The Equality Pledge Network is now conducting a 2014 Equality Poll to ascertain the support for full federal equality in Congress. This will provide a public road map for the work ahead, and put everyone on notice of our expectation of full equality. And we need people in every District to help by engaging their own Representative.
If everyone receiving this message took on their own – just their own – District and Representative, that would be incredible and extremely effective. So often we work to build organizations, have conferences, teach the world. But then are hands-off when it comes to the in-district campaign organizing we need now. If a great, seasoned organizer tackled each of the 435 Districts, we’d have a powerful movement. So please get to campaign events, meet your neighbors. Find out who around you supports us, and get their help. You’ll be proud that you did when we have equality!
One task to start with is the 2014 Equality Poll. Below is the letter I’m sending out in NY and the Poll. We can do cover letters specific to each state for you, or you can write your own. Another approach is to make sure that our Poll questions are included in your group’s existing candidate questionnaires (and if so, please let us know).
We have a nationwide Poll Team coordinating this effort, which you can join by emailing: [email protected] Or you can approach this however you think best. You know what to do. Just your district.
Now is the time to rejoin your movement if you’ve taken a break or retired. One more big push. You have it in you. Don’t miss the party. Now is the time for full equality!
HELP US TAKE – 2014 EQUALITY POLL (3 easy steps):
1. Find your Congress person and fax/phone numbers here:
2. Fax them this document (free online fax: www.faxzero.com)
3. Call to make sure someone sees the fax, and gets it to the right person to reply.
BOOM. You’re an activist for equality!
Dear Congressional Representative,
As a New York citizen and on behalf of The Equality Pledge Network, a nationwide alliance for full LGBT equality, please find the attached 2014 Equality Poll seeking your position regarding comprehensive LGBT civil rights and full federal equality in the United States.
The Equality Pledge Network’s support spans the gamut of the LGBT community including LGBT statewide organizations, pride committees, LGBT community centers, GLSEN and PFLAG chapters, Stonewall Democrats, and the grassroots. Support also includes allied organizations such as The United Church of Christ and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. (see list of NY groups below).
The 2014 Equality Poll corresponds to The Pledge for Full LGBT Equality, endorsed by over 250 LGBT and allied organizations listed on our website, which calls upon Congress to categorically outlaw discrimination against LGBT Americans as a human rights imperative and a public health emergency.
Specifically, the Equality Pledge calls for four words – “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” – to be added to the 1964 Civil Rights Act (Titles 2, 3, 6 & 7), the 1968 Fair Housing Act, the 1972 Education Act (Title IX), and 1974 Equal Credit Act. It also includes military employment nondiscrimination, marriage nondiscrimination nationwide (optional question), and minor adjustments to the Americans w/Disability Act and Family Leave Act.
This basically outlaws LGBT discrimination on an equal basis to all other minorities and the need for these protections cannot be overstated.
As acknowledged by numerous governmental publications, the LGBT community in America faces horrific “minority stress” living with societal rejection. We suffer beatings, murders, and constant fear at home, school and work. Our children are committing suicide. Our adults live with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and family disassociation.
Hello Equality Seekers,
This update is in a blog format to share the two-day journey from NYC Pride to the White House to Rev. Dr. MLK Jr.’s Memorial where we launched the “Add 4 Words” campaign in community.
Things are going great on so many fronts! There was lots of exciting and useful interaction in D.C. with the White House and President, our Vigil at the MLK Memorial was moving and inspiring; and the movement conversation is at last veering toward demanding Full Civil Rights Equality.
Next our sites are set on conducting The 2014 Equality Poll – to ask every Congressional candidate where they stand on LGBT equality. But more on that soon.
First, I have to thank Richard Noble who invited me as his guest to the White House Pride reception. I had no desire to join the glad-handing until we had a full-equality bill to sign. But I went and networked our campaign, asked tough questions during the 3 hour morning briefing, and ended up unexpectedly speaking directly to President Obama about our bill.
