Guest Blogger

Cleve Jones Responds: 10 Reasons Why a March Isn't a Bad Idea

Filed By Guest Blogger | June 15, 2009 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Cleve Jones, gay rights, LGBT organizing, LGBT rights, March on Washington, October 11

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Cleve Jones is a long-time gay rights activist devoted to AIDS awareness and education. He co-founded the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt and is the leading force behind the planned march on Washington scheduled for this fall. Cleve is responding to Bilerico Project founder Bil Browning's recent concerns about the march.

cleve-jones-header-12-18-08.jpgOn June 8, 2009, Bil Browning of Bilerico Project attacked the planned march on Washington scheduled for October 11 in a post entitled: "10 reasons why a march on Washington is a bad idea." Bil, and other critics of the march are wrong on all ten counts and here's why.

In his first paragraph, Bil references a speech I gave in Salt Lake City during Utah Pride to announce the march. The speech is posted on YouTube, but apparently Bil didn't actually view it. If he had he would have known that the march is not just about Prop. 8 or California or marriage equality, but for equal protection under the law in all matters governed by civil law, in all fifty states.

Point 1:
"Planning a march on Washington isn't something you can throw together in five months."

Wrong. We've learned from Join the Impact, Meet in the Middle and others that large and powerful events can be organized with lightening speed.

Point 2:
"The Mall is already reserved on October 11... Cleve and Co. have already been denied a permit for that day."

Wrong. The West Capitol lawn is available and has been reserved - by us. The DC Police, Capitol Police and the National Park Service are all cooperating with us to accommodate a crowd of any size.

Point 3:
"Congress isn't in session on October 11th, what's the point when participants can't lobby?"

Wrong. The most effective form of citizen lobbying occurs at home, in local districts, when people who live and work and vote in that district engage their representatives in long term dialogue. That's why we're building this march in all 435 Congressional districts.

Point 4:
"None of the large organizations have been consulted...its just a small circle of people."

Wrong. A large and growing network of grassroots activists from throughout the country is coordinating the march. Perhaps Bil believes that we should have achieved a consensus from all the leaders and organizations before calling for the march. A consensus in our community? Get real. What we are offering is a clear unifying demand, a philosophy and a strategy. Individuals are free to support it, criticize it or ignore it as they choose.

Point 5:
"A do-nothing march on Washington is a tactical mistake."

Well, of course, a do-nothing march would be a total waste of time. This march is an organizing vehicle to create a national grassroots movement to change votes in Congress. That's the purpose.

Point 6:
"A march on Washington will not bring marriage equality to the flyover states... the coastal queers are willing to sacrifice us on the alter of domesticity."

Wrong. In fact, only federal action will bring full equality to all of our people in all fifty states. The march and other actions that focus on Federal intervention are urgently required. And could we please stop using strategies and rhetoric that divide us by state or region? The 14th Amendment of the Constitution is supposed to protect us all.

Point 7:
"California is not the end-all-be-all of queer America."

Agreed. But wrong, again, if you think that's what we believe. Read what we are actually saying, it's clear that this march is not about California or any other single state. It's about all of us. And it's about building queer political power to win equality, combat homophobia and fight for HIV/AIDS funding.

Point 8:
"Not too many of us can afford to take a vacation to DC."

Yes, times are hard, but if you want to wait until the economy improves before we push for equality you may be waiting a long time. We're organizing frugally, not planning a 3-day multimedia extravaganza. Roundtrip airfare from the West Coast is available now online for less than $300. Millions of equality advocates live within a few hours drive or train trip of DC. The march is going to be huge. While many will not be able to attend, they can hold support rallies in their hometowns or engage in other actions to support our goal.

Point 9:
"The majority of US queers still need basic protections from discrimination."

If you would take them time to review our statements and my speeches on the issue, we have only one demand: equal protection under the law, in all matters governed by civil law, in all fifty states." We reject further compromises and delays.

Point 10:
"Cleve's quotes are all about Prop. 8, California and same sex marriage."

Wrong. View the speech, read anything I've published since last November. It's all about full equality now. And please don't complain that the media will only focus on marriage rights when you're exacerbating the problem by misrepresenting our statements.

The October 11 march and rally in Washington, DC, offer our community a powerful opportunity to protest the lack of action from President Obama and the Congress. It's an important way to express our anger while building the foundation for a nationwide grassroots movement to change votes in Congress. The organizers are all volunteers, operating with a stripped down, barebones budget and committed to doing the hard, often tedious work of organizing in all 435 Congressional districts.

The events of the past week have made it abundantly clear that President Obama and the Democratic leadership are turning their backs on our community and reneging on their promises. We need to march in Washington on October 11, then return to our home districts and get to work.

