Early November last year, I stayed up into the wee hours one morning obsessively refreshing my web browser. The incoming precinct results for Prop 8 confirmed that my rights were being stripped away from me. I should have been celebrating the election of Barack Obama that night, but I felt alone, brokenhearted, and demoralized.
Tuesday night was an echo of last November, as it became clear that our rights were being revoked in Maine as well. I headed out to an election night "celebration" with the League of Pissed Off Voters, who have been solid friends and allies to me as an organizer. While I was there, I realized something: we're in a different place now than we were a year ago.
Prop 8 unleashed an avalanche of new activism and leadership. We've spent much of this last year debating strategy and, more importantly, building capacity for grassroots organizing. And the National Equality March helped us assert our struggle definitively as a civil rights movement. We've faced personal and political growing pains this year, and on this anniversary, I'm excited to be back in action with new tactics and messages.
In the last year, I've spent more hours marching in the streets than I can count. In March, I joined One Struggle, One Fight in a six-day march from the Bay Area to Sacramento, and connected with communities along the way. I joined faith leaders, elected officials, and punk-ass kids in civil disobedience against the California Supreme Court's decision to uphold Prop 8 in May. That same weekend, I joined a grassroots swell from across California in a 15-mile march from Selma to Fresno with my dear buddy Robin McGehee. And last month, I joined 200,000 others in a march on Washington with one simple demand: full federal equality.
Just yesterday, I did something different. I marched right down to Nancy Pelosi's office unannounced with about 10 of my friends, and we demanded a meeting. We met with her aide Dan Bernal, and this is what we had to say:
"Twice in the last year, our rights have been stripped away at the ballot. We want to know what Speaker Pelosi is going to do to make sure this doesn't happen to our community again. We know she's in a fight over health care right now, and we support her to focus on progressive health care reform. But when health care reform is passed, we're coming back, and we expect real answers and real commitments."
Dan tried to pacify us, of course. He's openly gay, so he pointed out that he's on the same team. And he assured us that Speaker Pelosi supports us completely. But when I asked him what she's doing, he said, "She supports the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and the passage of a gender-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act."
One will notice that the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act is conspicuously missing from that list. Anyway, supporting legislation is not the same thing as making commitments and delivering on them.
I wonder how long Dan will let his boss - and the whole Democratic party - tell him to keep waiting, while we watch our rights get stripped away state by state, ballot by ballot. One thing is for certain: I'm not waiting anymore.
My friends and I will be heading back to Pelosi's office soon. And this time we want a plan, complete with achievable goals, benchmarks, and ways that we can help. We're not going away, and we need you to have our backs.
Join us in calling on Speaker Pelosi to Speak for Equality. We need the support not just of her constituents, but of people all across the country.
And wherever you are in the country, keep the pressure up on your electeds as well. We're entitled to full equal protection under the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution...but it won't happen unless we demand it. Being told to wait is no longer a viable answer.