Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Join the Impact

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Archive for May, 2009

In the movement for LGBTQ rights, specifically that of legal recognition of same sex relationships, activists and others place heavy emphasis on “marriage” being the only possible title to achieve full equality.  Equality can’t exist until LGBTQ and straight people alike fill out the exact same form for the legal binding of two people.  However, how do we handle the gray area of actually attaining equality?  For states that are working for legislation through the house and senate rather than by winning a lawsuit, civil unions may be the bill that gets the opportunity to become a reality first.  This is the case with the current battle for civil unions in Illinois.  To some, this is a half defeat.  To me, it’s a path to marriage equality that could potentially revolutionize the way every American chooses to define their relationships.

The Illinois House is voting today on HB 2234, “The Illinois Religious Freedom and Civil Union Act,” which will hopefully move onto the Senate. Organizations that avidly believe in marriage equality have jumped behind the bill, despite the fact that activists across the state will have to start the whole process over again once Equal Marriage legislation begins to go anywhere in Illinois.   Although equality will not be won in a single stride, civil unions would be stepping forward in a direction that provides options for queer and straight couples that have nothing to do with marriage.  Many senior citizen couples choose to not marry because their social security benefits would be slashed.  Civil unions are not federally recognized and avoids this cutback in much needed income.  Couples who simply do not identify their relationship as the modern social conception of marriage have the option to make their union what they desire.  In a community that is massively based on how one identifies, we need to look more into how our relationships with one another can identify as well.  For centuries, American’s have had one choice in defining their relationship.  Is marriage the only battle we have to win, or will we choose equality but also choose freedom to choose?  Will you want your relationship to be bound by an institution that was founded off of beliefs that may directly go against your lifestyle?  Personally, I may prefer the secular but equal union, even it is separate.  This preference does not take away my passion for true marriage equality, as I believe it is a necessary step to change the collective consciousness of Americans and their comfort level with same sex relationships.

Aside from the fact that civil unions, if allowed, could re-define the way all Americans identify their
relationships with the government, it could serve as a stepping stone for states who deal with a more powerful opposition.  Will it be easier to sway opinions of those who were against marriage equality once they see that the sky has in fact remained intact?  Once the “movable middle” can see that their children are not coming home gay, will it be an easier victory?  There is disagreement among this question, but I feel if done correctly and with the right organization, civil unions can in fact be a catalyst for marriage equality.

Right now the “movable middle” seems very confused.  In the eyes of many, states are passing marriage
equality out of nowhere.  The opposition is growing more visible and exponentially more angry. Organizations working to preserve the “sanctity” of marriage by blasting campaigns based off lies and propaganda (i.e., National Organization for Marriage) are instilling fear in the communities in which we need to be talking the most.  As we know from American history, fear is hard to ease.  Even with the surge of victories in the marriage movement, some states can barely see the light at the end of the tunnel, and for some its still pitch black.  Civil unions may be the lantern that lights the path to equality, and will allow basic, state given rights and protections along the way.  Afterwards, they can remain and be an option for any American who is looking for an alternative to marriage but still want their relationship legally recognized.  How this in fact will happen is still undetermined, but its an issue that will only gain more attention if other states begin the battle that is happening in Illinois.

The queer community has come miles in the past half-century, and are making gains at light speed with the insurgence of pro-LGBTQ activism since the passing of Proposition 8.  Instead of focusing on the vernacular of the movement, activists need to start paying more attention to what our community actually needs at the current moment in time.  In Illinois, I have seen endless dialogue over the morality, so to speak, of supporting civil union legislation when it isn’t full equality.  In my opinion, there was no conversation to be had.  I was supporting it because it would be supporting my community and those who need help now and cannot wait the undetermined time for equal marriage legislation to make it through.  It may not be exactly the type of legislation I had hoped for, but as we all know, we need to take what we can get, and then keep fighting for more.  When looking at the potential the Civil Union system could hold once developed on a more national level, I realized that I could care little about the word that describes my relationship, as long as in the fine print we are exactly equal.  In a way, I would be rejoicing in the fact that my union wasn’t founded by religious institutions, and doesn’t have a “50 percent chance of failure” bubble hanging over my head.  But again, thats just me.  I never said I wouldn’t cry at every same sex marriage ceremony I attend in the future.

Nik Maciejewski, who authored this post, is among the founders of Join The Impact Chicago who led 15,000 people in the streets of Chicago on November 15, and has continued work in their state to raise awareness and keep people involved. Their most recent work has been towards passing the Civil Unions Bill in IL & a Federal Fully Inclusive ENDA. Nik also serves as the North Central Regional Liaison for Join The Impact. Willow thinks he’s a brilliant example of what can happen when a barrista finds their calling in activism.

