Diane Silver

Judging the March's Success

Filed By Diane Silver | October 12, 2009 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: C-Span, lesbian, LGBT, march, National Equality March, Washington, Washington D.C.

By almost any measure, Sunday's National Equality March was a roaring success, yet the true impact of the march can't be judged by what happened on Sunday. The true measure is what happens today, tomorrow and the day after.

First to the obvious: The turnout was amazing, particularly for an event organized on such short notice. The speakers were largely interesting. (Getting Julian Bond was a real coup, although I would prefer that he be transgender inclusive when he discusses LGBT issues. My favorites were David Mixner, Urvashi Vaid and Kate Clinton.)

Compared to Saturday night's Human Rights Campaign dinner and its largely white, heavily male crowd, the March looked to be far more diverse. Also, compared to the recent far-right tea bag march and its gun-totting, screeching crowd, the National Equality March was populated by a calm sea of reasonable souls.

And yet, I worry.

I admit that I'm prone to worry, so do take this with a grain of salt. I remain concerned about whether this march will have any impact outside of giving those who attended a nice weekend. That's because the true impact of any national march depends on whether it energizes people to work locally.

There's a paradox involved in winning change in Washington, D.C. No one wins in the halls of Congress without first winning in the neighborhoods of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, California, New York, Florida and hundreds of other places.

In cold, crass terms, we won't win until we have the political muscle to pressure 60 senators and 218 representatives in their home districts. Those are the numbers needed to pass bills through the House and Senate.

We have to be so well organized on the local level that 60 senators and 218 representatives know -- right down to their socks -- that if they vote against us, they'll be punished, and if they vote with us, they'll be protected.

Some estimates put the size of the march at up to 250,000. That's great, but the number means very little to individual senators and representatives because those 250,000 people came from all over the country.

Think about it this way: If 250,000 voters... No, let me revise that... If only 25,000 marched in the home states of 60 senators and 218 representatives, we would surely win the day.

I applaud the march organizers and speakers for doing a fantastic job of urging marchers to go home and work locally. Now, we get to see if marchers take their advice.

I was home, nursing a nasty respiratory bug, and could not attend the march, although I watched the whole thing on C-SPAN. I'm curious to hear from those who went. What do you think?


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What was a preference for you was a slap in the face for every trans person in the audience. They probably should have asked us to text them our emails and zip code before Bond spoke. For some reason, I just couldn't find my cell phone afterwords. I'm sorry but everyone who took the stage should been supporters of the overall theme "full civil rights for all LBGT people in all 50 states". If they didn't believe that, they shouln't have been given a microphone.

"By almost any measure, Sunday's National Equality March was a roaring success, yet the true impact of the march can't be judged by what happened on Sunday. The true measure is what happens today, tomorrow and the day after."

The true measure will be taken three weeks from now in Maine and Washington state. If Question 1 passes and Referendum 71 fails, we will know that The March, rather than energizing a new generation of lgbt activists, drained attention and resources from those critical battles and gave enormous momentum to the enemies of lgbt equality and dignity.

I can guarantee you that members of Congress and state legislators across the country are going to be much more influenced by the results of those two referendums than by The March, as well-attended as it was.

Julian Bond has shown great leadership and is for rights for all - because he has mostly been engaged in the marriage issue he could have been more inclusive. But, he has repeatedly said hat discrimination or worse for any person of any type is wrong - plain and simple. His letter on Friday October 9 in the Washington Post was absolutely inclusive "When lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans gather in Washington on Sunday for the National Equality March, they will invoke the unfulfilled promise in our Constitution that they, too, are due equal protection under the law. "
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/08/AR2009100803292.html

My partner and I attended the march. He's 50, I'm 60. It was a glorious day.
We were sad to hear one of the speakers use her time to tear down Barney Frank. We were there for unity and to demand equality, not tear down one of our own.
We were also disappointed with the Lady Gaga speech. She was the one picked up by mainline news and was used to represent us nationally. This is not the face to speak for us. Sure, we can appreciate her voice and message, but the outside world used it to belittle us. They will always pick out the extremes, why churn the water? Our daughter watching from Ohio said we came off as silly and insignificant. It is a shame all the effort and the wonderful speakers which could have been used were squandered by the Gaga saga.

The whole weekend was wonderful. I met so many great people and converted a friend to the ENDA cause. I'm still adjusting to being back. It was great, though, coming back and finding an email that said my Congressman voted yes on the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act. There's also a march being organized on my campus, and the Dallas Principles will be shared with our GSA next week.

I enjoyed all of the speakers. I didn't agree with all of them on everything, but I'm glad they were able to speak. I loved seeing Mario Nguyen from my school up there. I also appreciated the shout out to teachers, though I don't remember who it was that gave that speech. I had seen StaceyAnn Chinn's video on Youtube, but hearing her live was so much more powerful. We left as Dustin Lance Black took the stage, so I don't know what we missed. The rally was so much longer than I expected, and we had to leave out of hunger. It was amazing, and an experience I never want to forget.

We have to be so well organized on the local level that 60 senators and 218 representatives know -- right down to their socks -- that if they vote against us, they'll be punished, and if they vote with us, they'll be protected.

I think it's out of the question that we'll ever have the kind of political power. By most measures, we're around 4-5% of the population. 60-80% support the public option for health care, and that can't get passed.

We've convinced Americans when it comes to the majority of this legislation (ENDA, DADT repeal, DP ben's for federal workers, etc), but it's still not happening. That's where this frustration is coming from.

As tristam mentions above, there hasn't been any metric to see if the march was a success or not. A lot of people showed up, but the main criticism of the march from the get-go was that it would just end up preaching to the choir. The fact that the choir was particularly big doesn't really address that.

Alex, I do think it is possible to get the kind of political influence I talked about in my post. A group's influence doesn't always equate with the size of it's population. If that were true, then the poor and the unemployed would be running the country right now.

Influence equates with how many voters a group can move in a particular district for a particular election. Moving voters comes from organization, localized work, and from the kind of long-term campaign to change hearts and minds that we've all been engaged in since Stonewall. In other words, the campaign to come out and to show our neighbors who we are and all the other pro-equality educational efforts is slowly, but surely making progress.

I'm not saying there's no reason for frustration. I share your frustration, but I also know that we have to be smart to succeed. That's why my favorite "song" right now is the "You Can't Win In Congress Unless You First Win At Home" blues.

Forty years is far too long to wait for equality. Heck, one minute is too long to wait for equality. Thousands of families and individuals have been ground up by the shameful prejudice and discrimination that is rampant in this country. The loss of even one life, one dream, the destruction of even one family is too much.

And yet... I've also seen enough change in my life to have hope. Changing hearts and minds and ending discrimination takes time. We'll get there if we keep doing the work.

Who chose the woman who couldn't even sing the song, America the Beautiful, absurd and insulting. And who chose Socialists to speak? They represent no one. Too many speachers saying the same thing. Preaching to the choir. But the marchers were great. Bond was great. But why no protests that the media ignored the march-it took Jon Stewart/The Daily Show to do the job for us.