Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
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Posts for September, 2009

Gay Philanthropist Donates $100K To Equality March

Jim Burroway

September 15th, 2009

From the Washington Blade:

Gay philanthropist Bruce Bastian of Utah has donated $70,000 to the National Equality March in D.C. and plans to contribute another $30,000 for the event because he strongly believes it will jump-start the LGBT rights movement.

Jump-start the LGBT rights movement? Nothing will jump-start it like two victories in Maine and Washington, and nothing will deflate it like two more defeats in November. Remember the huge letdown after Prop 8? Or are our attention spans really that short?

I appreciate the passion for the March but it is being foolishly misdirected. Not only are its goals ill-concieved and not thought through, but it’s slated for October 11 when Congress will not be in recess and President Obama will be out of town.

Frankly, this whole March idea may be a great ego boost for the organizers, but it’s incredibly selfish considering the needs of LGBT people who face ballot initiatives right now aimed at stripping them and their families of basic rights. That $130,000 can make a huge difference in those fights, not on the grassy lawn of the Mall while everyone else is out of town.

Please donate to No on 1 in Maine and Approve Ref.71 in Washington.

Stroll On Washington

Jim Burroway

June 9th, 2009

That’s what the so-called March on Washington is beginning to look like. Veteran LGBT activist Cleve Jones has decided that the so-called March on Washington for October 11 won’t be all that:

In a Blade interview Monday, Jones said he sees his march as a “stripped-down, bare-bones march and rally.”

“It’s a one-sentence demand,” he said. “We want equal protection under the law for LGBT Americans in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states.”

Jones said the demonstration would include a two-hour program with minimal staging, a sound system and portable toilets.

Wait a minute. We’re packing our bags to go to Washington for a two hour program?

Here’s the plan:

Jones said he envisions the march starting as grassroots activity in all 435 congressional districts. He said lobbying would “begin immediately” and organizers would identify new leaders in each of these districts.

“Then we want to come to Washington, we want to march and make it clear to the president that we expect more — to make it clear to the Democratic leadership that we expect more,” he said.

Jones said he’s not looking for sheer numbers in event participants, but instead is hoping for participants from all 435 congressional districts.

After the march, Jones said participants would return home “and get to work and build their army of precinct walkers, canvassers, [and] phone bankers.”

This is muddled thinking at its worst. He wants to organize people in 435 congressional districts, send them to Washington to mill around for a couple of hours, hold up some signs and shout a few slogans for two whole hours — while Congress and the President are out of town — and then send them home to do what they were already doing back at those 435 districts to begin with.

What makes this especially insane is that this can all be done without physically going to Washington. Twitter, Facebook, blogs — all of this makes physically gathering at one location to organize the way Cleve envisions it utterly pointless.

But what Cleve wants to do is worse than pointless. If you can mobilize hundreds of thousands of people to March on Washington, then at least you get great visuals of massive numbers of people on the mall demanding action from Congress. But if you get just a few hundred people gathering on the Mall’s 309 acres, you  hand our opponents a great propaganda victory when they declare that nobody — not even gay people — care enough about equal rights to bother showing up.

Which of course, isn’t true. I, for one, care passionately about equal rights. But I am not purchasing airline tickets and booking a hotel room for a two hour walkabout on the Mall. I have a feeling I’m not alone.

LGBT Activists Call for March On Washington

This commentary is the opinion of the author and may not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.

Jim Burroway

June 8th, 2009

There has been talk about this for some time now, but it has now hit the Associated Press:

An activist who worked alongside slain gay rights leader Harvey Milk announced plans Sunday for a march on Washington this fall to demand that Congress establish equality and marriage rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Cleve Jones said the march planned for Oct. 11 will coincide with National Coming Out Day and launch a new chapter in the gay rights movement. He made the announcement during a rally at the annual Utah Pride Festival.“We seek nothing more and nothing less than equal protection in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states,” Jones said.

I’m as excited about the prospect of a march as anyone can be. I would really love to go to this. That said however, I must question the wisdom of having a march on Washington this year.

First, there’s the timing. October 11 is Columbus Day. Congress won’t be in session and the President will be out of town. This raises the question: exactly who do we expect to hear us when we march? Who will receive our petitions or issue statements of support? Who will be held accountable before the press? With everyone gone for the holiday weekend, it will be all to easy for our representatives and President to duck responding to this since they will be on break and “unavailable.”

And guess what else will be unavailable? The National Mall. It was already booked for Columbus Day by three groups already expecting 135,000 people altogether. March organizers seemed to have forgotten to check this whopping detail.

Which brings up another question: who is organizing this thing? And how do they intend to pay for it? Calling for a march means that someone has to rent the stage, put up lights and sound, buy insurance, lease thousands of porta-potties, handle first aid services, deal with security, coordinate transportation, pay for publicity… you get the picture. It’s a huge undertaking. So far, there doesn’t seem to be an organized effort to make all of this happen.

As far as I can tell, this is a case of someone saying, hey, let’s meet up in Washington and it’ll all come together magically. Since the Mall’s not available, I recommend the Starbucks at 7th and E Streets Northwest. It’s close by and should be easy to find.

Well it doesn’t come together magically and it will cost a lot of money to pull off. Barely three weeks after the proposed March, Maine will likely be voting on whether they should keep their newly signed same-sex marriage law. Anti-gay activists have already promised to pour all they have into Maine to convince voters to scrap it. At a time when we should be putting all of our resources into Maine to keep that from happening, we will instead be spending a portion of our money for a march on Washington on a day when there won’t be anyone in town and the Mall will be occupied by other people who already have their permits in hand.

It will be a very empowering experience if we do march on Washington, but that experience will be fleeting. No one will be there that needs to hear us, and our money won’t go to Maine where it will be badly needed. And if we lose Maine, it will be nobody’s fault but our own. We need to forget the march for right now and remember Maine.

You don’t know how badly I want to march on Washington. I’m agry about the dithering at the White House and the cowardice in Congress. I want to march in the worst way. But if we go through with this, it will truly be in the worst way.

Update: Oh, and one more thing. You want to know what’s really dumb about this idea? If it goes forward, I can see myself doing everything I can to be there against my better judgment. If they can pull this off — and right now I don’t see how they can — it will be a huge event that I don’t think I’d want to miss. But I do have to ask, with Congress in recess and the President out of town, what would we hope to get out of it besides a huge party?