Before that engagement, during his remarks I held up a sign, standing politely to the side of the room: “ADD 4 WORDS”. I could not let the moment go by without protest. Yes, I admire President Obama immensely. But the White House is the seat of our oppression by our government, and it is the job of the presidency to lead us to equality under the law, not just administratively, albeit that admirable. His new angle is to advise us to focus first on inter-sectionality of oppressions as he said at his gay fundraiser in New York, and again at the White House Pride event. It is a good idea to work across oppressions, obviously, for lots of reasons. Yet he fails to even mention that we are left out of the civil rights laws that cover everyone else already. Everyone but us. He could include a call to action to fix that issue – “all working together” – first or sometime soon. But he doesn’t.
TALKING TO OBAMA
So when I saw him working the rope line after his remarks, I worked my way up and tried to give the hastily made poster “Add 4 Words” to him, but the secret service grabbed it, so I gently prolonged our handshake, and said “we need you to help us file an equality bill” and he said “file it” and I said “the DNC or the LGBT Caucus is blocking us” and as he maneuvered away he snapped back, “I’m not blocking anyone from filing any bill.” It all happened so fast.
At first I thought this was a fumbled moment on my part, but later I realized he gave me invaluable information. The blockage is not coming from the White House. So it must be coming from the LGBT movement itself as long suspected. I told his senior LGBT policy person this exchange, and he agreed to have a real conversation, without the run-around. We’ll see.
Later, Richard and I spoke with the LGBT Caucus Executive Director, Brad Jacklin, formerly of HRC & NGLTF. For over an hour we explained the inherent value of a full equality bill, while he questioned why they haven’t heard any “grassroots demand” for an equality bill, or why a bill was even necessary for organizing. Ha. I explained that the LGBT Caucus was not elected by the LGBT community, so it needed to listen more and question less. We agreed to plan a Congressional teach-in on “full equality.” More on that later.
Back to the White House, in the morning there was a 3 hour briefing by Administration officials from various agencies from the Department of Justice to the Department of Agriculture. There I asked many questions. I asked about the religious exemptions and the pending EO, which they refused to discuss, so I told them “better no EO, than a regressive one”. I explained how internationally the U.S. has no credibility on LGBT human rights, since it doesn’t protect us from discrimination here domestically. They replied with an unconvincing distinction between life-time incarceration abroad and suicide at home. So I also gave a brief overview of “minority stress” and urged them to do a PSA campaign targeting our community directly about this.
I asked each a question (or two) with humor, after bending the ear of Tobias Barrington Wolff, a close academic advisor to the President on LGBT issues, who happened to be sitting next to me. He said “You’ll be happy with my article in the Nation” which he suggested was against the religious exemptions, and I said “Where is your article on full equality?” and gave him a sparkle of glitter that was lingering from NY Pride the day before.
Here is a picture of us marching down 5th Avenue NYC with our “SEEK FULL EQUALITY” banner, made by the Radical Faeries and my husband Giovanni. In this shot, we’re together with Queer Nation’s banner, made by Gilbert Baker, the creator of the original rainbow flag: “ENDA IS NOT EQUAL!” Before this shot, we had book-ended the HRC contingency, which turned out to be a corporate sponsor doing HRC’s parade walking for them. But I’m sure they got our message.
At sunset, after nibbling the White House sweets selection, I was off to the Vigil. As an aside, the WH pastry chef was retiring and gay, I guess, since he was there, and the President was teasing him as a farewell, and the President said, “I think he put crack in those pastries.” I couldn’t believe it. But it was hilarious. And I felt better about taking my sign out, since we were clearly being informal.
The Vigil was very special. The mixture of our circle was lovely, deep and profound. Together we were assembled: amazing activists and allied faith leaders, the first “out” Teachers-of-the Year from Oregon and Wisconsin, three powerful trans voices spanning generations, an activist who had walked across America on foot for equality, and another who in retirement, has made D.C. her home to be a full time activist for our cause. We were all united, and as we sang “We Shall Over Come,” lead by a black lesbian faith leader, Mr. Bayard Rustin and Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt were summoned with all our lost children to the dance ahead for full equality.
For an end to homophobia.
For freedom for transgender people everywhere.
The call went out “Add 4 Words”. “Add 4 Words.”
Thank you to all involved.
Stay tuned for next steps: The 2014 Equality Poll.
