Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

H.E.R.O., GetEQUAL Disrupt Senate Armed Services Hearing

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | September 16, 2010 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Arizona, Don't Ask Don't Tell, Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal, gays in the military, Get Equal, GetEqual, John McCain, military

Today, GetEQUAL and H.E.R.O. - an Arizona-based grassroots group of community organizers - interrupted a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Members of the LGBT civil rights organizations stood up in the middle of the hearing in room SD-106 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

They invoked images of those who have stood in the way of civil rights progress in the past and demanded Senator John McCain (R-AZ) immediately end his threat to filibuster language next week that would continue the process of repealing the military's discriminatory "don't ask, don't tell" law.

Some photos of today's action after the jump.

Last month, Senator McCain flipped his earlier opinion, claiming he had "no plan to filibuster," and went to the floor of the United States Senate to continue railing against gay and lesbian servicemembers serving with honor. Here's Senator McCain's bigoted diatribe where he threatens a filibuster:

This morning, supporters of H.E.R.O. and GetEQUAL confronted Senator McCain with images of past civil rights movements and the people who stood in their way, such as George Wallace and Bull Connor.

They also held signs saying, "Senator McCain repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell, do you want to be the next George Wallace?" and "Senator McCain repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell, it's not too late to change your legacy. "

McCain GetEqual 1.jpg

"We have spoken loud and clear to Senator McCain and his staff that we are not going away until the Senator stops playing politics with the lives of our men and women in uniform," said Jimmy Gruender, co-chair of H.E.R.O. "Whether it is in Arizona or in our nation's capitol, we will go anywhere, at any time of day to deliver the message to our Senator that he is standing on the wrong side of history and is betraying the patriotic men and women willing to risk their lives for their country."

McCain GetEqual 2.jpg

The Arizona-based H.E.R.O., made up of Senator McCain's constituents, have performed two prior sit-ins at the Senator's offices in Arizona. On both April 26 and May 11 of this year, H.E.R.O.'s members and supporters were arrested in Senator McCain's district offices in both Tempe and Phoenix, Arizona. At both protests, H.E.R.O's volunteers dropped off supplies for the troops currently serving overseas before commencing the act of civil disobedience. Senator McCain addressed the acts of civil disobedience on the campaign trail, during a town hall earlier this year. You can find out more information about H.E.R.O. at: www.herophoenix.com.

"Senator John McCain is more interested in placating the McCain-Palin wing of the Republican party than he is in supporting our men and women in uniform," said Robin McGehee, co-founder and director of GetEQUAL. "My advice to Senator McCain is that he spend a little more time learning about equality from his wife and daughter and a little less time listening to the extreme wing of his party. When 80 percent of the American people, the Joints Chiefs of Staff, military leaders, and active-duty servicemembers all agree that it is past time we stop the firing of critical military personnel, you can be assured that you're standing on the wrong side of history. For that matter, he should watch campaign footage of himself in 2008 where he said if those same groups of people agreed on repeal, he'd support their decision - well, the time is now."

McCain GetEqual 3.jpg

Gruender said, "We urge all members of the LGBT community and our allies to continue to pressure the United States Senate and make your voices heard that we will continue to hold them accountable and we expect their approval of the National Defense Authorization Act, containing language that would continue the process of repealing 'don't ask, don't tell.' Any Senator hell-bent on stopping the repeal should take notice. They may be focused mostly on their own job protection in November, but our focus is on protecting those servicemembers around the world who are continuing to serve under the outdated, discriminatory 'don't ask, don't tell' law."

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This so-called "action" didn't change any minds or any votes or anything. It's an effort to get attention and raise money.

Thankfully, most of the LGBT media did not cover this latest look-at-me stunt.

Kevin Erickson | September 16, 2010 8:20 PM

Finally an action that makes tactical sense!

Why? Did this change McCain's mind? Did it inspire any voters in AZ? Did it accomplish anything?

No. GetEqual hopes it will create donations, but it has been laregly dismissed by the media - including the LGBT media.

Enough, already. It's over.

No, I actually agree with this one, Andrew. There's no changing his mind. But by embarrassing McCain with the Wallace comparison, they might just flip a couple of other Republicans who are waffling. This one makes tactical sense.

Not all direct action is bad or wrong. If used wisely, it can be a valuable tool.

The problem is none of those Republicans are from States that polling data allows them to be pushed either way. The majority of their constituents are against anything LGBT. Some even suggest that attacking McCain helps him appeal to his base of support.

So, I am not suggesting ALL "direct action" isn't effective. But, at least generally speaking, when there are just a few (in this case paid activists) making trouble or trying to embarrass someone it doesn't accomplish anything. If 1,000 people confronted McCain, maybe I'd be inclined to see a benefit, but that isn't going to happen. (Uh oh, Jonathan Lewis writing check now).

Most of the activism we've seen in the last year has been purchased.

Angela Brightfeather | September 16, 2010 10:10 PM


I just want you to know that I consider your remarks seditious in nature and hold you responsible for undermining the attempts of our community and it's members to create change. You give succor and hope to people like Senator McPain that the divisions inour community will continue to blunt the enthusiasm that is necessary to continue to create changee.

If you don't know what sedition is, then look it up. You will find that it is the undermining of our government and it's officials, but especially the efforts of our service members during conflict.

The GLBT community that is sticking up and defending the rights of our brothers and sisters who are fighitng for our country and freedoms right now in a war, are under constant threat from the enemy on both sides of the fence. One that wants to shoot them and the other that wants to destroy their careers. In defense of our GLBT heroes, we fight for their careers and you seditiously comment on the effectiveness of their efforts and undermine their intents, calling them fakers and stunt artists only interested in raising money and getting attention for themselves.

You stand accused sir of sedition and I request that you desist and stop running down those in our community who have the courage of their convictions, unlike yourself who can only lurk behind a computer screen.

Hey Andrew,

Last time we corresponded here, I asked when you would be revealing your data and your plan. You responded 'Soon.'

