Bil Browning

Equality March Co-Directors Resign; Group Reorganizes Amid Controversy

Filed By Bil Browning | November 03, 2009 12:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics, The Movement
Tags: Cleve Jones, EAA, Equality Across America, Kip Williams, National Equality March, Robin McGehee, Tanner Effinger

Kip Williams and Robin McGehee, Co-Directors of the National Equality March, have left Equality Across America citing differences about the direction the new group should take. The march, held less than a month ago, attracted about 200,000 LGBT people to Washington DSC_8900.jpgDC to demand full federal equality under the law.

EAA founder Cleve Jones confirmed that both activists had stepped down from their leadership positions. Everyone involved agreed that the parting of ways resulted from concerns about financial security and the leadership of the new organization.

"We're still not sure this is a viable organization," Jones said. "It's still not clear to me that EAA is going to happen yet. There needs to be a working group to take EAA forward. I'll be inviting [the March's] steering committee and executive committee members to participate."

Executive committee members elected Tanner Efinger as the interim Project Director responsible for the org's legal contracts with the Tide Foundation. Underlying tensions in the committees, however, have many frustrated activists at the breaking point as various factions vie for control of the organization's leadership.

Two Unexpected Resignations

In an e-mailed statement, Williams explained that a large part of his decision was financially motivated. He was paid approximately $9000 for his work on the March from July 1 until November 1.

"I'm moving on from EAA for personal and professional reasons. First, I need more security in my life, because I worked on the march for less than minimum wage and without health insurance," Williams said. "Second, I share with EAA the goal of full federal equality, but I have different ideas about the road to get there."

Williams notified the NEM committees of his resignation two weeks ago when he took a job with another non-profit organization. McGehee notified the steering committee of her intentions to leave on October 30.

"Although I am equally driven in my desire for full federal equality," McGehee wrote, "there are different directions that my life, both personally and professionally, are going and I have decided that I will no longer be able to serve with Equality Across America as this organization begins to take it's next steps."

Some insiders have charged that Williams and McGehee were forced out in an attempt to wrest control of the organization from the popular activists. They claim that Efinger, who also assists Jones with personal matters, is being rewarded for his close friendship with Jones.

"This position is one that is required by our fiscal sponsor, the duties of which include liaising with them on fiscal paperwork and legal matters. It is not a glorified leadership position - but as Kip was stepping out of that position it needed to be filled," Efinger clarified. "As I currently have the availability to take this on in a volunteer capacity, I agreed to the interim role."

The Future of Equality Across America

One member, Derek Washington, however, was particularly vocal about his concerns over Efinger's ascension and the group's direction.

"I think that Robin could be persuaded to come back if she felt she was being respected as she deserves to be," he said. "I joined up with the march because of Robin. She worked without a need to be constantly out front."

"I also will not be at all happy if it becomes about any one person as if it was some monarchy," Washington continued. "Mr. Jones and I are probably never going to be team mates on The Amazing Race."

Jones, however, argued that it was still too early to discuss paid leadership positions with the new organization. The group still has no formal bylaws, a budget, mission statement or organizational structure. March committee members only agreed to help until the event; Jones and Efinger are currently polling them to see who wants to continue as part of a new group.

"None of this has been decided," Jones said. "The steps just haven't been taken.

"And what about the big picture? Do we want to create a new national organization? Would it be helpful or hurtful? Will it bring us together or further divide us? These things need to be thoughtfully decided."

Whatever form EAA takes going forward, Williams and McGehee both promised continued involvement in LGBT issues.

"In our activism against Prop 8 and for the National Equality March, Robin and I have found that we work really well together," Williams said. "We're both fully committed to the struggle for full federal equality, and we're developing some ideas and visions about our next steps.

"We hope that no one will be distracted by the civic life and governing structure of EAA, but that we'll all focus on doing good organizing with integrity."



Full Disclosure: I was a member of the National Equality March Executive Committee. I voted in favor of appointing Tanner Efinger to the interim Project Director volunteer position.