A few more words on the date, October 11, 2009:

  • It is National Coming Out Day.
  • The anniversary of Mathew Shepard's murder is Oct. 12.
  • It is the 30th anniversary of the first March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.
  • It's a 3-day weekend for students, government employees and many others.
  • The weather is generally favorable.
  • It is a weekend that has been used historically by our community for marches and for displays of the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

Join us:

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You are fabulous. No wonder Harvey Milk fell in love with you. Don't pay any attention to Bil. He has never lived outside Indiana.
We are fortunate to have great leaders like you.

Thanks for the response, Cleve.

I'm generally on board. My only real concern is with the plan I've read of having only a couple hours of organized events with a brief speech and then jump back in the car. Especially since this is planned for the West Capitol Lawn, I'm concerned that we won't be able to get enough people there to fill it up if only two hours are planned.

Queer strategy is a mess because the community and her leaders carry a ton of baggage. They're hopelessly self hating and self destructive. During the aids years, when Larry Kramer and others were begging the community to get responsible, queer leadership attacked those voices, and thousands died.
Now Mr. Jones bills himself as an activist for aids education. I wonder what he was doing in the early 80s.
Most recently, gay leadership has made us look like idiots, demanding marraige in a hick State like California.
As for another march on Washington, please. It might be an idea if we had serious proposals to offer. But I haven't seen anything. Vague fantasies about full equality and rejecting further delays are a joke. This looks like another bulls--t waste of time, but a chance for the party set to pretend to be doing something constructive. That may make the leadership popular, but it won't do much to get us job protection.


Are you seriously asking what Cleve Jones was doing in the early 1980s? Bone up on your history before making comments like that - or at least read AND THE BAND PLAYED ON.

He was doing as much - if not more - than anyone.

I don't know what he was doing. If you know, please enlighten us.
But I don't need to study the history. I was there. I know what virtually all the leadership were doing; they were making excuses for irresponsible behaviour, and making false accusations against anyone who objected.

Everything you say no one in the leadership was doing - Cleve was absolutely doing. He was vilified for advocating safe sex practices - and the closing of bath houses - at exactly the time you're talking about - and he was doing it in a very pro-active and very public way. In fact, as noted above, anyone who checks out the most important book ever written about the AIDS epidemic can read all about it. And the fact that "you were there" only points to your own ignorance. He wasn't hiding. He was - and is - one of the most open and influential activists the movement has ever seen. And in being such, he often ruffled feathers among the more staid, self-protective, institutional forces within the movement. Which, from some of these comments, he seems to still be doing. To the benefit of all.

Well that's nice. I didn't know he was one of us at the time. I only asked what he was doing.
But I think you're wrong in saying he was influential then. No one on our side was. Even you admit he was vilified, as we all were.
But you're right. I am ignorant about many gay leaders. Given their apalling record, I can't waste time reading about them. I like to think for myself and am not much of a follower. Sorry about that.


I can certainly understand your frustration and lack of confidence in any leader. However, I think when you find yourself suspicious and tired of the movement and its leaders and any of their efforts that is the time to stop what you are doing and ask yourself, “What will I do to improve the situation?”

If you aren’t happy with the progress being made or the direction things are going then go out there, step out of the ranks and be a leader. Don’t be one of those in the background who speak only to be a stumbling block.

Go out there, speak your mind, push for equality, but don’t drag anyone down because you are frustrated. Let your words inspire and not take away.


GuestCommenter | June 15, 2009 8:34 PM

Time is linear and resources are limited. Wasting either on a project with poorly thought-out goals undermines the movement.

The folks in Maine and Washington state have limited time to do their legwork before the elections on relationship referenda this fall. Virginia and New Jersey also have general elections this fall (yes, in 2009). Boots need to be on the ground canvassing on the last holiday weekend before the elections in those four states rather than draining their energy for suspect goals on a lawn in DC.

There are municipal elections in other states (take a place like North Carolina) in October and November.

If you have the time and will to send a bus/plane load of energetic people to DC, how 'bout sending them to Virginia, Maine, New Jersey, Washington state, or a local race instead? Those places and organizations need your energy, will, and time before the elections this fall.

You say you're building a grassroots movement in 435 congressional districts? You know you've got about 10 other organizations already doing that. Don't like HRC? Try NGLTF, or NCTE, or Lambda, or NTAC, or local stuff with the Equality Federation groups, but for Hera's sake, please don't waste energy on yet another fly by night piece of nothing that doesn't last two months after the event.

Cleve, a few observations...

Point 1: Join the Impact is a few people who are not very savvy at organizing. They claim they have 1,000,000 to 2,000,000 names. Why would an organization claiming a million names be ignorant enough to not include a "Join our mailing list" link ANYWHERE ON THE SITE. They did virtually nothing that had any impact on the protests. Sorry to burst the bubble, but their web traffic tells it all. Their website got a lot of attention for one day. And we've heard nothing since.