Any update?


I think our community is beginning to understand that accountability means tactics, methods and actions, too. When we embrace accountability and all agree to be honest and objective, we will begin to understand what is required to actually win.

GetEQUAL has demonstrated that simply relying on tactics that mat have worked decades ago, no longer have a place in 2010. This November we will learn there is no "political" solution, either. That may be a good time to restart our movement with smart, effective tactics and campaigns. It may be a good time to focus on winning, instead of whining.

DJ: Apparently, the answer is "no."

No, the answer is "we'll see."

Andrew - Andrew - Andrew what can I say but there you go again. Well get this and get it pumped in sideways so that you will finally know that McCain is not our friend. McCain is a political hack. So frigging what if H.E.R.O. isn't to your particular liking or Getequal for that matter so what at least they are out there doing something that points in the direction of the pedal to the metal. You sir stand accused and found guilty of sedition. Soon is not soon enough would you please just shut yourself down I for one have had enough of you for one week. You and your 450,000.00 claimed funds are a fraud get over it.


In this court of your peers, you stand rightly accused of sedition and frankly, your cynical, vapid and puerile diatribes likewise hold you in well-earned contempt. You Sir have demonstrated no courage and you have no honor. Your constant droning makes it impossible to fully shut out the noise your produce. Indeed, you hide behind your keyboard offering absolutely nothing of value to this community while simultaneously taking zero responsibility. You have become the living embodiment of that which the Bard of Avon despised:

" . . . a poor player
that struts and frets his hour upon the stage
and then is heard no more: it is a tale
told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
signifying nothing."

Susanna I Astarte | September 22, 2010 5:18 AM

I'm with Renee and Erica on this one.
I think we do need to draw attention to our lack of rights. If that means stopping traffic, so be it.
I am more of a local street activist.
I marched with the Latina/Latinos here in Phoenix in 2006 at the No Mas Muertes event. I sang a protest song in front of Bethany Home Bible Church. I have sung for years at Transgender Remembrance Day here in Phoenix.
I am a civil rights activist and have been for over 20 years. I have written speeches for NOW, and gone to many events in Arizona since I moved here in 1996.
The thing is-Andrew seems to want INSTANT change- and that ain't gonna happen. This is a very slow and arduous process. For me, it remains a lifelong endeavor. There are many, many tactics that can and should be used. The Right to Marry Walk, the AIDS Walk, Pride... Erica do you remember the whole Anderson's thing?? We won in the end.
I could go on and on.
We must be visible and have people who are willing to take a stand and go out on a limb.
Others prefer to quietly write letters and talk to friends. That's ok too. But I don't know if letters alone will help us. Being stealth and hiding in the shadows really won't do much to advance our cause. I could EASILY pass as straight- be quiet and no one would be the wiser. But I've been out of the closet about 20 years and proud of it too. I think all activism is good activism.

Here's the problem Susanna - people ALREADY know about us. We are NOT a secret.

6 million people marched in 2006 to "bring attention" to Immigration reform in America. NOTHING happened. Do you think that was simply intended to "let people know?" We know. Everyone knows.

I know you think this is a "long and arduous process" and you may want it to be. But, they world has changed a lot since you became an activist. There hasn't been a single meaningful or effective protest or activist stunt in the last 20 years - not one.

This silly idea of "stopping traffic" or otherwise inconveniencing or irritating people doesn't change any minds or votes - it just pisses people off. That is counterproductive.

In some news reports last night speculated that Harry Reid intentionally pushed DADT Repeal into the Senate in a manner that would reject it. They believed this with the suggestion that Reid and others were pissed off at the silly "left wing fringe" activism. It's not an unreasonable theory.

Direct actions like this are good.

Mass actions are much, much better.

An angry, militant mass march in LA starting in WeHO and moving right down the middle of Santa Monica to Sunset and then up to a rally at Dodger Stadium would, without question, have saved same sex marriage in LA County and California.

Time for another mass march on DC.

Don't enlist. Don't fight. Don't translate.

Support a real hero, PFC Bradley Manning.

Andrew's only goal is to get attention for himself. All these wonderful people in GetEqual and H.E.R.O. have the guts to actually stand up in front of the haters and bigot politicians, and Andrew is jealous of the attention they get. He has no testicular fortitude to do what they do, so he puts them down. He uses hot button statements knowing full well that there will be people who will respond to them. He probably has a "self-gratifying" moment each time someone comments on his community-hating statements. People forget to read the sign hanging on the comment section: "Don't feed the trolls." They get ballsier when you do.

My comments regarding GetEQUAL have been honest and objective. This group of attention-seekers do not speak for the LGBT Community, they are paid to perform tricks for Jonathan Lewis and Paul Yandura. I think they're stupid tricks. The certainly don't help us in any way.

If these "actions" made any sense, they would attract participation. They don't. Most of the participants are paid to be there.

It doesn't help our movement to march around complaining. It helps to educate, enlighten and enroll. We have to change minds. We have to ask for support. Trying to embarrass people is counterproductive.

If you don't think complaining changes behavior - why do you spend so much time complaining? Or trying to embarrass people by calling their actions stupid?

I think we can all agree on the most effective strategy.....commenting on lgbt blogs to people who aren't part of the target audience you say we need to reach.

Looking forward to your "Get to Know Me - I'm Swell" Rally next month. Should be a hoot.

Though - it doesn't seem getting to know you here has made you Bilerico's Prom Queen. Perhaps your charm works better with those who don't work for lgbt equality.

I haven't expressed "complaints" about GetEQUAL's stunts, I have suggested they are counterproductive. Look at various comment threads, most people believe the same and have asked for them to stop.

If you think they are helpful, please explain HOW.

Angela Brightfeather | September 17, 2010 12:41 PM

I will direct this to you Bil, and ask that you read it (with appropriate inserts made by me) and apply it to Andrew, who I find meets the criteria as charged.