We need a committee for this, and volunteers are welcome from every state.
Let’s figure out where they stand, and the road ahead will be clear(er).
p.s. Here is a great article by Chuck Colbert, a long-time activist in Boston, on our launch and the MLK Vigil. And a pic of us with the 44th President.
The Equality Pledge Network – a new campaign for full LGBT equality backed by over 245 organizations – will officially launch with an LGBT Civil Rights Vigil at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in D.C. beginning at 8:30 p.m., Monday, June 30th. The event theme is “Add 4 Words” reflecting a call for four words to be added to the 1964 Civil Rights Act: “sexual orientation-gender identity” (SO-GI). The event also celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the Act, on July 2nd, marking 50 years and counting until the day LGBT Americans are equally protected from the scourge of discrimination.
A new organization, LGBTequalityNOW.org, has been created to facilitate the Network, led by a wealth of veteran experience and diversity, including Erica Keppler, Chair of the Arizona Stonewall Democrats and co-founder of the Arizona TransAlliance; Cathy Marino-Thomas, former chair of Marriage Equality USA; Veronica Eady, a straight-ally and African-American civil rights attorney currently at the Conservation Law Foundation; Josef Pons de Jesus previously with ACT-UP NY, Human Rights Campaign, and the National Latino Lesbian & Gay Organization; Pablo Colon, former community outreach and advocacy director at the Gay Men’s Health Crisis NY; Attorney Yetta Kurland, former candidate for City Council in NY and a human rights advocate; Michael Miller, formerly with the AIDS Action Committee of Boston and Harvard AIDS Institute; and Executive Director and Board Chairperson, J. Todd Fernandez, Esquire, former Ombudsman to the Governor and General Council and Legislative Director for Economic Affairs of Massachusetts.
Building a powerful team, the new network is uniting the grassroots and state groups like never before, breaking the corporate insider mold with direct empowerment of local experts. Over 40 activists in 22 states are serving as volunteer state leads, including Attorney Peter Sergienko working with his gay son Eugene in Oregon; Richard Noble, from the Walk Across America; Attorney Stephen Zollman of the National Equality March; Jeff White-Perkins from Mississippi Gulf Coast Rainbow Center; straight-ally Jean Kryean of Pennsylvania, and Mika Covington and Ken Ritter, who have joined forces in Iowa and Nebraska (quotes below).
The unifying statement of principle for the over 245 groups in 44 states is The Pledge for Full LGBT Equality, which calls on the LGBT Caucus to file a one-bill strategy to add SO-GI to all the civil rights laws at once. The breadth of this community mandate spans sixteen statewide equality organizations from Equality Hawaii to Equality Illinois to Equality South Carolina; transgender groups such as Gender Rights Maryland and the Tennessee Trans Political Alliance; POC groups including LGBT Caribbean and the NYC Black Justice Alliance; PFLAG chapters from Pasadena to Ann Arbor; the ACLU of Mississippi, The Unitarian Universalists Association; Metropolitan Community Churches; The United Church of Christ; LGBT Democrats of Virginia, Palm Springs and Florida, 23 LGBT Community Centers from New York to San Francisco; LGBT Pride groups from New Orleans to LosAngeles to the Outer Banks; and InterPride, and over 11 City Council Proclamations from West Hollywood to New Orleans and Tallahassee.
The new strategy is in sharp contrast to the Human Rights Campaign’s push for the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (bill), now embroiled in community dissent because of the religious-exemptions that would leave our most vulnerable children behind. Groups including the ACLU, Lambda Legal, Equality California, Queer Nation NY, Equality Illinois, and others, strongly oppose the Senate version of ENDA, which would ensconce in federal law anti-LGBT discrimination in taxpayer-funded programs, as a concession for Republican votes, that entirely misses the point of organizing for social change.
“Seeking full equality is not just a legislative agenda, but is the antidote to the vast harm LGBT Americans endure under discrimination, which causes children to commit suicide, and keeps 53% of LGBT workers in the closet, living in daily fear,” said Todd Fernandez, campaign manager for The Equality Pledge Network. “The ENDA compromises are a sign of our movement’s strategic weaknesses, and they should not be accepted until we have first united in full force nationwide. We won this debate in Arizona with Republican Senators’ support, and it’s the debate we need to have as a nation to heal homophobia and transphobia in our culture.”