Point 2: OK. You are right. The march, er, meet, folks screwed up and then were lucky it was available. (Cue: Wipe sweat from brow.)

Point 3: You said "The most effective form of citizen lobbying occurs at home, in local districts, when people who live and work and vote in that district engage their representatives in long term dialogue."

Cleve, EXACTLY. You have just given the strongest argument against the march. THANKS!

I challenge you to produce a list of Congressional district coordinators you are all in regular contact with in 50 districts outside of California and NY. There is as much organizing for this march in the districts as there is on a national level.

Point 4: Cleve. You made this decision with three other people, no people of color, no national organizations. You did it without inclusion. If you did have others in on it... produce the names. Consensus? You didn't even try to work with the netroots. Who do you think can move this message? Admittedly, it's probably not that you MEANT to ignore the netroots, I just suspect they are not on your radar.

Were there any major LGBT political bloggers involved in the process?

You said: "This march is an organizing vehicle to create a national grassroots movement to change votes in Congress."

Actually, there is NO organization in place OR organizing going on that will reach beyond the Oct 11 date. If I am wrong, produce the organizers in the districts.

Point 7: Raise your hand if you think Cleve Jones would have done this if Prop 8 was defeated. Ah... as I suspected, no one.

Point 8: Time are hard, you say? They are worse than hard. over 12% of Americans are behind on mortgage payments or in foreclosure. Jobs losses continue and you want people to spend $300 to fly across the country, not counting hotels, ground travel, and meals.

Point 10: See point 7.

Now Cleve. Is it a March or a Meet? Because when you said it was a "Meet" I was wondering why you used the word "March" 17 times and was not available?

When activism takes on the face of four white people from NY and CA, I'll sit out, and I live up the street. (OK, I confess, I'll be in Europe which means my place is open.)

I LOVE DC. It's my chosen home. Come here, spend money and have fun. But don't think you're doing some great service toward obtaining LGBT equality, there are simply more effective ways to do it. And next time, how about at least checking in with the folks who have millions of readers every day? It, is, after all, 2009.

Wow, Michael Rogers, you are just plain hateful. Not sure what emotional issues that all stems from but you are not helping the cause. Lets keep your personal problems to yourself and not affect national politics with them. OK? Good.

Seriously. Look at some history (because yes history does matter for making good decisions today) When has local marches worked to gain civil rights? When have backwards states ever granted civil rights without being forced to by the federal government who was in turn forced by a NATIONAL MOVEMENT! One that ISNT LETTING THE RIGHT WINGERS SET THE TERMS. One that isn't apologetic.

The new divide in the LGBT community is going to be the "Just do something"/"Full equality now" crowd and everyone else. I know, people are getting less patient, so we have to do something... but jeez from this and boies/olson lawsuit for marriage I'm getting the impression that the reason behind a lot of this impatience is that a lot of people think that this should be easier than it actually is.

I don't really get the point of a march on washington if no one in Congress is there. The only response to that that Jones included was that local lobbying is more important, but if that's the case, why are people marching on washington instead of lobbying at home? Is the march supposed to be a form of lobbying (which is what I understand from the "express our anger" phrase, since there ought to be someone to express our anger to instead of an empty Capitol), or is it supposed to be more like a conference for grassroots leaders, a la Creating Change (which I would take from "then return to our home districts and get to work")? Because if it isn't a march, we ought to stop calling it that so that it doesn't look like a flop when not too many people show up.

Also too, because I've asked this before and never got an answer, what does "full equality now" mean? Is it a list of legislation or a state of mind?

what does "full equality now" mean? Is it a list of legislation or a state of mind?

Maybe it is both.

It becomes both a national catharsis and district by district activation and organizing tool.

I've read about district level blogs and activist groups. It is the first thing in our groups ethos that makes any sense.

I live in the MD 7th. My congress member is good on many of the issues I care about. So maybe a solid demonstration on the part of citizens in the district will embolden him.

To keeps personal costs low, I'm willing to talk about crash pad for engaged activists. Well.... a couple of them my apt isn't that big

Those who can do. Those who can't criticize. They weren't invited to take part so they have to trash this civil rights initiative. Mostly they write articles about sexual issues, such as clip your pubic hairs so your dick looks bigger. Not really gay activist.

Funny, then does that make you a non-doer as well? I mean, if you're talking about Bil not being a "gay activist" (he did write the post about shaving pubes, so I assume you must) you're utterly wrong.

It seems more like you cannot defend your position or add to the discussion, so you're making personal attacks.