Sedition Law
SECTION 3. Whoever, when the GLBT Community and it's members is engaged in the equivelant of war, shall willfully make or convey false reports or false statements with intent to interfere with the operation or success of the GLBT Community or individuals serving in the military or naval forces of the United States, or to promote the success of its enemies, or shall willfully make or convey false reports, or false statements, . . . or incite insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty, in the GLBT Community of the United States, or shall willfully obstruct . . . the recruiting or enlistment service of the GLBT Community, or . . . shall willfully utter, print, write, or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of the GLBT Community, or the honest efforts of individuals to create change that benefits the GLBT Community . . . or urge, incite, or advocate any curtailment of activism within the GLBT Community . . . or advocate, teach, defend, or suggest the doing of any of the acts or things in this section enumerated and whoever shall by word or act not support or attempt to de-motivate individuals who are embarked on creating positive changes and concerned with the life and safety of the members of the GLBT Community therein, shall be warned that such actions will not be tolerated and will result in the immediate withdrawal of all benefits that might assist in the propagation of such sedition.

I do not consider this a matter of Andrew's right to free speech. I do consider that many of his writings have advocated against people in our community that are dedicated to benifitting our community and it's causes. That he has openly slandered them personally and professionally, in favor of his single mindedness and adhearance to
a single course of action while condemning all other actions. The time has come for all of us to say that Andrew is the voice that cries fire in a theater where there is no fire and in that process, he is damaging others.

It is one thing to not agree with others in our community and what they do. It another to malign and insult them for what they do and imply that they are doing it for personal gains and attention, especially when the demonizer is more guilty than those he condemns.

The only "embarassment" here is in having to read Andrew's seditious statements.

Let's "charge" Petrelis, too.


And all the LGBT Media that have finally decided to ignore GetEQUAL.

As usual, Angela, if you can provide some evidence, or concept or rationale for these stunts, please share that. Maybe expressions of anger make you feel better, but they don't help. If they did, GE might actually get some participation - they don't.

You know, I wonder who this Andrew fellow is, who he works for, and what, exactly, his agenda is. It's fine if he doesn't agree with the way they go about things -- not everyone likes such direct action, and that's okay. But he keeps repeating the same thing over and over and over and over again on nearly every site that mentioned this story. It's odd.

Anyway, good jot GetEqual!

It's not a question of "liking" direct action, it is whether or not it is effective. That's called accountability. Nothing GetEQUAL has done has changed any minds or votes, it's all about getting attention. LGBT-issues don't need attention, they need results. Staring down McCain might make a few people feel better, but it doesn't change anything. The same is true for their other stunts.

It turns out the "attention" they have been seeking is so they can solicit donations.

Many people have commented that GetEQUAL is counterproductive. That's why nobody participates in their stunts and why they won't contribute, either. If Jonathan Lewis wants to keep "embarrassing" politicians, with "crazy shenanigans," he'll have to write another check.

Erica Keppler | September 19, 2010 5:52 PM

I am on the Steering Committee of H.E.R.O., and I must honestly say, I am impressed by Andrew's skill at stealing an event and making it all about him. I got back from DC early Saturday morning, and I'm just now seeing this. Andrew has been busy going around the web everywhere this story is reported and attaching basically the same comment accusing those involved as being "paid" activists. I have been dutiously defending my organization and action by following him around as well and following up his comments with something along these lines:

"I am on the Steering Committee of HERO and I participated in the protest action. I was not one of the people standing up in the pictures, but most of the final form of the protest was based on my input and I was in the room at the time. As to this ridiculous claim that we were paid, let me describe what we received from Get Equal. I don't want to seem unappreciative to our hosts from Get Equal, but just for the sake of historic clarity, Get Equal flew us into Baltimore (not DC) from Phoenix, the put us up for two nights in a DC Motel 6, with four people per room, and they bought us lunch after the protest (I had a burger and fries). That's it. We were never given a dime of money, and I personally had to take two and a half days off work for the action at a time that I was needed to meet a deadline. Further, they gave us pretty much total say on how we wanted to conduct the protest. They flew us out on their dime and basically said, "Do whatever you think is best." McCain is our Senator, and they simply gave us the opportunity to protest his opposition to the repeal of DADT our way, and I am enormously grateful to them for that.

"Andrew is just another online lazy narcissist who sits in his little room behind his little computer and derives a false sense of superiority by criticizing the actions of people who actually get up and do something. It's just so much easier to run other people down than it is to put on your shoes and leave the house."

Now, here's the thing, y'all. There are petty, little, scene stealing narcissists in this world like Andrew. As annoying as I find them to be the attention given to him on this site, negative tho it may be, is exactly what he wants. A narcissist would rather be infamous than anonymous, and he can't stand that someone else might be getting attention to which he feels entitled. The only person acting explicitly for the purpose of drawing attention is him. So odd that he's the one accusing those actually putting themselves in harm's way of only acting to get attention. He who hijacked this thread while sitting safely in the dark behind his little computer. Andrew, it's time to grow up.

It makes sense that you wish to simply attack people who want to hold you accountable. Your publicity stunts are ineffective and increasingly freakish.

Tell us HOW this particular stunt changed any minds or votes. Please.

I am disagreeing with your stunts because most of us know they are ineffective. It isn't about "free speech," you can do better than that. It is about accountability for ALL tactics, methods and strategies. Perhaps you have noticed that nobody shows up for GetEQUAL's actions - not even their "emergency actions. they have never had more than a half-dozen misfits show up for their events. Doesn't that provide you at least a clue?

There are NO examples of effective protest or civil disobedience during the last 20 years. Doesn't that make you wonder?

I hope you enjoyed your all-expense-paid trip to DC, but stop suggesting it helped the LGBT Community. It did not. Maybe, (thanks Jonathan) it helped the economy, but not our efforts to obtain our full equality.

Erica Keppler | September 19, 2010 11:37 PM

Still making it about you, eh Andrew? I'm attacking you? As I look up at the many posts you've made on this subject, I don't see a single one that isn't attacking in some way. First try even an ounce of civility before accusing others for lacking it. I didn't really attack you. I tried to help you. I called you a narcissist. That's not an attack. That's a medical diagnosis. Let's look at the diagnostic critera for Narcissistic Personality Disorder as found in the DSM-IV.

