our allies, are responding with the truth and smart organizing. We bring our true stories. We show that we only want what every human being wants, security for our families. A Convocation of the LGBT community on September 30 is a call for the entire LGBT community in Washington DC to come forward in support of marriage equality with our families, with our friends and allies, and with the truth.
WHAT: A Convocation of the LGBT Community
WHEN: Wednesday, September 30 7pm
WHERE: True Reformers Building 1200 U Street NW
A Convocation is, according to Merriam Webster, "an assembly of people "convoked" or "called together". A convocation is often a gathering of members of a religious body. All of these definitions are bear in some way on what we are doing this fall.
We are calling the entire LGBT community together. This is an act of faith on our part. We are not a religious organization, of course. We are reaching out to religious communities all over the city, because some religious organizations are opposing marriage equality on a religious basis.
I am a woman of faith and an Episcopal priest. Marriage equality is a matter of faith for me - for many of us. So we engage - with each other and with the opposition. We are coming together with a strategy that not only will work in our favor, but that proves that we are worthy and valuable part of life in DC. We aren't just looking for the benefits of living in this society. We contribute our gifts as individuals and as families. Opponents are focusing on fear. We are focusing on love.
This Convocation comes out of the work that a handful of residents have been doing over the past several months. Some of us have been going to Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) meetings to inform and recruit support for marriage equality. We have been present in some ANC meetings where commissioners passed resolutions in support of the Marriage and Jury Act of 2009, which recognizes all marriages from other jurisdictions, including same-sex marriages. Some of the ANCs weren't so receptive.
They know we are here though. They have to come up with better arguments than, "Gay marriage will ruin the institution of marriage", or "churches will be forced to perform gay marriages against their beliefs". They have to begin to tell the truth about their motives and fears because we are telling the truth in public about our lives and our love. This Convocation creates a place for us to dispel the myths.
The Convocation is a place for us to do something we haven't done for a long time, too. One of the organizers for the Convocation, Philip Pannell, has been a community activist in DC for a long time. He recalls that the last time the entire gay community came together was at the beginning of the AIDS crisis. What a devastating time that was. People coming together then helped to save lives and slow the spread of HIV.
We are coming together again for something that is joyful and empowering. We can frame the debate on our terms, not with fiery anger, but with, well with love. Marriage equality is not just good for lesbian and gay people. Marriage equality is good for the whole city. All of us will be better off when gay and lesbian couples can feel secure that their families have the same protections and responsibilities as our straight brothers and sisters. Legalizing marriage could even bring $52.2 million to DC's economy over the next three years. Opponents of gay marriage keep trying to say that this legislation will bring harm. DC gets nothing but benefit from putting all of its residents in equal standing under the law.
So, I am inviting you to be there, to find out what you can do. Be prepared to learn how to lobby your city council member, right a letter to council, speak at an ANC meeting, speak to friends, families and coworkers about why marriage equality is important. The work of making marriage equality real is just beginning. You can be a part of this historic moment.