It's beneath the level of seriousness this topic needs. A march on Washington is an important issue and shouldn't be trivialized by inane and ill-informed rhetoric.

John Farina | June 15, 2009 9:44 PM

A March on Washington? I can't say that I am jumping for joy about this idea. I'm not a big fan of these types of exercises. They don't seem to deliver the results that they promise.

I am as disappointed and frustrated and angry as anyone in the lack of action from a President we elected for change and for voter initiatives that take away our rights (and so many other things that aren't where we want the or where they should be). Something must be done and we must all be a part of the solution.

I admire Cleve Jones for his amazing efforts on behalf of our community. He is a true leader of the LGBT and HIV/AIDS movement. I can't fault him for trying to organize something. Too many in our community are quick to criticize and condemn - we often eat our own. While I may not rush to DC to march, I support what Cleve is doing and would encourage anyone to participate. If more people in the LGBT community had even half the passion that Cleve Jones does, we'd be in much better place.

There will be folks who will go to DC and become incredibly motivated and come home and take action. That will be an amazing benefit of this effort. Others still will continue to act at home. Most importantly, what ever it is, we need to act - that is how things will get done.

Cleve is absolutely right. We need to use the energy and momentum we've been building over the past few years to overcome the inertia that engulfs Washington. Our voices have been building and strengthening. Letting them peter-out now would be the biggest mistake we could make.

The mamby-pamby attitude of "we should wait until a better time" is the greatest challenge to our success. I'm mad as hell about all the issues confronting the LGBT Community right now, and I'll be damned if I'll sit idly on my hands and hope some kindly soul is going to make things better for us.

Come on, Bil! Letting President Obama pass the first anniversary of his historic election without a determined challenge to "do right by us" would confirm to him that we're easily dispensable. If there were a way to pull-off this march tomorrow, I'd be there! NOW is the time to let all three branches of the Federal Government know that we're NOT going to be swept under the rug! Our equality WILL NOT be an issue in Washington unless we MAKE it an issue!

If you're all not mad as hell, you're not paying attention.

Rick Elliott | June 16, 2009 12:11 AM

A few comments from one who has limited energy to spend.
--I looked at the photo included with Mr. Jones article for a long time. The eyes and smile don't communicate the same message. What I see in the eyes is the anger of a zealot. This frightens me. Zealots frequently aren't leaders, but have a "my way or the highway" mentality that triggers at least as much anger in reaction that what's done accomplishes little. Once the intermediate goal is pulled off, energy is spent. It's as though the end all becomes the event and not what's to be accomplished.
--I know frugality is emphasized, but if 10,000 show up or 100,000 show up, multiply that by the expense incurred by attendees, a sizable chunk of change is involved. My point--spend that money on those in our community who are one crises away from disaster. Spend it for those who can't afford the expense of a sex-change operation, making our environment safer for those with a propensity for violence like Shepard's murderers
--I have yet to know of a march-like protest to do more than "preach to the choir."
--I am disappointed by California's lack of vision, but what is gained seems more for those who can afford other legal remedies. If a state's law is more a definition of a covenantal relationship than what a couple proclaims by the day-to-day sharing of intimacy. I've presided at dozens of weddings in my career, but marriage is not made by the piece of paper I was required to sign and sent in to the State of Texas.

I want out energies spent where GLBT livelihoods are at stake--where a life is put in jeopardy.
--the fight to recognize that GLBT folk have God-given gifts to serve as set-aside leaders in the Church
--the plight of a child who has to be warehoused in state facilities because GLBT folk aren't allowed to be foster parents or even become parents themselves
--to help those of us whose life savings are wiped out and aren't equipped to rejoin the workforce,
--to demonstrate to employers the benefits of inclusivity in the workplace--maybe even let them know that a boycott could be in the wings if they don't. These sort of efforts give those not in the GLBT community tangible ways to support our cause.

If I am wrong, help me understand how and why.

Thank you, Cleve, for taking charge and making this happen.

I'm not sure what the outcome will be.

I'm not sure the turnout will be enormous or even impressive.

I'm not sure (in fact I doubt) I can make it.

Even still, I applaud your devotion and energy and I hope that everyone that wants to do it and can do it, makes it to DC and that they continue the momentum that seems to have exploded in 2008.

We all have the responsibility to do something and none of us need to seek the approval of others. Thank you for showing us that actions can be taken and we can worry about the results when we get to them.

Now is the time to think on our feet and stop worrying that every step must be THE big step or it's not worth taking.

They are all worth taking.

I hate to make such a seemingly wuss-out post, but I think BOTH Bil Browning and Cleve Jones make good points. I'm so undecided on this.

John Shields John Shields | June 16, 2009 1:04 AM

Well, I can see a couple of things wrong already...