In order for a person to be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) they must meet five or more of the following symptoms:

* Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
(Oh yeah, that's you. You sit at your computer not doing a damn thing to advance the cause, expecting everyone to hang on your every word as if you are the absolute authority.)

* Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
(I don't know you well enough. I'll give you a pass on this one.)

* Believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
(You certainly feel that you are special, and should be seen by all as the absolute authority on LGBT rights, in spite of the fact that you never even attempt to offer up a plan of your own. But to be fair, I don't know how much you want to associate with high-status people, so I'll give you a pass on this one too.)

* Rarely acknowledges mistakes and/or imperfections
(Definitely you. No matter how much people on this site point out the ridiculous and inappropriate rantings you do, you never admit to event the remote chance that you might be wrong on anything.)

* Requires excessive admiration
(Attention, definitely. Admiration? Iffy. You do demand that everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, hang on your every word and pay full attention to you, but you are quite content for that attention to be negative. I tell you what, I'll give you a pass on this one, but you're on the edge.)

* Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
(Wow! It's like they're looking right at you. You expect the entire LGBT rights movement to hang on your every word and act at your slightest whim, or you have a hissy fit.)

* Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
(Well, you do expect people who are willing to put themselves in harms way and expose themselves to the risk of arrest for a higher cause to do things your way to advance your own ego while you never even get up out of your chair. That's pretty exploitive.)

* Lacks empathy: is unwilling or unable to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
(Seeing as how you have no hesitation to try to insult and hurt as many people as you can who you should supposedly be in cooperation with, I would say you show a decided lack of empathy.)

* Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
(Your presence here is all about putting down the accomplishments of others so that you can feel just a little bit superior. That shows extreme envy.)

* Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitude.
(OMG! This is like you all over!)

I count seven diagnostic criteria you definitely hit, and the three you don't are mostly compasionate concessions on my part. You only need five. It's all right there in black and white. You're a classic narcissist. Admitting it is the first step to recovery. Get help.

It's not me, it's you. It's not GetEqual, it's you. As a narcissist, you will find fault in anything anyone does, because in doing so, you derive a source of narcissistic supply and a boost to your grandiose false self. Why would anyone take the criticism of a narcissist seriously? Your criticism is self serving and histrionic, and it does not deserve response. You are nothing. You are nobody. You are just an irritating gadfly trying to feel important at the expense of others. Get lost.

All of that nonsense instead of answering my simple question:

HOW did this stunt changed any minds or votes?

Oh, and read about how the SF Chronicle covered GetEQUAL's earlier stunt of "blocking traffic," that was intended to "put pressure" on Nancy Pelosi who was (at the same time) attending a gala for the Opera at City Hall with many of her gay friends.

GetEQUAL didn't know and they (apparently) pretended to "stop traffic" in another part of the city.

This is lunacy. Ineffective and childish lunacy.


Erica Keppler | September 19, 2010 6:09 PM

This is a cross-posting of my account of the protest action I posted on Pam's House Blend. I'm putting this out there for people to get some idea of the reasoning that went into the action in hopes that it might be useful to others.

I was a part of this protest
I am on the Steering Committee of HERO. I was not one of the five people who held signs, but most of the final form of the protest was based on my input, and I was in the room at the time. I was talked out of being one of the people holding signs, because there was a high risk of arrest, and I was told that DC police can be particularly hard on trans people (If Autumn happens to read this, I would be personally curious to hear about your experience being arrested in DC).

We in HERO confronted John McCain on DADT earlier this year at a town hall meeting he held in Queen Creek, AZ. We posted a video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3Ox51ZDmYU and read my comments on McCain's reaction below the video. I saw McCain as reacting emotionally to the suggestion of repealing DADT. He got angry. Just a week before the town hall in the video, I attended another one of his town hall meetings held a couple of miles from my home where I talked at length to him on passing ENDA, most especially from the perspective of discrimination faced by the transgender community. At that meeting, he listened to me patiently and was respectful to me afterward. In the video of the later town hall where Jimmy Gruender of HERO confronts him on DADT, McCain is quick to get angry, when Jimmy discusses the issue in tones not that different from how I approached him on ENDA.

I really believe that his opposition to repealing DADT is a deeply, emotionally personal issue with him. It makes him angry. It's not just a calculated political tactic, and it's certainly not based on reasoned military analysis. No. In his mind, repealing DADT will damage him personally. But how? I think that in McCain's mind, his claim to fame, his entitlement to authority, his action that makes him deserving of high public office and power in government was the time he spent as a POW in Hanoi. We were in the Smithsonian American History Museum the day after the protest, and saw where they have an intire theater and video exhibit dedicated to telling the story of McCain's time as a POW. He thinks his sacrifice as a POW is his legacy, and he has built his personal identity on that.

My theory is for some reason, in McCain's mind, he thinks that gays and lesbians serving openly will in some way diminish the significance of his time as a POW. How it would do that would require digging into his mind further than I am capable. Maybe it's the macho thing. Maybe he's afraid the veterans groups who treat him like a God will stop worshiping at his feet. I don't know. I just know that the thought of gays in the military eats away at what he most treasures, his legacy.

In debating how we were going to conduct this action, I made the argument that we need to trade one legacy for another in his mind. We need to point out to him that his real legacy is what he does as a Senator, not what he did as a young man. We need to show him that trying to preserve the legacy of his youth by keeping gays out will destroy the legacy of his career by having history judge him as a bigot. I proposed using the image of George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door trying to stop desegregation ( http://everythingishistory.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/Wallace_at_University_of_Alabama_edit2-1-1023x733.jpg ) and asking him if he wants to be the seen as the next George Wallace and saying that he still has time to save his legacy. Heather Cronk of GetEqual (the only direct participant in the action from GetEqual) proposed adding an image of Bull Connor ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bull_Connor ) directing attack dogs at African-American protestors ( http://www.annotatedmst.com/episodes/teenagewerewolf/bull%20connor.jpg ) and asking if he wants to be the next Bull Connor.

