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Posts Tagged ‘NEM’

Change is Afoot

March 24, 2010 Leave a comment

What a difference a week makes.

Just a week after GetEqual’s first direct action, the Pentagon announced today that Sec. Robert Gates is taking “unilateral action” ahead of congressional action in order to relax the enforcement of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

From the Washington Independent:

Gates told senators that he would put together a study group, led by Army Lt. Gen. Carter Ham and Pentagon general counsel Jeh Johnson, to study the least-disruptive ways to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

That study hasn’t concluded. Nor has the Senate taken up Joe Lieberman’s (I-Conn.) bill to repeal the ban. But Gates has some unilateral tools at his disposal, and this week he intends to use them.

“He will announce changes to the way the current law is being enforced that make it more difficult to begin investigations and kick people out,” said a defense source who would not speak for the record ahead of Gates’s announcement. Spokesman Geoff Morrell hinted in his briefing yesterday that Gates would make some changes, but did not specify any.

The announcement comes the same day that long-time gay rights activist Cleve Jones, who was instrumental in organizing last October’s National Equality March, published a conciliatory open letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In the letter, Jones Jones makes an appeal for Speaker Pelosi’s skills as an artful and persuasive politician and leader.

We’ve seen the passion you’ve brought to the challenge of passing health care reform. Now more than ever, we need your passion and skill to achieve the passage of ENDA.

As you know, many Americans in the LGBT community — especially young people — are increasingly frustrated and cynical about the pace of progress in Washington.

We want you to show them that cynicism is not the response at this time. They need to believe in the process, Madame Speaker, and you can restore their faith in this process by moving expeditiously to bring ENDA to a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives.

It is clear that the gay rights movement has no plans to ease up on its pressure to act on ENDA and DADT this year. I’m not so sure that’s going to happen. House Dems may have been chanting “Fired Up! Ready to Go!” at the health care reform bill signing ceremony, but I’m just not that confident they have it in them to work on immigration and climate change much less ENDA and DADT. I just don’t have that much faith in them, I guess.

Despite that, I still plan to do my part to keep up the pressure. If there’s anything the health care debate has taught us is that for change to happen with this administration and this congress it’s going to take everything your side has for anyone to react.

Choi’s actions were criticized last week by some because of his apparent ignorance to the debate du jour, health care. I think it was smart, though. After all, the Pentagon has not ceased operations because of that debate. In the midst of all the health care craziness were hearings and testimony from military brass before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Each who for the most part were in solidarity on the need to put an end to the inane DADT policy.

Surely Choi’s behavior caught the notice of his superiors who were no doubt put in an ackward situation because of him. Better to just urge Sec. Gates to do something now in order to curb more and more similar actions by other LGBT servicemembers who are certainly growing tired of this policy, too.

I know Congress would like to coast from here on out until November, but the reality is there is still so much more to get done and the community simply must keep vigorously applying the pressure. I am admittedly skeptical to whether Congress will do anything for the rest of the year, but I’ve never wanted to be proven so wrong before.

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It’s Time to Take Action

March 19, 2010 Leave a comment

So, it turns out Lt. Dan Choi’s action yesterday was what GetEqual.org, the new group behind the actions, says was the first of “many more actions planned for the coming weeks and months.”

GetEqual.org launched today and included video of Choi’s arrest as well as coverage of coordinated efforts in Speaker Pelosi’s DC and district offices.

GetEqual.org’s founders, Robin McGehee and Kip Williams, were also lead organizers behind the National Equality March last October. That march had many supporters, most notably Equality Across America, which McGehee and Williams have since left. This new effort includes Will Phillips, the 10-year old Arkansas boy who has become a new advocate for equality. I gotta say. I love this kid.

In their press release today, McGehee says GetEqual.org is doing exactly what the Obama administration and congressional supporters have said they should.

“D.C. politicians, including President Obama, have said they need pressure in order to move the right policy forward — and if they don’t live up to their promises, we promise to be back.”

I don’t really write much about DADT, but I definitely support its repeal and I’m behind all the efforts to make that repeal happen. I don’t understand why conservatives like Sen. McCain don’t get it, especially since they’re all about national security. How does it make sense to discharge an Arabic interpreter in the middle of a war and during a recruiting crisis?!

My thoughts on GetEqual? Well, a friend put it best when he said, “you gotta love those agitators.” I think he’s right. We need them.

There are other pressing issues, it’s true. Equality is no less pressing and repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is an easy lift for the federal government, despite what McCain says. I’m all for making sure the public doesn’t forget that this is a real fight happening. There are real men and women in uniform who just want to be recognized as an equal citizen in the eyes of the government they serve.

So, fight on GetEqual.org. Don’t let the public forget.

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Marching Not the Only Event at National Equality March

October 3, 2009 Leave a comment

(cross-posted from The Bilerico Project)

A friend of mine visited Chicago recently and we were talking about his trip when he got back to DC. We chatted about various parts of the trip but the comment that struck me the most was when he said that upon mentioning the march to his gay friends there they had no idea what he was talking about. Then he asked me why the gays he talked to in the nation’s third largest city had no idea what was happening here in D.C. on Oct. 11.

Not knowing how to respond I said that I’m not on the ground in Chicago so I don’t know what local folks there are doing to publicize the national event. This news was troubling to both of us as we have been following this march since we both heard about it a few months ago.

Full disclosure: I was originally opposed to the idea of march on Washington when I first learned about it. I have since changed my mind and have even volunteered my time to help out with the D.C. host committee.