The Network’s information-filled website advances two main arguments: 1. That international law requires Congress to outlaw SO-GI discrimination, and 2. That the vast harm caused by discrimination, known as “minority stress,” makes this a public health emergency. As support, the site includes the United Nation’s Free & Equal campaign, the historic speech by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton proclaiming “gay rights are human rights,” and congressional expert testimony of Dr. Illan Meyers of the Williams Institute, backed by official reports of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, the American Psychological Association, and others.
The 2014 Campaign goals include 1. Increasing Pledge support from 245 to 500 organizations, 2. Establishing state leads in all 50 states, 3. Conducting a 2014 Equality Poll to map support in Congress, and 4. Mounting a PSA campaign about the “minority stress” impact including suicide and mental health disparities, such as depression, anxiety, and hypervigiliance. LGBT Americans are suffering from these, unaware that societal discrimination is the cause, and this simple awareness could save lives and prevent suffering, while changing hearts and minds.
The vigil will feature pictures of LGBT Americans lost to suicide and murder, also honored on the website, to prevail upon the greater conscious of our nation to outlaw this societal abuse. Activists and religious leaders will carry rainbow flags and herald the contributions of LGBT civil rights heroes Eleanor Roosevelt, who led the way on the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and Bayard Rustin, the gay human rights leader who was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work leading to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which his community yearns to join.
STATEMENTS of NETWORK STATE LEADS & BOARD MEMBERS
OR CALL: NAE: 202-789-1011
Re: Stop Hurting Gay People
Dear Religious Leaders:
Rev. Leith Anderson, National Association of Evangelicals
I am writing to ask that your organizations please cease and desist from opposing legislation to end discrimination against gay families in immigration reform and generally stop all efforts against LGBT equality and justice.
As you currently oppose gay couples in immigration reform, our bi-national gay families suffer immeasurable harm and anxiety under existing law, facing forced separation and life uncertainty, despite being legally married and in committed relationships. This harm is man made and can be ended by you.
Moreover, as evidenced by the recent murder of Mark Carson in NYC and anti-gay attacks around the world, cultural and religious advocacy against the LGBT community causes severe psychological and physical suffering for our people. And this must stop.
Neighbors murder and rape us because you tell them to disrespect us. And our children commit suicide because they are taught to hate themselves and are not safe at home or school. Where do the children go to hide from this? Where do our souls go to be safe?
Your position is literally killing us. And your political advocacy blocking our efforts to protect ourselves means that this harm continues unchecked. Division and judgment, not love and compassion, prevail in this context.
With love guiding us all forward, the majority of people of many faiths now support LGBT couples, and all faithful, including your own, increasingly support our equality and dignity as equal human beings and co-habitants of earth. All souls are equal, are they not?
In this spirit, we beseech you to seek the greater goodness in your heart and to end the active persecution and political lobbying against LGBT happiness and safety.
The religious freedom of other faiths dedicated to performing our unions depend upon your standing down. The end of our vast suffering depends on your standing down. And the love of humankind for one another depends on your standing down.
We look forward to a public announcement that your organizations will no longer oppose our political quest for protection from discrimination and equality, so we can all live peacefully and with love, across all faiths and all peoples, in all of our glorious diversity.
(INSERT YOUR NAME)
p.s. Working together, you all could end LGBT persecution around the globe if you chose to do so.
Last week was a nightmare as Senator Schumer and the gang left bi-national same-sex couples out of the Senate outline. Read my full piece on it in Huffington Post here.
And NOW we need a serious media machine to help get the message out that we have huge faith-based support, and vast support from the main immigration coalitions and campaigns.
We NEED the HRC and others to collectively launch a full media campaign strategy for us, and we need it immediately. The bill is being rushed, drafting is happening behind closed doors, and once filed in the Senate it’ll be tough to amend.
We need UAFA language in the bill as filed – period. And we need this demand out there and loud.