Point 2: "...all cooperating with accommodate a crowd of any

That is highly doubtful. It took 3 months of planning for those three entities, among many others, to plan for a crowd of indeterminate size for Barack Obama's inauguration. Good try there, Cleve.

Point 3: "That's why we're building this march in all 435 Congressional districts."

What?? Well, then organize smaller marches in every senate and house district in the country.

Point 4: "None of the large organizations have been consulted...its just a small circle of people."

Uhhh...yeah, you and about two other people. Don't call for a "March on Washington" without getting your "ducks in a row," - which obviously you didn't do Cleve. You may have stated it as "fact," but that isn't going to make it happen. I live 2 miles from the National Mall - not the one with Abercrombie and Fitch, mind you - and just because you "proclaim" it ain't going to make it so.

Point 7: "California is not the end-all-be-all of queer America."

Your point, whatever it is, still mystifies me. Calling for a March on Washington while also knowing that federal law affects all Americans, is oh, so vain. Yes - everyone believed that California led the nation - including me as what I still consider my home state. But, at this juncture in time - you would be wrong. Iowa anyone?...

I can't go on posting all my objections to Cleve's post. I've lived from sea to shining sea - from California to the New York Islands - and I'll tell you this: Cleve, as good as your intentions may be, you were wrong to call for a March on Washington this year. And you don't have the support - of either the major national organizations - nor the grassroots.

It's time to admit you were wrong in calling for this without thinking about it. Just admit it.

Meanwhile, this is giving me a headache. Not really, but I'm shaking my head and going "huh?" There are too many other things to concern our community about than a simplified, poorly planned and quickly-executed "March on Washington."

Wake me up when you come up with a better plan. Otherwise, do us all a favor and admit you were wrong.

I'll "walk" down to the National Mall in October, as it's only a couple of miles. But you need to consider that not everyone lives in the area, and it's not only expensive for them to get to D.C. - but most likely fruitless.


I have hold great respect for Cleve, for his dedication to HIV/AIDS Awareness/Education, The AIDS Quilt and GLBT Civil Rights Movement.

Cleve's call for and intentions for holding a March on DC is an honorable one. Many members of our community are extremely angry, disappointed and motivated to be more involved in the GLBT equal civil rights movement. Although we have suffered losses in for marriage equality in the past few years, we've scored some recent victories as well. We have the opportunity to turn our anger and disappointment into positive actions.

However, we must choose actions or events that allows for as many members of our communities to participate and feel they're truly apart of them. One of the main reasons our nationwide actions were so successful, is they were held locally. We succeeded in organizing our JUTE Nov 15th rally in just four days, which resulted in about 500 people attending. Thus by making them easily accessible, it allows for a larger number of people to easily participate. Location and the economy is an important aspect, we must keep in mind for a successful action, event or march. People can afford and are willing to drive a few hours to attend an event. I've spoke to a number of our members and supporters about the March on D.C., Many wished they could attend the March. But most could neither afford to spend or raise the money needed in to travel to D.C. for a three to four hour event.

A March on D.C. is certainly important for us to be a strong, united, and visible presence for equality. Bil and Cleve both make good points for and against. But, when I consider both, I feel Bil's points are more valid as far as I'm concerned. A march would be better served if lawmakers would be there. At least they'd see us, as well as offer us an opportunity to personally lobby them while we're there.

I'm not noticing any trans people commenting here. Is this going be another march for "gay rights only?" I didn't see anything in your piece, Cleave, about your transgender brothers and sisters. If we are not marching front and center with others, then you will be getting a lot more complaints to your idea. Reaching out to us can be very helpful. But, hey. Even 40 years after the day where transgender people started "The Movement," no one listens to us.

Monica Helms
President, Transgender American Veterans Association

Ms. Helms, as the president of an organization I'd have thought you'd be better prepared before making a whining comment. Did you click on the link to the site? Did you watch the Utah speech? Please do so before you accuse Mr. Jones of not being inclusive.

But, let's say for sake of argument that he is not including "T" in the GLBT march. Where are you? This is an open march...organize your community...get involved. LEAD!

I've been leading for over a decade, and in that time, I don't take anything for grant it from gay men, no matter who they are and what they may have said in the past. Besides, you're not Cleave and I would rather hear from him, thank you very much.

Well, maybe you could start by actually knowing his name and addressing him as's Cleve.

And you did hear from him, you just didn't listen. He's included transgender in his speech and the website.

Out of the 40 comments, I don't see Cleve's name anywhere. He's a post-and-run person. And, a person's personal history doesn't mean squat, because if it did, I'd be a commenter here. Talk is cheap. Just ask Joe Solmonese about his 2007 Southern Comfort speech. If he wants to impress me, he needs to walk the walk. And, what have you done to walk the walk when it comes full inclusion?