The exchange prompted a larger discussion about the whole march and whether it was a good idea. In the end, I wasn’t able to convince him that the march itself is a great idea, though he had always planned to attend since he lives in Washington and is with the movement on principle. He was convinced, however, that it was worthwhile for folks to attend, if feasible, because of the myriad events that will be taking place all weekend long.

Many of these events will be strategy sessions and grass-roots organizing workshops. I told him to think of it as a free conference available to anyone who can make it. We are all aware of how expensive conferences can be, but the best ones are worth the money paid because of the invaluable information received. Part of the idea behind this march is to bring together seasoned and new activists in order to learn from one another. Conferences are excellent for networking opportunities, making new friends and finding out the latest news about an issue. Indeed, learning about the events associated with the march is what sold me in the end and I was heartened when at the end of our conversation, my friend was also a new convert.

In several of the posts I’ve read here on Bilerico and on other LGBT blogs, there has been much pleading with readers to attend to show solidarity and to speak out. If you’re still on the fence, however, maybe learning about the other events happening that weekend and why they are important to the movement will help you make up your mind.

First, it is important that you understand why organizers have called for a march and the strategy for advancing the equal rights movement. From the Equality Across America web site:

Equal protection in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states. We will accept no less and will work until it is achieved. Equality Across America exists to support grassroots organizing in all 435 Congressional Districts to achieve full equality. Many bills currently exist to address some of these issues, but we do not support a piecemeal strategy. We seek one federal solution to full equality.

The strategy:

Equality Across America is a network of decentralized organizers in every one of the 435 Congressional districts. These organizers form Congressional District Action Teams (CDATs) that will do the work on the ground in their own communities to achieve full equality. Each CDAT works not only toward national equality, but participates in their local and state struggles for equality in areas like marriage, adoption, and work-place discrimination. Equality Across America connects organizers from around the country so we can support one another in all of our work, focusing energy and resources in battlegrounds when needed.

Much of the criticism that has been lobbed at organizers of the march (it should be noted that while Cleve Jones has been the subject of much of this criticism, he is only one player and certainly not in charge of the event) is that it will be ineffective, it is a waste of resources, and nobody will be around to listen. Of course, those same critics have said little about what else will be happening that weekend.

“We always wanted this event to be a weekend planned around organizing, not big productions of concerts and social events,” said Robin McGehee, national co-director of the National Equality March. “We looked at the Saturday before as a time to capitalize on the grassroots organizing energy that is happening across the country and allow for people to not only learn or refresh skills around lobbying, phone banking, media work, etc., but, to meet other organizers and activists from across the country that truly want to organize in their congressional districts to bring about full equality across America.”

So, what exactly are these events I keep talking about, and what will attendees get? There are actually far too many to describe here, but you should visit the Equality Across America site for a full schedule of events. I will highlight a few that I think are definitely worth going to. You should note that some require registering so be sure to sign up soon.

There are a whole host of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell events which include a session called “Repealing DADT: Lobbying Tactics”. This training will take place at the fabulous HRC building and there is room for 200 of you who are interested in finding out best practices for lobbying your legislators. Other DADT-related events include a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington Cemetary and even a morning cadence run starting at the national WWII memorial.

A big part of what we’ll be marching for is to ensure a better future for LGBT youth. There are several youth-related events that will allow them to network and learn about how they can get involved to help secure that future. SMYAL, a local DC group, is hosting its leadership conference “Stand up, Get Loud” on that Saturday for youth age 13-21. Among the workshops included are those on developing communications skills, college/intern readiness and self-defense. The event is free and includes meals, but it does require registration. The Trevor Project is also sponsoring empowerment trainings and workshops for folks ages 13-25. For those college students looking to take home organizing skills, there will be a session solely on tips for organizing on campus. Again, all these workshops are FREE.

Ever thought of running for office? If so, you should sign up for the Gay and Lesbian Leadership Institute’s session, “Change Your Government from the Inside”. The Institute has helped hundreds of LGBT candidates run and win public office. Indeed, having more LGBT men and women in public office is one of the most effective ways to advance our cause. Equality Across America is also hosting Camp Courage, a grass-roots organizing workshop modeled after the highly effective “Camp Obama” trainings that helped elect a president. Those attending will be expected to commit to promoting full LGBT equality. This event already has 166 people signed up and organizers are asking for a small donation of $5-$10. Those interested in promoting a healthier relationship between faith and the LGBT equality movement should be sure to attend the “Workshop on Faith Communities & LGBT Justice Campaigns.”

There are several other workshops and events happening that weekend and you should visit the site for more information. Free conferences are not a regular occurrence.

Above all, remember that this march is an opportunity for the LGBT community, which for so long has suffered from disunity, to come together and strategize over how we will advance our cause in the years to come. Being on the same page about our demands and speaking with a united voice is far more effective than a disjointed movement. And, to effectively speak in that voice, we need to be prepared.The workshops will help us prepare and at the end of the weekend we march to the Capitol to make our demands, ready to go home afterward to start making progress.

“The march is not the end. The march is the beginning. We are hoping that our message re-invigorates the dialogue about LGBT full equality and eventually fulfills the dream of EAA [Equality Across America] – an organizing group in every congressional district – ready to lobby and remove people who are not voting for and promoting a full federal equality agenda,” said McGehee. “We are not expecting to wake up on Monday morning with a federal bill on the presidents desk to sign. But we do know that the more noise we make at the march, we have energized our young people, re-committed older advocates, and inspired groups of allies to make sure the issue stays top-of-mind until we all are equal in the eyes of the law.”

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