For this, we need a MOVEMENT MEDIA MACHINE that can:
1. Get the message out about our faith based support, which Immigration Equality has so wonderfully secured, but has not adequately promoted. 2,500 clergy from all 50 states and denominations, and a large group of organizations (listed below) Did you know this?
2. Respond to articles like this in the Washington Post & this piece even in the Huffington Post – which glorify the secret letter of a handful of Bishops. A HANDFUL OF BISHOPS and the USCCB media machine (HRC, GLAAD take note please), are dominating this conversation, and we are entirely absent it appears.
3. Get the message out about the support for gay family inclusion from leading immigration coalitions: FIRM (Fair Immigration Reform Movement), New Yorkers for Real Immigration Reform, Humane Immigration Rights of Los Angeles, The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Congressional Asian-Pacific Caucus, and the President’s principles. Did you know this?
AND BEYOND MEDIA WE NEED TO:
4. Get the LGBT Caucus organized and speaking on this. Where for example, is our set of principles or advocacy – public visible advocacy – for UAFA? For CIR? Why is Rep. Nadler the only voice on this?
5. We need a strategy to deal with Senator Graham.
6. We need to have rallies organized in New York targeting Senator Schumer. In Florida targeting Senator Rubio. In Nevada targeting Senator Reid. And McCain too. Get out from behind the desk people!
7. We need the Equality Federation to get the state equality groups involved in (a) getting letters from the state and local representatives to their Congressional delegations (one small group is doing this all by themselves, with one volunteer. WHY?); and (b) securing support from ALL THE state-wide immigration campaigns for UAFA inclusion in CIR. Is anyone doing this? Not to my knowledge.
8. As we wait our turn in line for LGBT equality, WE NEEED A MOVEMENT STRATEGY that has an operational goal to get UAFA included in CIR. NGLTF had a whole conference about this, but where is the campaign? An email is not a campaign. A conference is not a coalition. If it’s happening behind the scenes – its so deep – I can’t find it – and it’s too deep.
This is a plea for help from the gay binational couples. We are in deep stress and anxiety. We have worked tirelessly to be part of the immigration team, but our own movement is not present. We are abandoned, and our movement is invisible.
p.s. Here is the ist of faith based groups and advocacy organizations supporting UAFA from Immigration Equality. Is any group helping to build this list? What is YOUR group doing for gay bi-national couples?
African American Ministers In Action – Equal Justice Taskforce
Where is the LGBT movement’s voter registration and GOTV drive? Maybe I’m missing it.
Both HRC and NGLTF have efforts on this, but they are pretty passive. NGLTF is better, has a theme “Queer the Vote” and has the basic functionality of registration and culling probable votes for later outreach it seems. But HRC’s “Take Action” button seems to redirect people to its blog and internal systems. Both are including it on regular newsletters, but there is little campaign, no energy, and no building of enthusiasm, which is what we need now.
Marriage Equality USA has the 20 Million More campaign, and individual states facing ballots have major media campaigns going on, helped by Freedom To Marry, HRC and others. But where is the national effort for the equality vote? For the gay vote?
There are four states with marriage ballots, a whole list of LGBT candidates for Congress, and a President out on a limb on marriage equality. Meanwhile, two reports – one by PBS and one by Gallop – tout that the LGBT vote could make a big difference in this tight race.
We should have a full-out messaging campaign going.
So where is our GOTgayV campaign? It’s not in the gay media.
On the Washington Blade home page, NGLTF is advertising, not to register to vote, but for their annual convention next February. And a quick glance at others – Gay City News (NYC), Bay Windows (New England), Bay Area Reporter (San Fran), The Advocate – reveals no ads to promote the vote (not even RocktheVote.org links).
Of all issues, voting is the most important to building political power. It’s reported that about 74% of LGBT people are registered, but there are more out there. And even with good numbers, a voter drive push is important to building enthusiasm and turn out. 30% of us voted Republican in the 2010 midterms, so a campaign targeting that group this year would have been really smart.
The good news is: IT’S NOT TOO LATE. But we need some star power, and we need it fast.