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This quote deserves to be highlighted:

"The group still has no formal bylaws, a budget, mission statement or organizational structure."

Ummm, yeah.

Lynn Miller | November 3, 2009 4:07 AM

You make a good point, but I would also like to highlight questions asked by Cleve Jones:
Do we want to create a new national organization? Would it be helpful or hurtful? Will it bring us together or further divide us?

I probably missed it, but what is the rationale for another national LGBT organization?

Exactly, Mad Professah. What a sad waste of energy, resources and emotional energies that all could have been channeled into something with tangible political yield.

(And if there were 200,000 at the march, then the Capitol Building is made of icing, and I can sell it to you for a good price.)

200,000 is the amount most often quoted in media reports - including Time magazine. It's also the number that capital police gave to me as a journalist covering the event.

Quibble all you want, but there were 200,000 people there as measured by the professionals and not blog commenters...

The capitol police don't give crowd size estimates. I oughta know...I work for them.

when will this stupid meme end? Every major news organization has agreed it was around 200000--MSNBC, Time, NYT, Seattle P-I, on and on... When was the last time you heard of the media OVERESTIMATING how many people were at a March on Washington.

And its not like this was the first March on Washington by a group EVER, so the Capitol Police would have nothing to compare it to. There are freaking marches on the mall all the time. They know what 200000 people look like, the media knows what 200000 people on the mall looks like.

Why do all these sour grapes folk want the march to have been a failure so bad? I can understand the folk who say "well in 2000, we had 600000"--ok, thats a better argument against the march. But the folk who are trying to rewrite and revise out of spite--down to 20,000, I've actually read, even though the Capitol lawn was packed filled to third street (it must have been a pretty fat 20,000 then)--just look plain stupid and/or bitter.

Forgive me, Phil, but I have some familiarity with how numbers-on-the-fly find their way into media echo chambers, as I flacked one of the largest actions on the Mall, in 2004. Our org quickly came up with an estimate that day (which I personally believed was over the actual number, despite our massive event), and it stuck with major media, and was repeated ad nauseum. They ask for a number, you tell them one, it echoes.

Media echo of a guess is not "measurement," just as the personal opinion of one law enforcement figure is highly suspect. Was he/she NPS, Secret Service, or DCMPD? Level of experience with marches and crowd estimates, or expertise elsewhere, and assigned that day? If you're going to make someone's personal guess official, then the person should have been quoted by name, as providing the estimate.

Measurement requires something articulating density, the different parcels on the Mall, and so forth. By my personal estimate the NEM had 20-30K tops. If someone has a measurement to resolve all the differing personal guesses, that would be informative.

As do the Capital police who measure crowd size regularly, I would think.

I spoke with three different officers during the march and they had a helicopter fly over to measure the crowd based on how much room they took up. After all these years, the professionals know how to estimate size, I'd think. They've done this before. They posted an official estimate that was picked up and carried by the media.

You're pissing in the wind by trying to downplay the march into less than 1/10th of everyone else's figures. I'm just going to guess that your "familiarity" with estimating crowd size is not as accurate as you'd assume. I don't think you would be as so ridiculous if you obviously weren't trying to downplay the march by insisting on your own figure that's so dramatically different and smaller than the professionals'.

Could you please post a link to the official Capitol Police measurement you're citing? I have some familiarity with the organization, and I'd be interested to see the formal measurement you are suggesting exists. It may exist, but I haven't seen it.

Questions around crowd size are relevant because everyone knows this event was barely dragged across the finish line. The entire operation was, as we're now quickly seeing, rather hollow.

As for tossing around the word "ridiculous" I'll save that for the portrait emerging of the organization behind the march, and its assumptions and promises.

Actually, I'll amend that comment. While I await the Capitol Police "measurement," I will more than double your number. I'll assume half a million people attended the NEM...

...with nowhere to go, politically, afterward. With no organization after the big day.

Politics 101 FAIL, and it's only a bigger one if you wish to believe massive numbers are being led to nowhere.

1) They did a great job.

2) There are many community organizers who would gladly work for $36,000 a year for a start up organization.

3) They did a great job.