We went back and forth for quite a while if we were going to be confrontational and disrupt the meeting. We all went there prepared to be arrested and assuming that would be the outcome. The initial plan was to loudly stop the meeting until we were arrested. I pointed out a Get Equal action a few weeks ago in California where they did that, and the Youtube video really drew sympathy for the man they were protesting, and made the protesters look unreasonable. As we were debating this, I was looking at one of the other images we were considering, the image of the Woolworth lunch counter sit-ins during the civil rights movement ( http://lookingblack.com/files/2010/02/sit-in.jpg ). I pointed out that what makes that image powerful is that those men were being completely reasonable. By being completely reasonable, they made the laws look unreasonable. I proposed that we go in and hold up our signs, but not disrupt the meeting verbally so that we can be seen as being reasonable, and any attempt to arrest us or remove us would be seen as unreasonable. The object was to draw sympathy to our cause, and give none to McCain. We eventually reached a consensus to stand in our seats and hold up images of George Wallace and Bull Connor, showing McCain that this is how history will judge him if he continues on the course he's on, and all his work as a senator will be overcome by the legacy of him obstructing the progress of basic human rights and equality.

The meeting was on the military situation on the Korean peninsula, an the room had lots Korean press. It wasn't hard finding a seat. A short time after Carl Levin called the meeting to order, the protesters stood and pulled out their signs and held them up. All the Korean media turned their attention to and started covering the protesters more than the meeting. They were more disruptive than our people were. Levin just went on with the meeting as if we weren't there, but he knew it. He read the signs. McCain read the signs too, but after he did, he avoided looking in the direction of them for the rest of the meeting. This created challenges for him, because the protesters happened to be directly behind the generals he was questioning at the meeting in his line of site. He could not look at the generals as he was asking them questions. We definitely got to him.

They were all just a gavel smack from Levin away from being arrested the entire meeting. A capital police officer in the room walked up to them and whispered they could hold their signs if they will just sit down. They held firm and kept standing. Other officers were called in and stood at the side of the room near the protesters. Nobody moved. The meeting kept on going. Things felt very tense for the first 10 minutes, but then it started becoming clear that they weren't going to get arrested. I really think Chairman Levin, a Democrat, agreed with the message, and as long as we kept quiet and didn't force his hand, he was content to let us stand there and make McCain look at it, and I think McCain knew he was doing that. Oh, to be a fly on the wall after those two ran into each other after the meeting.

After about 30 to 45 minutes into the meeting, I started getting a sense that this protest was becoming extremely powerful. Our endurance and our persistence while being reasonable in our actions created the elephant in the room. As the meeting dragged on and the protesters just stayed there, silently holding their signs, it was if the entire room was quietly endorsing the message as well.

McCain did leave before the end of the meeting, but so did Joe Lieberman and other senators on the committee. They had a recess and Lieberman came back for some further questioning, but McCain was not seen again. The protesters sat after McCain left, but continued holding their signs in front of them. They stayed until the end of the meeting.

The most amusing story of the day came after the Senate Armed Services meeting. We as a group all went to John McCain's office to ask to speak to him personally. We didn't expect that we would, but we did want to add to our lengthening track record of him refusing to talk to us. We did get 10 minutes with a staffer where we presented our argument for the repeal of DADT. We left McCain's office in the Russell building, and went down the hall and around the corner to leave. Jimmy Gruender (the tall man in the orange shirt on the end in the picture above) said he wanted to find a restroom. He went back the direction we had come from, and when he was alone, John McCain came up the stairs and walked down the hall. Jimmy said loudly, "Hello Senator McCain, how is your day?" McCain turned around, recognized him, put down his head and said, "Fine, fine," and then walked as quickly as he could to duck in the first door he saw. McCain was running scared.

It was a glorious day. My deepest thanks to Get Equal, who paid to fly us out there and put us up for two nights in Motel 6, a marque of excellence the world over. They gave us pretty much total discression to conduct the protest as we saw fit. We couldn't have done it without them, which makes me all the more amazed and appreciative that the let us do it our way.

Your "glorious day" didn't accomplish anything. It didn't change any minds or votes.

I can fully understand how this publicity stunt may have made you feel useful, but what did it accomplish? Do you think we needed to let McCain know we were unhappy with him?

This is a waste of time, money and energy. That's why GetEQUAL has to fly activists around the country - most realize this charade is counterproductive. Street-theater complaining might be cute, but it is ineffective. McCain knows. 97% of Americans know. Stop the childish publicity stunts they make us look weak and desperate - maybe we are.

By the way - the media didn't report this stunt. they're getting it. There were only 14 articles about it - all on GetEQual-friendly blogs that few people read.


I appreciate your enthusiasm and apparent commitment, but please look at the facts and look at the small response. This event is nothing to be proud of. In fact, there is a very good chance that these stunts hurt us by making us look weak and desperate. Most of us don't appreciate that.

GetEQUAL flew Erica to Las Vegas to help "stop traffic" there, too. Flying "activists" into cities .... why?

Erica Keppler | September 20, 2010 4:32 PM

Just to correct the record, GetEqual did not fly us into Las Vegas. We're in Phoenix. We drove.

Erica, Please Don't feed the trolls." They get ballsier when you do. This is a quote we found early on in this diatribe for and about the original subject DADT. Does anyone remember that the subject was DADT????? Yet it appears that nobody is listening anymore. This Andrew person is at best Narcissistic as you rightfully have injected as a medical term. 10 times too many reply's have come and gone from this fellow and all it seems is that he sits at his computer doing a cut an paste of past responses as nothing ever seems to change with him. Devils Advocate he is not let's let him whither on the vine as he continues to stir up the masses. Andrew has no agenda, I repeat Andrew has no agenda worth following and as I have mentioned we are still waiting for whatever it is that he holds as his claim to 5 minutes of fame. Well SOON has come and gone I for one am no longer waiting I know there is nothing available. This Andrew person does not have a job and even if he did can't be concentrating on running a company since he is everywhere at once on any given subject which just tires me out personally. I am retired and I don't have that much time in any one day let alone try to keep up unless of course I have nothing new to offer and I keep my pet answers in a file of my choosing. Surely you have to see what this person is all about so lets try to ignore him lest he repeats himself that many more times. Andrew I will say it one last time ENOUGH!!!