Come on GLAAD — break out some celebrity friends and get some fast videos together, and then spread them working with NGLTF & HRC, Equality Federation, and Pride Committees, and put it out there ALL together with one big push.
Let’s Get Out The Gay Vote!
GET OUT THE GAY VOTE
Almost 30 percent of gay people voted Republican in 2010. So here’s why they should vote for Obama this time.
The economics are good. Under Obama, stock prices have soared, the financial industry has been stabilized, student loan interest rates lowered, veterans benefits secured and provided, the American automotive industry saved and flourishing, equal pay for equal work protected, and Bin Laden removed.
These are conservative issues. A stable environment for business and wealth creation, which entails ensuring an educated workforce and an equal playing field for women. A strong foreign policy, and aggressive pursuit of justice for harms against this country, while ensuring international respect among nations, that is now quite strong.
On energy, domestic oil production is at an all time high, and imports at an all time low. The automobile deal set gas efficiency goals, embraced by industry, that will double the mileage on a gallon of gas, essentially cutting prices in 1/2 over the next decade. And he adeptly handled natural disasters after the spill in the Gulf and the Hurricane in the Northeast.
The economic crisis facing health care was also averted. If we did not tackle health care reform, it would have quickly consumed most of our productivity, meaning we would be working about 1/3 of our lives just to pay for health care. This still needs work. But going back is just pandering. It’s not an option because too many people are already benefiting, and the insurance industry just got a huge boost in customers.
Finally, even if you don’t vote on gay issues, it is significant that the United States has declared to the world that gay rights are human rights. You may feel safe and fine, or that no harm has come to you or others because of discrimination in America. But in Africa, people are hunted, raped and killed because they are gay or lesbian. Now Obama and Hillary have made it clear: they are not alone.
So whether moved by religious values of compassion for others, or simple humanity, that all people deserve to live with dignity, President Obama has set a new standard for the voiceless. And by securing the economic stability of our country, has poised the United States to advance the future of human rights, democracy and economic prosperity for all people.
If you are disappointed in Obama for not doing more, then reconsider what any one person can be expected to accomplish in 3 1/2 years. Then think again about what we faced in 2010, when you last voted Republican. Remember that the Republican House purposefully blocked economic recovery bills to undermine the President’s hope of re-election. Remember that Romney will not show you his tax returns or disclose his off shore accounts. And remember that the Republicans intend to amend the Constitution to outlaw your marriage, even if the Supreme Court supports us, as anticipated by June 2013.
Against this, consumer confidence is at a 4 year high, the stock market is booming, the housing market is returning, both wars are ending, unemployment is under 8%, and we are unquestionably on a roll as democracy sprouts new life around the globe. America is poised to be a great leader again, but it’s important that that leadership be principled.
President Obama is a man of principle. His support for LGBT rights and his clear intention to advance our equality under the law at home and abroad demonstrate this. His respect for others is virtually a short-coming as political campaigning goes. So, against the advice of many, he still pronounced his support for marriage equality, a dicey idea by any measure, demonstrating that this man does what is right, not what is politically expedient. Some might say he even acts against his own self-interest, but his self-interest is in doing what is right, that’s how he sees it. He knew he could not face himself if he had run and lost, but had bet against equality.
So if these ideals are to take hold in our politics, we have to pay tribute to principles and reward right action by taking right action ourselves. We have to buttress those who point us forward on justice and equality. Who help Americans when they are down. Who believe in the truth. Believe in community. Who believe in you.
President Obama believes in you. And he needs your vote. We all do. If you like Mitt Romney, then hold that thought for four more years. For now, all indications are that we are on the right path. So let’s follow it four more years, and then in 2016, if you’re not happy… roll the dice.
(reposted from Huffington Post Gay Voices: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/todd-fernandez/why-gay-republicans-shoul_b_1968002.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices)
COLORADO (Toss Up Presidential)
FLORIDA (Toss Up Presidential)
IOWA (Toss up Presidential)
NEVADA (Toss up Presidential)
NEW HAMPSHIRE (Toss up Presidential)
NORTH CAROLINA (Toss Up Presidential)
OHIO (Toss up Presidential)
VIRGINIA (Toss up Presidential)
WISCONSIN (Toss up Presidential)
Ushering in Pride Month, on Saturday, June 9th, 2012, activist Richard Noble completed his historic “Civil RIghts Walk Across America” to a hero’s welcome in Jacksonville as reported in the Florida Times-Union. Setting out from San Francisco last March, he had crossed 10 states and journeyed 2700 miles, carrying the Rainbow Flag and promoting The American Equality Bill, a one-bill strategy for equal LGBT civil rights.