4) I assumed they were volunteering their time, truth be told. I don't mind that they were paid. But I guess I don't feel bad that they were "only" paid $3k a month. I know this Latino activist would move mountains for that sort of pay...

5) I think they did a great job...

Kip was the ONLY person on the committee who accepted any money. Even that was minimal--he clearly did far more work than what he was paid for.

I haven't been blown away by EAA yet. Time will tell. We were supposed to have action happening in every Congressional District this week. What's happening? Perhaps it was better to wait until after the critical elections in Maine, Washington and Kalamazoo to act. However, if that was the reason why we've only received ONE email from EAA in a month and NO text messages, its still problematic. EAA could have been doing their part to call attention to the fact that there were many local races being fought very closely here across America, and that many activists were deeply invested in their outcomes.

EAA's aim is good--to foster local grassroots action in each of this nation's Congressional districts. Rather than a top-down power-structure, EAA claims to be trying to create something bottom-up--empowering young local activists to step up, build and recruit effectively on a local basis.

I'd like to see this pan out. In a perfect world, EAA won't REPLACE a national org that's already working, but fit in nicely filling the gaps and helping to unify the fight. This is not a perfect world, however. If it makes the wrong moves, EAA will step on toes and cause tension and hurt feelings. There are many very good activists in DC and around the nation already that are doing fantastic work in all of our national orgs. Their work ought to be recognized. However, noone can deny our picture of LGBT activism is incomplete and that new and fresh ideas are needed.

I just hope that EAA IS a new and fresh idea (local, grassroots activism) and not more of the same (big national structure, fund-raising as the main form of action, huge metropolitan areas the only places to get attention, fundraising, fundraising, fundraising, branding, fundraising).

That isn't technically correct, Phil. Kip was paid a small stipend, but the two men who ran communications were also paid. They made $5000 between them both - $2500 each for two months worth of work. Again, hardly a huge amount.

oh yeah, isn't one of those two my favorite person in the WORLD!?!

I never had a any warm and fuzzies about this setup from the very beginning and reading this adds to that. From the very start, I saw this as a Cleve Jones ego trip. Having 200,000 people in DC helped to inflate his ego pretty good. Apparently the "now what?" part of this process is too much for him to handle. If a new organization going to start, then it needs to be run by people who know how to start a new organization and know how to empower others to be part of it.

Kip Williams | November 3, 2009 5:13 AM

For the record, that payment was spread over four months, not three. My stipend began in July, not August, and I averaged just over $2K/month. Robin was not paid at all.

Thanks Kip. I've made the correction above and changed your stipend period from August 1 to July 1.

I don't think anyone can claim that you were rolling in dough during the march runup. You were paid below minimum wage with no benefits for all the hard work you did.

2K/month could barely pay rent and power, let alone food and travel--for someone likely working 18+ hours a day. That was quite a gift to the community.

I think that there were other great leaders in this group--otherwise, how could the march have ended up being so powerful. I'd like to see that sort of chemistry in EAA, and similar results.

Certainly, however, the march itself was a wonderful event and will be remembered for being well attended and UNDER BUDGET!

Sadly, I'm still waiting on the org.

Mijo, I really think you all did a great job. I couldn't afford to attend but I had no interest in complaining about anyone else going either....

But, all this said... most of us still assumed the work was being done as volunteers. If NEM directors felt it suitable to pay some of you stipends I support that. I think that a lack of funds should never stop talented folks from working in the community. On the other hand a stipend is not designed to be equivalent to a salary. A stipend simply is designed to help cover some basic expenses to help volunteers continue their work...

I guess the pay issue is almost irrelevant and distracts from the rest of the issues. As for the rest of the drama posted here: just know you did a great job and gave over 200,000 people an opportunity to come together and bring back energy and enthusiasm to our community...

Oh the examples of privilege in the gay community are so plentiful where ever you look... Should I feel bad that you were paid for work that countless others do so willingly for free? Compare your plight of not getting benefits while organizing to the plight of the workers at the Kraft factory in Argentina - organizing without pay for 10 hours a day AFTER working in the oppressive factory for 10 hours. Compare your plight of only making $2k/mo while organizing to the plight of countless organizers around the world - doing this work for free because we have to.