Erica Keppler | September 20, 2010 6:14 PM

Agreed. You will notice in my last comment that I didn't answer his question. I only corrected the falsehood on which he premised his question. This is a public forum, and as such, I was not speaking to him so much as the forum.

At the very least, tell us how your circus-styled stunt made any difference. Tell us HOW this childish action changed any minds or votes. That's the issue - accountability.

If you truly believe that these silly stunts help change minds or votes tell us how. It is easy to insult people and profess your cheerleading for an action, but sooner or later you need to make some sense of it.

GetEQUAL is trying to get attention so that they can raise money. NOBODY has EVER made a compelling case for their effectiveness. NOBODY.

You can be first - go for it.

Erica Keppler | September 21, 2010 12:24 PM

"circus-styled stunt"
"childish action"
"silly stunts"

First learn how to ask nice and relate to people respectfully.

"It is easy to insult people..." - The story of your life.

What's Dale Carnegie's first rule of "How To Win Friends and Influence People"? "Never criticize, condemn, or complain."

First grow up, then we'll talk.

Those are objective comments, not insults. They are directed at the tactics, not the people.

Barney Frank and others have said the same. He said "stupid, immature and useless" on several occasions. Objective, not insulting.

My comments above are about accountability for tactics, methods and strategies - GetEQUAL in particular. If you believe their publicity stunts are helpful - by changing either minds or votes - please share. That would be helpful.

Erica Keppler | September 20, 2010 11:46 AM

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Susanna I Astarte | September 22, 2010 1:36 PM

Right- since I REALLY want the process of change for women's rights and safety and rights and safety of people of color and the rights and safety of the LGBT population to be a long and arduous process.
LOL. What a silly assumption. No, I want all of us to be safe and happy and treated equally. In fact- the discrimination, excessive violence, murder and bullying should have never started in the first place.
Thank you, straight white patriarchy. (That was sarcasm, in case you didn't catch it.)
Hearts and minds are changed every day. There are many ways this is accomplished. Sometimes at my job I'll tell a client I'm a lesbian. They are always surprised but then they think for a minute. I often hear "I've never met a gay person before" and I reply " Well you may have, but they didn't tell you." This really makes them think.
Different tactics work on different people. I think all are needed. Some really do need the proverbial ' kick in the pants'. Others require a more subtle approach. There was a whole debacle with Andersons a few years ago- and I was briefly part of that. There was a lot of media coverage and finally we did change someone's mind.
Unless Andrew is psychic- which I somehow doubt, he won't really have any way of knowing exactly whose minds have been changed, when and why.
I reiterate we need everyone.
Jimmy and Meg and others walked ALL ACROSS ARIZONA just talking to people about the right to marry. I know they made a difference. I belong to a GLBT swimteam- they're NOT politically active at all but when I mention there's a gay swimteam-some people are surprised to hear it.
We're normal people- just like anyone else- we eat sleep, buy groceries and pay our bills.
The thing is the straight community tends to be asleep at the wheel- they don't think about us much- if at all.
If we don't get out there and demand our rights- I don't see anything changing ever.
And let 's not forget that Barney Frank chose to throw the Trans people under the bus for his convenience.
Immigration is also a huge issue. And being in heavily jack-booted Arizona doesn't help. Russel Pearce doesn't help. But the Russel Pearces are tone deaf when it comes to basic human rights.
(I mention him because I find his ideas particularly heinous, he was behind 1070, and I happen to live in his district.)I can easily try to sit and talk with my representative- or try to get a better one in office. Kyl and McCain really are lost causes. I don't think there will be an agreement about immigration any time soon. Do I wish there was ? Of course! An agreement that included simple ways for those already here to obtain legal citizenship, work visas, and etc.
But a lot of people choose to be scared.
Fear is what causes the police and others to harass the Mexican/Hispanic people. It's ugly and bigotry is a tough attitude to change overnight.
The same bigotry that leads some to harass, beat and kill our Trans people. Of course I want change and I want it YESTERDAY. But doing nothing will guarantee a result of nothing done.

I think you've helped make my point Susanna. Slapping John McCain or trying to embarrass him won't change his mind.

Everything else you mentioned is effective. It requires each of us talking to friends, neighbors, co-workers and even strangers. Not confrontation, but conversation. Two-thirds of America is inclined to support our full equality if we leave "religion" and "politics" out of that conversation.

I appreciate your efforts and enthusiasm. We need more people like you that are willing to "share." We should have media campaigns that provide inspiration for more of us to "come out" without fear. But, we've never re-branded ourselves. We continue to waste hundreds of millions on lobbying and playing politics. It hasn't worked and it's about to be 1994 all over again.

Someday our community will focus it resources on changing minds - not as you've described as a "long, arduous" process (that's what we have now), but as the strategy to actually win.

Thank-you Susanna.

Erica Keppler | September 22, 2010 7:01 PM

Much better Andrew. I'm impressed. You see, with some measure of civility people will listen to your opinion instead of shutting you out.