I am responding to Cleve, to the Naysayers, and lastly, to Monica Helms.

I too am concerned that the mention of trans folk with this march seems to have dwindled off since the first day or two. Mr. Jones, is it really just a GLB march? If it's T, can you please be more specific and inclusive?

I am a gay trans guy, and I plan to join whoever shows up in DC this October. Yes, there are a lot of issues with logistics, blah blah blah. It doesn't matter. What matters is that the whole queer community (EVERYONE, not just the HRC cookie cutter gay & lesbian folk) has a focal point for a couple of hours, days, whatever. Mr. Jones, if you are having trouble finding a trans person to speak, or lead, or whatever, I'll do it. Ms. Helms, I'm glad you spoke out about the trans thing -- I too am damn tired of being left out of the process.

So I'm going to DC. To be part of a visible, angry, powerful group of voters & humans who are DONE being relegated to the "increments" and "laters" and "equal except..."

See you there.

Fractious | June 16, 2009 8:54 AM

To all you tired, old, arm chair, gay apologists, whiners and complainers, who haven't done squat for gay civil rights movement; who think that crumbs under the table are just fine; who find flaw but never positively contribute - frankly it's time for you sit down, be quiet, and let other people do something - something more proactive; something in action. Cleve's idea is simply brilliant and its long overdue.

Gay people have been too patient. We've given our valuable time, energy and money to politicians who have thrown us under the proverbial bus.

So, sometimes it just ENOUGH.

For those of you too young to read or remember our history; no one (let me say this again), no majority has ever given away their power to a minority.

Did Rosa Parks ask permission to sit in the front of the bus? NO: she sat in the front.

Did Truman ask whether the armed services should be integrated? Clue: no - he just signed the Executive order.

It's not about whether Congress is going to be in session. It's not about whether the "organized" gay lobby or the arm chair bloggers "approves" of this event.

This is about spontaneous, righteous indignation. It's about peaceful protest.

What it IS about is how many people decide that we've had enough BS and will gather together and march; to demand gay civil rights.

How many more queer apologists do we need? Isn't 40 years past Stonewall enough time?


You are so on the MARK!

I can't believe people are whining about this. If you can go GO. And to all you naysayers If you don't want to then don't go. But don't destroy it and SABOTAGE it for the community and try to convince people NOT TO GO. Thats just ridiculous. Its like you want to FAIL so you can smirk. That is JUST WRONG.

TERRIFIC post. Despite the misinformation bandied about in some of these posts, this is a grassroots, national effort. I'll be working here in Florida to coordinate the group for our Congressional district, and I imagine there are 434 others starting to do the same thing. We've got more time than Obama's organizers did. We are equally good at networking, especially online. Our message is simple: equality in civil law. A visible march in DC will get us more press and publicity than 435 marches around the country, will allow us to network with each other, and will invigorate us to overcome these last barriers to being full citizens in America. Get on the bus, or stay home. I'm going.

We did not realize until very recently that the Obama Administration needs a show of strength by Gays, to push them for our agenda. The Department of Justice brief filed last week with a reference to protecting marriage because of "incest" is an abomination. We must demand of Eric Holder (Attorney General) that this brief we withdrawn from the record. It can not be allowed to stand. Harry Reid just announced that there are no Senate sponsers to repeal "Don't ask, Don't Tell". Let's go after Sen Barbara Boxer, John Kerry, Diane Feinstein, Lindsey Graham, and push for our rights !!!!! We all thought that all we needed to do was write a campaign contribution, vote, and sit back and it would all automatically happen. WRONG. We need to take to the streets of Washington.

Hunter Johnston | June 16, 2009 9:47 AM

Here in Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee we worked long and hard to get a county employment non-discrimnation ordinance passed. The best we have achieved so far is only a watered down resolution that does not even mention sexual orientation.
Even so, it was the first (and so far the only) one of its kind in the whole State of Tennessee.

Many of our opponents have brought up that NO Federal legislation exists to protect GLBTQ citizens as a class. We need to push for the passage of ENDA at the Federal level before we can get anywhere at the state or local level in many of the more conservative parts of the nation.

I took part in the 1979 March and I will be there in October 2009 as well. Whether it helps or not, at least I will be doing "something" and not just sitting by and waiting for my civil rights to be dropped in my lap by a benevolent politician.
(I'm optomistic, but I'm not stupid!)

The need for some public pressure in Washington is undeniable; it is the details of the event as envisioned by Cleve that give pause for concern. Like the poster of a fist on a brown background that Michael Petrelis rightly derides for its association with fisting.

What we need is pressure in the halls of Congress with people meeting with their representatives -- that won't happen over a long weekend, it needs to happen during the week. Also, mid-October is too late in the legislative year when weeks matter; the pressure needs to come as soon after Labor Day as is possible.