Sure, take money for your organizing – you probably deserve it and LOTS of us get paid for this work. But don’t complain that it’s not enough money! I’m sure you’ll be comfortable in your corporate empire making 6 figures, because you have the privilege to walk in and out of the struggle.

Besides chanting "equality now" this group never seemed to have a clear plan or series of goals. If it had any money left it should have turned it over to the campaigns in Maine and Washington State and bowed out gracefully.

Exactly. This energy should have been put to tangible political use. Expressing "energy and enthusiasm" together is called a party. Doing it while working to move the policy needle is called advocacy, organization, or a campaign.

The Mall hosted a shindig, while Maine hangs by a thread.

Derek Washington | November 3, 2009 4:45 PM

Kip (and Robin) are amazing people. Mr. Jones , on the other hand, is a piece of work of herculean proportions.

The best quote I have received about him is this, "Derek, the worst part of the march was meeting my hero." While Mr. Jones was never a hero of mine, I never realized what a complete sociopath he was until I had the displeasure of spending time working with him.

Hopefully, EEA will go forward. I resigned an hour ago.

So much for diversity. It doesn't exist in Mr. Jones world.

Bil,
Thanks for this report in which you say The group still has no formal bylaws, a budget, mission statement or organizational structure. If I were you, I would resign from the board of directors of such a group in order to shield myself from liability when the inevitable reporting requirements kick in. Is there a board of directors separate from the executive committee, or is the committee the board?

Also, I think EAA ought to take a page from the playbook of the group in Connecticut that diligently and successfully fought for gay marriage rights. When the battle was done, they folded their organization and went home or to other battles.

Also, I think Kip Williams is making a smart move. He may turn out to have been the best product of the entire march on Washington effort. As the smoke begins to clear on the march, it is looking more and more like donuts for dinner - you think it's what you want to eat but five minutes later you're hungry again. When Kip was with us in NYC, he mentioned that he often considers becoming a religious/spiritual leader. I hope he will instead choose to continue his career of LGBT leadership.

Cathy Renna Cathy Renna | November 3, 2009 7:07 AM

ITA Tony - Kip was one of the few people with a serious vision that I interacted with and he worked his butt off - 3K a month, yes, but god only know how many hours a day - hopefully he will reap the rewards for a job well done in terms of turnout

also, I continue to believe the group has a complete tin ear when it comes to talking to the media - lgbt or otherwise - so not smart to be so public about the childish infighting that has plagued this group from the beginning


This is the most we've heard from EAA since the march. That's really disappointing.

To be clear: I'm not on the board of Equality Across America - no such board exists currently. I sat on the Executive Committee of the March. That's it. My job was complete after the March except the housekeeping that needs done until an EAA board is elected. So far, I've been asked to vote on Tanner's interim position and that's it.

I do think it's important to note though that the lack of structure so far isn't necessarily a bad thing. The group wanted to make a thoughtful decision on whether or not they wanted to go forward as an org or stick with just organizing the march and then using their energy to help other orgs. I commend them for being thoughtful and not just creating another group that may or may not be as effective as anything we currently have. If they'd jumped right in and started appointing various officers and bylaws, people would be up in arms over whether or not they were legitimate.

Birthing pains are always some of the most traumatic and painful. The March is trying to give birth to EAA and it's been a long labor.

Bil, that may be the traditionally sensible way to go about things, but that runs counter to the whole March's innovative "Revolution NOW!" Spirit. What you just wrote makes it sound even MORE like business as usual. The entire point of the march was "We're sick of waiting, we're going to start fighting for this and we're going to start fighting for this immediately." Now to have waited a month, and received nothing more than a single email from EAA that merely links to a poorly designed interactive map (that, by the way, actually makes the action occurring this week look sparser than it actually is when you're zoomed out); it does look like the "NOW!" rhetoric was just hogwash.