Since you've demonstrated a willingness to engage in a more congenial tone, I will attempt to give you some amount of answer to your inquiry. Unfortunately, I am occupied with something pressing at work right now and can't commit much time to it, so I will instead cross post something I wrote at another time on another site in response to an article on a poll reflecting a shift in public attitudes toward favoring marriage equality:

I take a very organic approach to the advancement of LGBT civil rights. There isn't one strait through line. There isn't one tactic. There isn't even really a right or wrong. There isn't one path to equality, but is instead, for want of a better visual analogy, a hemisphere with poorly defined edges. There are many, many ways of approaching it, and they all put pressure inside the hemisphere in different directions and somehow contribute to urging it forward. They are all right so long as they are sincerely motivated by a desire for progress, they all play on each other, and they all have effects both intended and unintended. Some of the unintended effects are bad, but most of the unintended effects are good. This poll is a sign of a positive unintended effect of the cacophony of many different efforts and approaches going on simultaneously. This is the same pattern followed by civil rights struggles that went on before us.

Ultimately, rights will be granted to the LGBT community when a significant majority of Americans favor the idea. That will cause politicians to recognize the issue as politically expedient and vote in favor of those rights. People pursuing the cause of civil rights keep wanting to find the one, clean, neat, direct, easy path to winning those rights. I suggest there isn't one, and the big mistake people keep making is in thinking there is one, and arguing amongst ourselves ad infinitum about just what that path might be. That's kind of like arguing over the fine points of different religions when in reality all religions are a path to God.

Some people think that rights are won when legislators vote for them, and then poor everything into lobbying those legislative bodies, only to throw up their hands in furry when reality doesn't work their way. But what people pursuing such an approach don't realize is that 1) it's not the lobbying alone that will convince the legislators, but the change in political climate that will do it, and 2) their lobbying is one small part of that change in the political climate. In other words, lobbying alone will not do it, but lobbying is a part of what will. GetEqual's nonviolent civil disobedience alone will not do it, but it is a part of what will. LGBT positive TV shows and movies alone won't do it, but they are a part of what will. People living "out" alone won't do it, but... Well, you get the idea.

Ultimately, this cultural shift will be represented by a generational shift. A new generation growing up in this new climate will begin to push out the dying off older generation who refuse to change. The new generation would not experience this new cultural climate if everybody weren't contributing to forming it. History is happening. It will happen, just like it did for other minorities in other struggles. No one or small group of people will be responsible for it. Everyone will have contributed. However, in spite of that fact, I guarantee that this movement will have its heroes, and there will be people given much more than their fair share of the credit for our collective accomplishment. That too, is history repeating itself.

I appreciate your comment.

It has been established that HRC hasn't had any successes. In thirty years they cannot demonstrate a single "changed" vote in the US Congress. Not one.

GetEQUALS stunts have been mostly dismissed by the media and the community. It's nothing personal, people know they are tactics from the past. Short of that, nobody has ever provided any evidence or rationale for their effectiveness.

Positive LGBT media is always helpful and i agree there is a generational shift. This is mostly because of the shrinking influence of religion. Nearly one-third of persons under 25 have "no religion." That's very encouraging.

When I beat the drum for "accountability" and a group cannot provide either evidence or some rationale, the next stop is "try everything." This assumes everything works. Clearly that isn't true, but the bigger risk is some actions are actually counterproductive.

I think you agree that we will have "equality" when the "majority" of our fellow citizens believe we are equal. Here's the good news: two-thirds of American adults DO believe we are equal. Only one-third, primarily rabid Christians (literalists) continue to believe we are wrong or defective because they believe God told them.

The only way I know of leading directly to victory is proving the majority support our full equality. Therefore, I have spent a lot on research, the development of media campaigns and the development of a cohesive strategy. It all adds up to victory within 2-3 years.

Our biggest problem is that only 10% of our community contributes or participates in our movement. If they realize we can actually win, many others will join the effort. That's what's been missing - a way to win. Too many have donated, lobbied, made calls, marched, emailed and even protested - and look where we are, back to 1994 overnight. Politics has not delivered our equality. Protest won't either. It's OUR job. We must create it and it is possible in a short period of time.

I appreciate your thoughtful comment. I also appreciate your efforts and enthusiasm.

Erica Keppler | September 22, 2010 10:04 PM

"Do everything" means you believe that everything works. "Try everything" means you don't know what will work. That is the biggest lesson I had to learn when wetting my feat in the pool of activism. Everyone disagrees on what is the best course of action, everyone thinks everyone else is wrong, and everyone can't be right. Further, it became obvious to me that consensus was impossible in an aggregation of free people. We will never move as one mind or act as one entity. I once knew someone who adamantly claimed that we had to act according to the lessons in "The Art of War". The problem with that idea is that we can't kill the concubine (you have to read the first couple of pages of it to get that reference). The Art of War is an inapplicable model to our circumstances, because we do not have, nor will we ever have, a chain of command.

So, in an environment of free people, exercising free thought, and acting according to free will, how do we establish who is right? We don't. We have no way of doing so. Probably no one has the answer, and we have no way of determining who has the answer even if they did. Given that reality, if we fight among ourselves over who does have the right answer, the fighting is the only inevitability that can result. Fighting over who is right only produces infighting as a result, and no progress.

That leads me to conclude that we have no choice but to embrace the diversity of opinions within our community. Sure everyone can't be right, but everyone can be wrong, at least from the perspective of each individual. At some point, we have to believe that anyone's sincere view on how to proceed is probably at least a little right, and generally leads in the right direction. Within this diversity of opinion, every opinion probably has a kernel of truth to it, and if pursued will in all likelihood do more good than harm. There may indeed be exceptions, but there is one thing for certain. In a diverse community, fighting against any one person's sincere approach will do more harm than their approach is likely to do.

Which leads to the next realization I had to come to in sinking deeper into that pool of politics. Very few people are going to do it. You quoted 10%. I would dance a jig if I could get anywhere near 10%. I go to Pride festivals with tens of thousands of people, but if you try to host a political rally, or a march, or a phone bank, etc., you're doing damn well if you can get 20. 10%? Perhaps more like 0.1%. Politically minded and motivated people are an extremely small portion of society.

Given the extreme difficult of getting people up off their butts to do anything, anyone getting up off their butts to do what they sincerely feel is the best thing they can do should be allowed to do what they feel is best. You don't have to agree with them. You don't have to join them. But you've got to let them do it, and you have to insist on them letting you do your thing. You've got two people with differing perspectives on how to proceed. Neither has the right to say the other is wrong, or at the very least, to stop them from doing it.

