Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

GetEqual's Robin McGehee Invited to DADT Repeal Signing

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | December 21, 2010 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Don't Ask Don't Tell, Get Equal, GetEqual, McGehee, Robin McGehee

GetEqual's Robin McGehee has been invited by the White House to the signing of the DADT repeal law. robin mcgehee.jpg

What does it mean that this mother of two, who has protested against governmental inaction, including that of the White House and President Obama, suffering arrest and detention, and peril of jail time on numerous occasions, has been invited to the signing of the repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell law by the White House?

For those who had said that the activities of Robin and GetEqual were an insult to the White House and to the President and the Administration, clearly it means they were wrong.

According to Melanie Nathan, of LezGetReal.com,

Those who know the small Get EQUAL team can also attest to the fact that this recognition of their part flies well in the face of critics who are still doubtful of the importance of grass root action and civil disobedience in the American process.

I think this is exactly right. Speaking up for your rights and demanding recognition of your humanity gains you respect. As we celebrate this milestone in achieving our civil rights, the work of Robin and GetEqual deserves much honor and recognition. The White House says so.

There is much about GetEqual that needs to change in order to achieve its full potential. But it cannot be denied that, in less than a year of existence, GetEqual has created dozens of direct actions and protests that channeled and illuminated the frustrations of the LGBT community in a way that helped to bring our plight to the attention of the media and the American people.

While Robin certainly did not do this alone, she is, for better or for worse, the image of the organization as well as its leader. She has become a symbol of the community's impulse to speak up, rather than sit idly by, as LGBT rights are sidelined because they are politically inconvienient.

I spoke with Robin this afternoon, and she noted how many others, who did not receive an invitation, deserved to be at the bill signing. In fact, she debated about whether to go to the bill signing, since the compromise repeal bill leaves so much remaining to be done to make military service inclusive of its gay servicemembers.

Not only Robin, however, but her children Sebastian and Jackson were invited to the ceremony. Jackson is a bit too young for sitting through a long ceremony, but Sebastian is old enough to attend and understand the significance of the event. That invitation to her children, who are the reason that Robin became involved seriously in activism, made Robin pause. She thought it would be wonderful for Sebastian, who has so often been driven to the airport to say goodbye to his mom, flying off to various parts of the country to participate in actions, to fly off himself this time, and to attend the making of history at the signing of the DADT repeal bill.

Apparently, the way it happened is that someone from Organizing For America reached out to GetEqual's Heather Cronk, and asked her for a list of potential invitees. Robin then talked to the White House's Brian Bond, Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, who invited her and her children. Brian also expressed concern about Lt. Dan Choi, hoping that he would come to the signing. Robin said she would reach out to him as a friend, and also asked if other servicemembers who had chained themselves to the White House fence could be invited. He promised to try. Brian also told her that her invitation is "not conditional." He did ask she behave and have a good time, but he also said that he expected her to go out the very next day and "do what you do."

I also understand that Jonathan Lewis, one of the major funders of GetEqual, was invited to the signing.

Dan and Robin also lobbied for Autumn Sandeen, a trans servicemember who was chained to the White House fence, and GetEqual Board member, to get an invitation. She did and she will be coming. That is particularly important, given that the repeal of DADT does not change the rules under which trans service members are discharged, leaving our trans brothers and sisters still out in the cold in the military.

Robin was also trying to wangle an invite for Miriam Ben-shalom, who had chained herself to the White House fence 17 years ago, and for Evelyn Thomas, an African-American lesbian woman discharged under DADT, who runs the Sanctuary Project and who is also a GetEqual Board member.

Robin noted that she received a comment on her Facebook account, noting that "civil disobedience didn't put us at the back of the bus, now on to UAFA and ENDA and DOMA."

Most importantly, the invitation for Robin means that she will have something tangible to show Sebastian and Jackson -- her attendance at the White House at this historic moment -- and to say "here's what leaving the PTA and you, my children, meant." After all, Sebastian and Jackson are the reason Robin became seriously involved in activism.

The moment Robin became seriously involved was when she was discharged as President of her childrens' school PTA because she was quoted in an newspaper speaking out against California's anti-gay Prop 8. The Catholic school knew that she and her partner were lesbians, and they were okay with that, but they couldn't tolerate gay people speaking up for their rights. They told her she could keep her children in school, but that she could not participate in school support activities. She told them nothing doing, that she wasn't the kind of parent to sit on the sidelines. The school told her they didn't want her around, so she found another school for her children.

When he was told, Sebastian was so upset to be separated from his friends. He cried bitterly, and said "tell them I'll be a good boy and let me go back to school." But the school was unrelenting. They could tolerate gay people who were quiet, but not gay people who spoke up for equality.

And so it is that Robin, and Sebastian, both activists in their own way, will be sitting at the historic bill signing tomorrow. As Robin said, of the White House invitation being extended to her children, as well as herself, "That fact is humbling and heals my heart after the last two years."

Enjoy it, Robin and Sebastian. There are many people who will be thinking of you tomorrow, who are grateful for you both.

Jillian Weiss is on the Board of Directors of GetEqual

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.

I am so glad to see this happening for all who have been hurt by this terrible policy! thank you to Robin and all the others who have put themselves in jeopardy for this cause! You deserve this Robin! I am happy for you and the others going. And thank you Jillian. I think you should get an invitation too!

Jillian, I love ya, but this is just ridiculous!

No one's objection to GetEqual hinged on them being "an insult". We objected to their tactics being poorly targeted, and tactically inefficient. Obama's people inviting her along only means that he still knows how to flatter people (just like Rick Warren at the inaguration).

This victory was Obama's, and he did it how he said he was going to, at the pace he said he was going to, and GetEqual had NOTHING to do with any of it.


I'd suggest you do what I've done for myself. Create a timeline for the past year using news and blog reporting on DADT. List what actions were taken by LGBT lobbying, advocacy and direct action groups. List reactions by the Administration. See if there is a correlation.

And then take that data and compare it to time line of the past 17 years in which groups have worked to get officials elected that were pro-repeal. As well as the countless phone calls made on behalf of Palm Center, SLDN, state orgs and HRC. Also throw in the lawsuits against the ROTC on college campuses. Then add the data of the slow progression of public opinion from 17 years ago until now. Weigh all of that against the groups that targeted and protested those that already supported repeal.

Saying that this invite legitimizes GetEqual is a stretch. It's more a matter of no skin off the shoulders of the administration by including them. Every vote in the future will help. well, except for Dan's...he's already said he's not voting for Obama in 2012.

Dan will be there, as will Autumn Sandeen.

Jillian, when I attended this past year's HIV/AIDS Reception at the White House, many in attendance made were surprised to see certain activists in attendance.

That evening, what I saw was a President of the United States, who was a gracious host inviting all spectrums of a community to be present and celebrate in a moment to recognize what was accomplished. But its also a time when out community needs to breath, come together to organize and mobilize and direct our energy and fight against those who truly oppose us.

TAVA has never been invited to the WH.

It was a pleasure to see Robin and Sebastian again. Dan Choi too - and so many others it was dizzying. Hopefully Robin and I (and Sebastian!) will get a chance to have lunch tomorrow.

Robin is our MLK. I'm glad the GLBT community and the White House recognize this new reality. Bye HRC.