Those who marched don't care about bylaws and structure. Leading up to the march, the organizers spent a lot of time hinting at what would happen after--why was there no consideration to this happening behind the scenes so that the words could be backed up? I know that there was a lot to do, and folks were busy trying to make the march happen, but then why hint that big things were going to be coming?

Everything up to the march was done beautifully. Everything since has been poorly executed, hands down. With all of the energy and enthusiasm of those of us who bought into the march and were willing to follow EAA's lead after, we should have been getting SPAMMED by EAA over the last four weeks. Instead, I've been CHASING down information; and I'm sure there are plenty of folk who have not tried to follow up like me. Not the best way to kick off a movement. Seems more HRC than even HRC is! Even HRC would have sent out a half dozen emails and text messages by now--they probably would have even had more in-district action at this point.

In fact I'm pretty sure I HAVE received three or four messages from the task force asking me to contact my lawmakers, several from HRC asking me to contact my lawmakers and offering me tools, many fundraising calls for Maine, Washington and Kalamazoo, and about a dozen emails from Anise Parker letting me know EVERYTHING going on in that campaign!

That's what sad. Partly, the marchers were reacting against the seeming inaction of the gay orgs, and the EAA quickly becomes the least active and effective.

I think you've hit on the major source of discord between Kip & Robin on one side and Cleve and Tanner on the other. Both are correct.

EAA needs to be doing something while still getting their crap together to form a lasting organization if that's what they're after. Ad hoc only gets you so far.

Bil, if you voted on a new director, you are de facto on the "board". The executive committee is generally a subset of the board and if the financial reporting causes government alarm, you may own a piece of the liability. This is why there is something called board insurance. Every entity (except one) on which I ever agreed to serve paid for that on behalf of its directors. I cannot imagine an entity that receives so much as a nickel without having legally established and filed its organizational structure with office holders and staff named. I hope you are not being naive. There may not be any problems unless the enemies of Cleve Jones or of the EAA or of the gay rights movement in general decide to take a close look at the money in an effort to discredit all involved. Sure hope I am worried over nothing. If there was no legal entity correctly established for the reception of donations, the gifts would be considered personal income. (I'm taking off my armchair-lawyer hat now. Ill-fitting.)

EAA is a sponsored project of the tides center, so they have more flexibility than a standalone nonprofit. For legal purposes the Tides board takes care of all of the liability. so the failure to put an organizational structure together is a tactical error, but not a legal one.

however, i am puzzled because all tides employees beyond 30 hrs a week are equipped with health coverage--tides mandates this.

Sorry, but I believe that Father Tony's opinion and concerns still stand. Perhaps someone on here involved with NEM and EAA can clarify for us, but was the march funded by Tides, or only run through Tides' 501(c)3 for the purposes of being able to solicit donations? And was their connection only for the purposes of the NEM, or also for EAA?

If you've voted on an executive director, you have almost assuredly acted as a de facto board for the purposes of the law.

tides center does not fund; they just provide fiscal sponsorship, serving as a financial umbrella, and doing all the back-office work--insurance, payroll, accounting, etc...a sponsored project is really just a part of tides, even though they're granted a wide degree of autonomy.

a fiscal sponsorship relationship can be short term or long term. many tides sponsored projects go on for years and years.

a project director is not the same as an executive director. the board for a tides project is really just an advisory board. Tides projects are supposed to have advisory boards for all their projects but that's an internal governance issue, not a legal one.

Kip was having problems leaving this comment so he sent it to me instead:

Just a note of clarity: Equality Across America is a fiscally sponsored project of the Tides Center. Legally, the Tides Center has a Board of Directors, but Equality Across America does not. EAA does have an Advisory Board on record with Tides, of which Cleve Jones is currently the only member. The Executive Committee is a totally unofficial body with no official power...or responsibility/accountability. One of the next steps for EAA will be to develop an official Advisory Board. In the meantime, Cleve is solely responsible, and I do not believe that Bil (or other Executive Committee members) have any liability.

