The strategy debate in our movement is one of the most heated you can have. Mention an idea of how to move our goals forward (or try to set a goal) and you'll get push-back from every side. From backroom deals and lobbying to direct action and street protests, the "best way forward" is something we can never agree on.
And that's a good thing.
According to the latest poll from the Victory Fund, 63.2% of those in the LGBT community surveyed think that all different strategies are needed in our march for equality:
It's clear that most in the community can agree on only one thing- there's no single way forward. We need every tactic and tool in our toolbox to get things done.
It's interesting that after "All of the Above Strategies", elect more LGBT and pro-LGBT politicians is the next highest ranked (at 20%). I've written extensively on how a local LGBT politician can move equality forward on a larger scale. Having out politicians at a local level push pro-equality initiatives, which give ammunition (and to be blunt: cover) for politicians higher on the political scale to make moves. It shows they have the support of their constituents if local municipalities pass pro-equality resolutions and laws. It makes that vote for equality and leadership a little easier if they are on the fence. We also can actually change the votes on state and national levels by pushing sitting lawmakers, challenging incumbents, and running our own candidates.
It's also telling that "professional & grassroots lobbying" and "direct action & civil disobedience" are on equal footing in the community. They are completely linked, despite what some might say.
Lobbying efforts are extremely effective, but need the energy, momentum, and attention that direct action provides. During the early days of HIV/AIDS crisis, direct action and protest brought much needed attention to the cause, which allowed lobbying efforts to take place. Without the direct action link, the crisis would have continued to be swept under the rug for years.
The other role that all of these strategies have is to keep each other in check. The lobbying efforts keep elected officials in check on the right path, while direct action keeps the energy and momentum moving so the lobbyist work at a quicker rate than they might do otherwise. Direct action reminds lobbying groups that they work for the community and for actual goals and accomplishments, not just access to power.
None of these strategies are effective on their own. All are a part of how our community must move forward.
That doesn't mean we don't need to still have internal debates and struggles with each arm of the movement. What it does mean is that we shouldn't try to quash or destroy any of those arms. It may make some of the professional lobbying group uncomfortable to see direct action, but they shouldn't try to put out the fire and passion of these activists that garner our cause attention and show how deeply we feel about our fight for equality. At the same time, protesters have to realize that the way our political system is set up, we need access to lawmakers and people lobbying to push the legislation within the system. And above all, we must install our own political leaders that will work from within to push our equality agenda and be our voice as well.
These are all different paths to the same goal. Choose the one you are passionate about and work as hard as you can to accomplish your goals. The beauty of our movement is that there is a place for everyone. You have to find your path and just do something.
There's plenty of work to be done.