The finish line ceremony perfectly captured the spirit of this strategy, which seeks to unite the vast LGBT movement into a common force for change. The local LGBT community center, The Rainbow House and RCN Magazine rolled out the red carpet, joining forces with the local ACLU, PFLAG, Tampa Pride, South Georgia Pride, Jacksonville Pride, Black Pride, and around 200 local activists, musicians and candidates.
Organizing for America, the Obama campaign, was on site registering voters and Raymond Paultre, the regional OFA director, offered rousing remarks to a strong reception. Dwight Eubanks, of the Atlantic Housewives brought his unique flare, and local diva, Dorothy Bishop, concluded the ceremony singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
While many of the speakers spoke of marriage, the star of the event was clearly Richard Noble and the pursuit of non-discrimination protections, both at the local level in Jacksonville where the City Council is facing strong pressure to add sexual orientation and gender identity to local laws, and the federal goal. Introducing Mr. Noble, Todd Fernandez, of The AEB Project, explained the possibilities of thousands of LGBT groups united in common cause and painted the vision of President Obama in a second term signing the equality bill into law on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial before a sea of rainbow flags.
The Walk Across America showed how this dream is possible by harnessing Mayoral Proclamations and City Council Resolutions from a diverse array of cities including West Hollywood, Oakland, Salt Lake City, Boulder, Austin, Houston, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Biloxi, Birmingham and Tallahassee. Representing millions of Americans, these elected officials are now leading the call on Congress to act, as a matter of urgent public welfare, to protect LGBT Americans from discrimination under federal law.
Inspired by spiritual reflection and moved by a rash of suicides, Mr. Noble, set out last March 2011, sleeping his first night on the sidewalk outside The Harvey Milk Library in San Francisco. “I carried the Rainbow Flag through the deserts of Nevada and across the Rockies, to Matthew Shepard’s fence and Wounded Knee, to gay groups and elected officials, all to help light a fire for full equality and to talk about the insidious psychological and physical harm LGBT Americans suffer from discrimination.”
His route passed from Northwest to Southeast, when winter came. He visited with the Oglala Sioux and Paiute Native Americans, where he received blessings and was given the name “Poo’e’ta’gwena”, Paiute for “Rainbow”, fitting because his walk made history by carrying the Rainbow Flag across America. All tolled he has spent 15 months on the road, aided one town at a time by locals he met on the road or via Facebook and new friends. Hundreds of small and large gestures sustained him, as canvassed in his his travel blog.
Along the journey, local LGBT groups offered loving support including the Metropolitan Community Church, New Orleans Pride, Out Boulder, the Gay & Lesbian Yellow Pages, openly lesbian Mayor Annise Parker, and others who opened doors and hosted events, several issuing their own Resolutions in support. All it took was to ask in most cases, and support flowed forth as local activists embraced the idea of seeking full federal equality.
This vanguard strategy first emerged with fanfare at the National Equality March, attended by hundreds of thousands in October 2009, and has since continued to build with actions like the Grand Central “Homo/Transphobia Kills” Die-In, and most recently, with The Pledge for Full LGBT Equality now supported by over 35 leading grassroots groups demanding equality by 2014 – the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.
So far, however, the corporate entities, HRC & NGLTF, have not yet embraced a call for full equality, but with new HRC President Chad Griffin at the helm, there is new hope that they will hear the call of the grassroots and step up and lead. “If a few volunteer activists can deliver what the Walk has, imagine what a concerted national coalition focused on one-goal could drum up,” said Mr. Fernandez. “The possibilities are endless, but we have to give the grassroots a bill to organize around, and so far the LGBT Congressional Caucus and HRC are our main obstacles to even filing a bill.”