How does someone suggest that an Executive Committee is less official, responsible, and powerful than an Advisory Committee? A member of the Executive Cmte. has written on this very post that a vote was held to appoint someone to a position. That is an executive decision, not an advisory action. That is the exact opposite of a "totally unofficial body with no official power...or responsibility/accountability."

Mickey Rowe | November 3, 2009 6:29 AM

If this is the outcome of all the hard work and the "being grassroots" and different that everyone talked about...

Then, we should be ashamed of ourselves and never speak another ill word about the HRC or any other LGBT organization.

I marched because I believed and still do believe we can make a change by standing up and being counted.

But I'm wondering if past experience with some of the EAA players caused consternation and the lack of upfront support in the very beginning from other gay organizations.

There are several "big Heads" here and not just Mr. Jones.

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | November 3, 2009 7:52 AM

Kip Williams is a phenomenal organizer with a great degree of passion and integrity. I look forward to working with him one day.

I don't know what to say about EAA, but if they have no bylaws, budget, mission, or structure how can they survive as an organization/campaign?

The "now what?" part is always the most difficult and EAA doesn't seem to answering that question gracefully.

Exactly, important questions going unanswered. Anytime people questioned the effectiveness of the march, organizers were very quick to assert that they understood well that the march was not an end unto itself. The hardest work comes after the march, we were told, and organizing impact within every single congressional district was repeatedly promised.

Yet here we are with a meetup on the Mall in the rear view mirror, and little to nothing in the days after.

Agree with everyone above. Kip Williams' passion and persistence are undeniable, and at the root of what successes EAA has achieved.

Whatever organization he ends up at will be very lucky.

Robin McGehee too. Let's not forget her. She was the Co-Director and she worked extremely hard too.

For many of us who have been burned by Cleve, I'm not surprised by this turn of events.

Unfortunately, Cleve has a long history of scorched earthing behind him- and this reeks of similar machinations.

;-) "scorching earth" not "scorched earthing." Its not genitive. :-)

First, I cannot tell you how wonderful and charismatic Robin and Kip are, and how much of a difference they are making at the local, state and national levels. They are treasures for the LGBT community and represent an energetic, fair, transparent and inclusive future in LGBT activism that we all should embrace. It is my greatest hope that we all support them and people like them in whatever they do – and that support includes constructive criticism and sharing of expertise – in order to keep the LGBT movement sustainable and growing. We are perilously close to full equality for all, and we need as many capable hands on deck as possible. I'm sad to say the status quo in LGBT organizational politics will not make that happen, and I for one am working for evolution in the way we organize.

I have great admiration for Cleve Jones. He is part of our movement's "greatest generation", and he has many accomplishments for which he (and we) should be very proud. I am grateful that he worked tirelessly to ensure our community remained energized and inspired through the March.

However, I would be doing my community a disservice if I ignored my long-held belief that any community event whose publicity centers so much around one individual is a recipe for trouble. I also would be doing my community a disservice if I did not say that Cleve Jones has a history of broken promises and not playing well with others. Please look at what happened with the Names Project, the results of the settlement and the broken promises Jones made about what he would do with the settlement for evidence of this history. I point to this out of love and respect for our community, not out of an interest in character assassination.

I hate having to bring this up, as I am not into the petty scandal side of things, but our community needs people who unite, who keep their promises and can help LGBT people deliver on their potential in ways we have not seen before. I am not clear Mr. Jones, while a very admirable human being who has sacrificed a great deal to make the March happen, is the right person to shepherd a movement beyond the March at this time.

Dan Waterhouse | November 3, 2009 11:15 AM

First of all, I'm not surprised at this report. Ad hoc organizations often have birthing/growing pains, and many simply fold their tent and steal away into the night.

I too question the utility of NEM to influence the Beltway decision makers. Marches on Washington are almost a daily occurrence, and Congress simply tunes them out. Barney Frank was right in that respect; grassroots organizing at the local level--"think global but act local"--is an essential part of getting to where we want to be.

Perhaps, the one beneficial result of NEM will be the mobilization of the next generation of activists. However, that result may wind up being wasted if no follow-up in their home states or home towns happens.