You will notice that I used the word "sincerely" several times. I agree on the issue of accountability, but you want to apply the standard of accountability of result. On that, I disagree. Results are something you learn from, they're not something you condemn someone for. My standard of accountability is sincerity. For me, the person acting must be doing it out of a sincere belief that this is the best thing they can do to help contribute to the cause. Where I have issues is with people who are not acting according to that standard. Joe Solmonese dresses just a bit too nice and goes to a few too many parties for my comfort. Barney Frank enjoys his power and privilege a bit too well for me to have full confidence that he's acting in the best interest of others.

I have met most of the people running GetEqual. Robin, Kip, Michelle, and Heather. I have talked to them. I have worked with them. I have looked them in the eye. I have not seen a bit of hubris in any of them. I truly believe that they are doing what they sincerely feel is the best thing they can do for the cause. You might disagree with them, and you don't have to join them, but you've got to let them do their thing. Otherwise, all we have is infighting.

Susanna I Astarte | September 22, 2010 11:15 PM

Well we are back to time again and human support.
In 2006 we managed - with full support of ourselves and many straight allies, to beat prop 107. That was a very streamlined and organized effort. And it did make a difference and we won. However- that was about insurance benefits for ANY unmarried couples.(Gay or straight) And we had time and money to prepare.
Counter that against prop 102- which was ONLY about denying LGBT people the right to be included in marriage and the insidious slogan ,
" Yes on marriage" . We had no time to prepare, it was directly targeting ONLY at the gay community, and Mormons spent literally thousands on that particular campaign. Won by a landslide. Why ?
As I stated previously - we did not have the time, empathetic supporters from the straight community, nor the money needed to combat it.
I must ask Andrew if he thinks he can change things in such short order to please step up and do so. Be part of the solution.
Not sure how the math adds up to victory in 2 or 3 years. (It's that NEW math!)
Nor which tarot deck or crystal ball he's consulting ( I say this since I am a reader myself- would love a gadget like that!)
Apathy is a huge problem - not just in the TBGL community but all over our country.
I've thought for ages we need our own media/tv/radio station. Not just for entertainment mind you- but also for news and communication.
I think that would be a great start.
We are so close on DADT and I can almost taste the victory ahead. It really is just a matter of time.

Susanna I Astarte | September 23, 2010 12:00 AM

Well we are back to time again and human support.
In 2006 we managed - with full support of ourselves and many straight allies, to beat prop 107. That was a very streamlined and organized effort. And it did make a difference and we won. However- that was about insurance benefits for ANY unmarried couples.(Gay or straight) And we had time and money to prepare.
Counter that against prop 102- which was ONLY about denying LGBT people the right to be included in marriage and the insidious slogan ,
" Yes on marriage" . We had no time to prepare, it was directly targeting ONLY at the gay community, and Mormons spent literally thousands on that particular campaign. Won by a landslide. Why ?
As I stated previously - we did not have the time, empathetic supporters from the straight community, nor the money needed to combat it.
I must ask Andrew if he thinks he can change things in such short order to please step up and do so. Be part of the solution.
Not sure how the math adds up to victory in 2 or 3 years. (It's that NEW math!)
Nor which tarot deck or crystal ball he's consulting ( I say this since I am a reader myself- would love a gadget like that!)
Apathy is a huge problem - not just in the TBGL community but all over our country.
I've thought for ages we need our own media/tv/radio station. Not just for entertainment mind you- but also for news and communication.
I think that would be a great start.
We are so close on DADT and I can almost taste the victory ahead. It really is just a matter of time.


It's coming soon. What has been difficult is just getting our community to recognize we don't have a strategy and that accountability means determining whether or not a tactic is helpful.

We are making progress:


The column is titled "GetEQUAL gets Stupid Again." Many in the LGBT media are now understanding that GetEQUAL was a bad idea. It needs to end.

Susanna I Astarte | September 24, 2010 2:55 AM

I first apologize for the accidental double posting.
(Computer glitch-sorry)
Now- if we're going to to talk about the ass-backwards state of Florida, let me tell you I used to live there.
After MANY YEARS- Florida is FINALLY allowing lesbian and gay people to adopt children. Prior to this law being overthrown, it was legal for ANY straight people to adopt (as in those with a violent criminal record, history of child abuse, etc). However- no matter how saintly- no one from our community was allowed to adopt a child.
How heinous.
In 1994- when I lived in Gainesville, there was a ballot prop. 101 that was trying to make it illegal for lesbians and gays to own property. Since I identified as bi at that time, I joked- "So would I get half a house or what". The famous designer Isaac Mizrahi was quoted as saying - : If gay people can't buy houses, then straight people can't decorate them." Gainesville was on the map -it was national news. Our leader at the time- Lawton Chiles was wonderful- he laughed the bill away and it never passed. I think it was a combination of factors: Our amazing governor, media attention, local activism and of course the utter insanity of the idea itself.
And I forget which country in Southern Florida had adopted the bible as pretty much the only reading material they wanted in their classrooms.
Anyhow-not clear on exactly what strategy would work overnight-as I said earlier ain't gonna happen. However- I'm confident that it will happen in spurts- as it has in the past-back and forth - until we finally have achieved our goals.
Sword drawn, I remain ever vigilant.

Vigilant good, "sword drawn," not so good. It doesn't have to be a "fight." The majority of Americans will support our full equality. Not overnight, but within 2-3 years.

Susanna I Astarte | September 24, 2010 2:59 AM

Um that was COUNTY in Southern FL-(not country).

Susanna I Astarte | September 25, 2010 1:07 AM

It is a fight. I didn't start it but I have no problem finishing it. I don't recall a response to my comment about fighting bigotry and homophobia.
Glad you clarified your opinion on the time frame in which you think we'll achieve full equality.
I truly hope you're right. But I won't be surprised if you're wrong.