From Florida, Richard will head to New York to march in Gay Pride with Occupy Wall Street, which is marching in solidarity in OccuPride 2012 under the banner “Occupy Loves You”. “I can’t wait to join the visionary activists breaking ranks with the establishment to demand full equality,” said Richard. “Happy Pride!”
- – -
Having walked across ten states and over 2700 miles, Richard Noble, a 46 year old gay rights activist, will arrive in Jacksonville, Florida on Saturday, June 9th to a hero’s welcome for completing a historic “Civil Rights Walk Across America” carrying the Rainbow Flag and a bill seeking full federal equality for LGBT Americans – The American Equality Bill.
Eleven Mayors and three City Councils from a diverse array of cities, including Salt Lake City, Birmingham, Biloxi, Baton Rouge, Mobile, Austin, Houston, Oakland, Boulder, West Hollywood, Tallahassee and New Orleans issued official Proclamations in support of the Walk and demand that Congress add “sexual orientation and gender identity” to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and related laws, as a matter of urgent public health and welfare.
At the finish line in Jacksonville, where the City Council will soon vote on a local civil rights ordinance, the Rainbow House GLBT Community Center and River City News Magazine will host a welcoming event starting at 1 p.m at the Rainbow House, 2857 Myra Street.
Dwight Eubanks of the Real Housewives of Atlanta and local leader Audry Morman will join representatives from LGBT Prides across the region, the ACLU, PFLAG, The American Equality Bill (AEB) Project and Obama for America in honoring Richard Noble and the Walk.
“I was overwhelmed by the rash of suicides, and so I walked,” said Richard Noble, who put his life in storage and started out from San Francisco last March, 2011. “I carried the Rainbow Flag through the desert and across the Rockies, to Matthew Shepard’s fence and Wounded Knee, to gay groups and elected officials, all to help light a fire for full equality and to talk about the insidious psychological and physical harm LGBT Americans suffer from discrimination.”
His route passed from Northwest to Southeast, when winter came. He visited with the Oglala Sioux and Paiute Native Americans, where he received blessings and was given the name “Poo’e’ta’gwena”, Paiute for rainbow, fitting because his walk made history by carrying the Rainbow Flag across America.
All tolled he has spent 15 months on the road, aided one town at a time by locals he met on the road or via Facebook and new friends. Hundreds of small and large gestures sustained him.
In Nevada, Lauren Scott, a transgender activist, buried food and water every twelve miles in the desert. While kids on the Sioux land in South Dakota offered him a soda, a mother driving by in Orange Texas gave all the change in her ashtray.
Along the way, he adopted a dog, Trinity, who walked over 700 miles, two of his supporters developed breast cancer, and one 23 year old, who had given up his room to Richard, thereafter died in a car accident. The stories captured in his travel blog are too many to canvass.
The Walk helped amplify The American Equality Bill (AEB) Project, a grassroots initiative with EqualityGiving.org designed to change the strategy of the modern LGBT movement from piecemeal issues to full federal equality via a one-bill solution outlawing discrimination categorically.
“When the Walk began this strategy was cutting edge, but now the politics and conversation are catching up,” said Todd Fernandez, the Campaign Facilitator for The AEB Project. “President Obama and the NAACP are now out front on this, and over 35 leading grassroots groups have joined together in demanding Congress enact full LGBT equality by 2014 – the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.”
Along the journey, local LGBT groups offered loving support including the Metropolitan Community Church, New Orleans Pride, Out Boulder, the Gay & Lesbian Yellow Pages, openly lesbian Mayor Annise Parker, and others who opened doors and hosted events, several issuing their own Resolutions in support.
“We’ll now deliver the bundle in D.C. to the LGBT Congressional Caucus and the Human Rights Campaign, which have yet to demand full federal equality, and President Obama who seems charged to make our equality a reality,” said Richard. “Having visited roughly 200 cities and towns, it’s obvious we can’t do this one at a time and it’s time for the federal government to take action.”
All are invited to attend the Walk Finish Line event, June 9, 2012, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Rainbow House, 2857 Myra Street, Jacksonville, FL.
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Finish Line Event Speaker Lineup:
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