Why is it that everytime Cleve gets involved with something there seems to be a lawsuit somwhere. I admire much of what Cleve has done, but the man has an ego bigger than the size of Texas.

Not every group has to be a lasting organization that continues in perpetuity. You have proven the point that a grassroots organization can organize raise money and pull off a pretty significant event in a short period of time. That in itself is a significant achievement that until recently many groups would have laughed at. You have put groups in touch with each other who had not until then been in touch and you provided a much needed moral boost at a time when things were hard for many people.

I say declare victory, close up the shop, and go on to the next project. Then again that's me.

Sam

This is a sad if not completely unexpected day. The most important thing I have to say can be said simply that Robin and Kip (and the entire team) took personal possession of the struggle for equality and we are in a different world today as a result. And, they performed far better than any of us had a right to expect. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude, whether they were paid $9,000 or $90,000.

Beyond that, I think there are many many lessons to be learned and decisions to be made, but for now, I'd just make one point: Whether or not there is an EAA in our future, let's not wait around for someone to form an organization!! We have plenty of old organizations and plenty of newly minted ones! This is especially important for thousands of new activists who reacted to Prop 8 by getting behind the March. If 200,000 of us can show up in DC at one time, why can't we show up at one time at HRC, at the Task Force, at our state's local organizations, and in the offices of Barney Frank and demand to be a part of the strategy to achieve full equality? Didn't we learn that if we don't show up we have no right to expect change? Let's honor Robin and Kip's service by doing what they did: By taking personal possession of the struggle for equality.

Politics is always messy, whether the politicking occurs between organizations or within organizations. I've lived through these kinds of fights and have the scars to show for it, so this sounds amazingly familiar to me.

I suspect that everyone involved is doing what he or she thinks is best, but opinions, levels of expertise and even levels of emotional maturity vary, and thus, conflicts occur. What matters is that we keep our eyes on our shared goal of full equality. Personally, I don't care about EAA, HRC, the Task Force or any other organization. I care that we reach our shared goal of full equality.

To that end, the most important task we all face has already been mentioned in this thread. For everyone who went to DC for the NEM and for everyone who stayed home, we must organize locally to pressure our senators and members of Congress, not to mention building the local strength to win and protect our rights in our own backyards.

If we meet other folks through EAA and can find our strength there, hooray for us! If we find that working through the Task Force or HRC or a state organization like the Kansas Equality Coalition or PROMO in Missouri works, then wonderful!

There is, in fact, only one way we can ultimately be defeated, and that is to give up. Whether we give up because we despair that we can't win or in disgust over in-house bickering, the result will be the same. So here's my prescription for victory: Do something. Do it today. Do it tomorrow. Do it with an established LGBT rights group, do it with a new one. Work where you think you can make a difference. Work where you feel comfortable.

These are nice sentiments, but I believe what we're now evidencing goes well beyond conflicts born out of variances in "opinions, levels of expertise and even levels of emotional maturity."

We're not just looking at squabbles, we're looking at a failed and thoroughly hollow enterprise. One that absorbed funds, energies and other resources that would have been better used elsewhere.

Accountability is important, and it doesn't come from flinching away from tough questions, not today about NEM and NAA, not previously in the sad aftermath of Prop 8, and certainly the organizers of NEM and NAA made their own critical questions of national orgs a motivating talking point in the supposed political mandate for the March and much-promised congressional actions thereafter.

Joel, I'm not saying that EAA or anyone else who works in an LGBT organization shouldn't be held accountable. In fact, if you saw a column I wrote called The National Pratfall, you'd see that I was worried about this march from the beginning. What I am trying to say is that we can't afford to use EAA's problems as an excuse to check out of political work, or allow this one group's problems to soak up all our time and energy. Our work is simply too important for that.

If EAA is a mess -- and there is every sign of serious problems in that organization -- then let's call them on it, and if necessary, walk away from EAA and work with other organizations. What we can't afford as LGBT people is to throw temper tantrums for the sake of throwing tantrums or give up the fight in disgust.