Holding it at the Lincoln Memorial is a great photo op, but we've already had plenty of photo ops and look at what they have gotten us. We need hard lobbying, demonstrations outside of the White House and in front of agencies such as the Department of Justice. The Lincoln Memorial is geographically isolated, we need to be in the middle of things.

We don't need to be in the street on a weekend when they are deserted, we need to be in the streets during rush hour and shut the place down. That is what is going to get the attention of this administration and the Democratic leadership, not another excuse for a party.

If you want to effect change, then look to the examples of ACT UP, which helped to accomplish a lot at the national level, not the past marches on Washington that may have helped the community internally but accomplished little politically or legislatively.

Bob Roehr

Where will Obama be during this time frame?
It was his promise that is being hedged. Also, what Senators and Reps made any similar promises? I'm from Idaho, so promises for equality rarely are heard here beyond local politics.

Hunter Johnston | June 16, 2009 12:19 PM

You are correct that one on one meetings and lobbying Congress is the way to get something done, BUT a mass public March/Meet/Protest is needed to make the point in those "one on one" meetings that the "one" speaking is NOT alone.

A big public display (thousands of GLBTQ people making the effort to go to Washington DC and be seen and be heard) is probably the only way to get some elected officials to listen to what individuals have to say.

I know that back in 1979, in the days following the March, I and others met with our Congressional representatives who admitted that they had not previously thought they many (if any) GLBTQ people were in their district.

The Cogressmen were of course not present at the March, but they saw the news reports and were made aware that thousands of GLBTQ citizens from ALL 50 states were indeed demanding Equal Rights.

To get someone to realy listen listen to what you have to say in a one on one conversation, sometimes you have to first get their attention. Here in the South we have an old saying: Sometimes the only way you can lead a stubborn mule is to first get its attention by hitting it upside the head with a two-by-four!

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | June 16, 2009 3:55 PM

Go Cleve. I'm sure the marchers in Teheran understand what you're up to even if the Democrats and Obats lack the capacity to understand mass action and it's impact on change.

The movement is at a crossroads.

As the left predicted, Obama is following up a campaign hinged on pandering to christer bigots with more of the same. He clearly intends to put off as much of our agenda as he can until the next election cycle and then drop us, just as he and his party did in 2007-08.

The strategy espoused by so many Democrats and especially the clueless Obots of kowtowing to bigots in the Democratic (sic) party in the hope of getting a few crumbs is a proven loser.

Clearly what the GLBT communities needs now more ever is a new, nationwide, internally democratic movement with a militant program and a focus on mass actions. Congress, the courts and especially the bigots in the White House and the DNC aren't going to make any concessions to us unless we compel them.

The largely spontaneous and often massive local demonstrations, the meeting that produced the Dallas Principles and calls for national demonstrations like this one are all steps on the road to breaking with the bigots who run the Democrat and Republican parties.

As the general radicalization and sharp political polarization deepens under the impact of two, three or however many unwinnable wars and an economy on the brink of a depression we have to position ourselves for the fight for our lives. We have to become independent of the bigots in the twin parties and strike out on our own, building our own movement, organizing our own communities and winning allies. We have to position ourselves to come out winners because the consequences of losing will be dreadful.

This march is a step in that direction and we should welcome it on that basis and build it as best we can. Those cynics who fear getting involved and those Obots who owe personal, not political, allegiance to Obama will stay home. Too bad for them. They isolate themselves. The rest of us will do the best we can to build it and any other actions or groups that advance our agenda.

bigolpoofter | June 16, 2009 4:36 PM

Glad you cut to the chase regarding this MOW nonsense--I knew we had to share something beyond a loathing of homohating closeted politicians! From the first mention of an NOW by my beloved David Mixner, I've been suggesting a Stonewall*541 approach -- don't forget the 6 Delegates and the 100 Senators who participate in national legislation! 541 reflects the local focus of JTI events in response to Prop 8 and helps to connect the Movable Middle to Queers with whom they can empathize in their own communities, and it reminds all members of Congress that WE ARE EVERYWHERE. Every American voter and politician--from Maine to Guam, and Alaska to the Virgin Islands--must receive the message regardling LGBT equality in terms relevant to them, and that's not going to happen from a largely White, upper-middle income lovefest in DC.

I'm not sure what to think about this. I like the symbolism of showing our power as a group, but I also have concerns about the points brought up by others: the symbolism overshadowing the substance and the seeming insufficiency of inclusivity. Meanwhile, I will keep on working for equality, and looking to hear more about this march/meet to see if it makes sense to get excited about it or not. I'm for anything that empowers us as a community.