This is a sad but predictible end for something that was put together with very little planning beyond "we hate HRC, let's do something!"

I agree that the millions of dollars spent by the participants of NEM could have been put to better, longer-lasting use elsewhere.

It's almost funny that when faced with the question of "where do we go from here" they are finding they probably need to adopt the same strategies that they criticized in the lead up to the march.

Sounds like things were promised and not delivered.

But I thought Cleve was not the "front man" for this organization. Why would his attitude cause you to resign?

I didn't read ALL of these comments yet, but the negative, unproductive ones were no doubt written by people who were not there. I WAS. I supported the Steering Committee, who by-the-way did an amazing job. Why are people always so fast to whine about what wasn't good--nothing's perfect. Why whine--and do nothing. Why focus on the problems. They were outweighed by the good every moment of the way. Kip and Robin are amazing people and were only TWO of the many I was honored to meet and work with. The feeling while marching and watching the grounds fill up with all those people in solidarity was inspiring and awe-making. I am so proud to have been a small part of it. My friends, Derek--who will get over being upset because he is dynamic, Chris--who did an amazing faith-based forum and has a beautiful heart, Leo--who reported beautifully and is incredible, Laura--who is always amazing, Dennis--who is so smart and lovable--will stay in my heart and my memory of that historic event.

I was there too, Sandy. And I share your respect and admiration for those who worked the long hard hours to make the march a success.

The fate of EAA stands by itself and doesn't take away anything from the glory of the march itself.

This is a sad and strange development: Mark Reed, saying that he's speaking for NEM/EAA, is now accusing those who resigned as having sought "excessive" salaries. He goes on to accuse them of lacking passion, and engages in negative comments about young people involved in the effort:

"Some people are leaving because we couldn't agree on their salaries – they were excessive. It became a job for them and not something they were really passionate about...The young guys just didn't have the business sense."

http://www.queerty.com/cleve-jones-equality-across-america-is-falling-apart-20091103/comment-page-1/#comment-232255

If Mark Reed does not speak for the NEM/EAA, then Cleve Jones should rebuke these attacks and disassociate himself and the entire project (whatever of it may exist) from Mr. Reed.

Mark has written to me about someone posting under his name on Queerty. I've let the editors there know about the problem - and helped him get in touch with them - but to no avail. So far, they haven't done anything about it. It's been an ongoing problem for Mark for the past four or five days.

It's not Mark saying those things; it's someone trying to cause trouble.

I had entirely personal reasons for attending the march, holding signs, bringing friends, taking pictures, updating facebook etc. I never even knew who was in the organization behind it - I knew it would be big and I wanted to help. I was right. It was huge.

I don't think it's necessary for the organization to become any bigger than a networking tool. We went to Washington, we made our point and we're not shutting up...
As long as NEM doesn't turn into another group of democratic party fundraisers who are backed by Nike, Shell Oil and Haliburton (Are you listening, HRC?) - they will be fine.

The unfortunate state of affairs that our community finds itself in should not be relished by any members of our community...

The CDAT's that have been formed around the country are desperately seeking leadership from the top! What we all need to do is band together while the EAA figures itself out.

The NEM wasn't about a numbers game, it wasn't about who could bring the most people into the NEM, and it wasn't about what the EAA's role would be in the future, it was about creating a climate for activism in our local communities! Mr. Jones feels that he has the best answers for our community, but I'm confident that our local CDAT's would much rather prefer to have more of a home base instead of a headquarters...

The EAA could play a vital role in the future of LGBT grassroots with key players like Robin, Kip, Derek, and the others from the executive and steering commitee, but we will all have to hope their differences can be resolved quickly.

Local CDAT's are waiting marching orders at this very moment as we wrap up the week of initiative... it is very unfortunate again that we're being held up by politics. Full Federal Equality is our national goal, because we see that our former state by state approach is getting us nowhere, and it's emboldening the opposition... whatever your opinion of the EAA at this very moment in time may be, you can certainly agree that someone needs to step up and take the reigns in a just manner in order to keep our momentum going before we lose the rest of New England to our opposition!