Been Around | June 16, 2009 5:29 PM

I have been to the 1987 and 1992 marches in DC. What Cleve is asking is that thousands of people spend $1,000 - 2,000 to go to DC for a few nights. We just spent a ton on No on 8, here in CA. The clueless in CA are asking to PUT it on the ballot again in 2010. (we were on the defensive in 2008) This will cost money. Its a recession. Why not have rallies in each state or region or congressional district. The cost is minimal. Perhaps some of the money saved can go towards real organizing and PR.

All of the merits of this aside - I have a simple question that was not resolved by the organizers of previous LGBT marches on Washington. What do we do with the dozens/hundreds of LGBTQ youth who show up out of a sense of obligation without a plan for things like food, housing and return travel.

The last couple of marches on Washington left NYAC and SMYAL (and others I'm sure - those are just the efforts I'm aware of) holding the bill for many of the youth services the organizers felt wouldn't be necessary. I suspect the youth who showed up and utilized the services offered by LGBTQ youth advocates - many of whom didn't even support the marches.

Given the economic climate, I can tell you that NYAC will not have the resources to provide this service once again (unless someone reading this would like to cover the costs as a donation). I can't speak for SMYAL, but I suspect the same is true.

So before I'm even willing to lend time to the merits of the march itself - I want to know who is going to tend to those that show up without proper housing, food, transportation, etc. If that's a part of the current event budget and planning, that'd be wonderful to know as it hasn't been in the past. If the organizers once again feel it's not important to consider, then I cannot support a community event that will not properly care for those that attend - especially the young folks in attendance.

This was not an issue with most of the post Prop-8 events as they were mostly local. There were a few youth orgs that helped young people get to some of the larger events, but I think asking them to do that again with this event will be a tough sell - especially since many of them are worried about making payroll.

I just hope we don't see a repeat of LGBTQ youth sleeping in Dupont Circle because they had no were else to stay. Yes, arguably it's their responsibility to take care of those arrangements before they show up - but history teaches us time and time again that assuming they're going to do that would be a mistake.

Paul O'Kane | June 16, 2009 7:58 PM

Hey Cleve

You are a true American hero. The Gay Community can be a very judgmental and close minded group, just look at some of the above posts. There are thousands of us, perhaps millions, who have had it with President Obama and his continued ignorance of our community. We are with you and we willl march and meet up with you in DC!

Perhaps instead of spending millions of our dollars on homophobic/transphobic/biphobic/queerphobic politicians, including Obama, the Human Rights Campaign might kick down money for food, housing, and expenses.

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” Sometimes, I'm really glad I live in Munich, Germany away from the American gay community. If we can't support each other and our endeavors... who else do we have? There's only one reason why this could possibly fail and that is because all of you let it happen.


You have a right to your opinions and have made your points. To everyone else:

Please-- let's not get sidetracked by this posting. Let's stay on topic. It is irrational to assert that Jones was not active in the early 80s and if people refuse to "read history" that is their problem. Let's not take the bait.

Mark K.

beachcomberT | June 20, 2009 8:22 AM

There are enough GLBT people to pack Washington AND 435 local rallies if more than 10 percent of them would do something...or anything. We have hundreds of Pride events going on this month but most of them have deteriorated into just flamboyant parades and bar parties -- a weekend for getting drunk, not for serious political action. Our national "leaders" once again have missed an opportunity to harness the local Pride events and make them part of a national movement. Maybe next year, after the Obama honeymoon turns sour and Congress drags its feet some more, Pride 2010 will finally goad people into action.

Your point is well taken, but if you are to be an activist, then you shouldn't complaint that 10% actually do something. You should be happy that 10% actually do something.

Sustained political action is beyond the capacity of most people except when their daily lives are immediately threatened in a serious way. The 60's protests happened because the draft loomed large over the lives of millions of young men. No draft, no mass anti-war movement.

I don't say this in a critical way, but as a recognition that trying to keep up with own life, love, family, work, play, health care, taxes and whatnot is pretty much more than I can handle. Now you want me to plan a march? Call legislators who don't give answers? Respond to dozens of call for action and requests for money? Volunteer in a shelter, a soup kitchen, a phone line....

Life is overwhelming, and I'm surprised that even 10% respond.

The job of an "activitst" -- a person who advocates "action" to achieve a political result -- is not to complain how many don't activate. The job is to activate them.

Cleve, I shall see you in Washington!!!!! You are so right about the 14th amendment. We in Florida will have to wait forever for the Florida legislature to grant full civil rights to GLBT persons. We need our own Brown Vs. Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas decision and we can only get that through national action. Yes, Lets march!!!!!zepmbn

If you are really mad or disappointed in America's government then talk about it here: without anyone knowing who you are(it's your choice).