In the movement for LGBTQ rights, specifically that of legal recognition of same sex relationships, activists and others place heavy emphasis on “marriage” being the only possible title to achieve full equality.  Equality can’t exist until LGBTQ and straight people alike fill out the exact same form for the legal binding of two people.  However, how do we handle the gray area of actually attaining equality?  For states that are working for legislation through the house and senate rather than by winning a lawsuit, civil unions may be the bill that gets the opportunity to become a reality first.  This is the case with the current battle for civil unions in Illinois.  To some, this is a half defeat.  To me, it’s a path to marriage equality that could potentially revolutionize the way every American chooses to define their relationships.

The Illinois House is voting today on HB 2234, “The Illinois Religious Freedom and Civil Union Act,” which will hopefully move onto the Senate. Organizations that avidly believe in marriage equality have jumped behind the bill, despite the fact that activists across the state will have to start the whole process over again once Equal Marriage legislation begins to go anywhere in Illinois.   Although equality will not be won in a single stride, civil unions would be stepping forward in a direction that provides options for queer and straight couples that have nothing to do with marriage.  Many senior citizen couples choose to not marry because their social security benefits would be slashed.  Civil unions are not federally recognized and avoids this cutback in much needed income.  Couples who simply do not identify their relationship as the modern social conception of marriage have the option to make their union what they desire.  In a community that is massively based on how one identifies, we need to look more into how our relationships with one another can identify as well.  For centuries, American’s have had one choice in defining their relationship.  Is marriage the only battle we have to win, or will we choose equality but also choose freedom to choose?  Will you want your relationship to be bound by an institution that was founded off of beliefs that may directly go against your lifestyle?  Personally, I may prefer the secular but equal union, even it is separate.  This preference does not take away my passion for true marriage equality, as I believe it is a necessary step to change the collective consciousness of Americans and their comfort level with same sex relationships.

Aside from the fact that civil unions, if allowed, could re-define the way all Americans identify their
relationships with the government, it could serve as a stepping stone for states who deal with a more powerful opposition.  Will it be easier to sway opinions of those who were against marriage equality once they see that the sky has in fact remained intact?  Once the “movable middle” can see that their children are not coming home gay, will it be an easier victory?  There is disagreement among this question, but I feel if done correctly and with the right organization, civil unions can in fact be a catalyst for marriage equality.

Right now the “movable middle” seems very confused.  In the eyes of many, states are passing marriage
equality out of nowhere.  The opposition is growing more visible and exponentially more angry. Organizations working to preserve the “sanctity” of marriage by blasting campaigns based off lies and propaganda (i.e., National Organization for Marriage) are instilling fear in the communities in which we need to be talking the most.  As we know from American history, fear is hard to ease.  Even with the surge of victories in the marriage movement, some states can barely see the light at the end of the tunnel, and for some its still pitch black.  Civil unions may be the lantern that lights the path to equality, and will allow basic, state given rights and protections along the way.  Afterwards, they can remain and be an option for any American who is looking for an alternative to marriage but still want their relationship legally recognized.  How this in fact will happen is still undetermined, but its an issue that will only gain more attention if other states begin the battle that is happening in Illinois.

The queer community has come miles in the past half-century, and are making gains at light speed with the insurgence of pro-LGBTQ activism since the passing of Proposition 8.  Instead of focusing on the vernacular of the movement, activists need to start paying more attention to what our community actually needs at the current moment in time.  In Illinois, I have seen endless dialogue over the morality, so to speak, of supporting civil union legislation when it isn’t full equality.  In my opinion, there was no conversation to be had.  I was supporting it because it would be supporting my community and those who need help now and cannot wait the undetermined time for equal marriage legislation to make it through.  It may not be exactly the type of legislation I had hoped for, but as we all know, we need to take what we can get, and then keep fighting for more.  When looking at the potential the Civil Union system could hold once developed on a more national level, I realized that I could care little about the word that describes my relationship, as long as in the fine print we are exactly equal.  In a way, I would be rejoicing in the fact that my union wasn’t founded by religious institutions, and doesn’t have a “50 percent chance of failure” bubble hanging over my head.  But again, thats just me.  I never said I wouldn’t cry at every same sex marriage ceremony I attend in the future.

Nik Maciejewski, who authored this post, is among the founders of Join The Impact Chicago who led 15,000 people in the streets of Chicago on November 15, and has continued work in their state to raise awareness and keep people involved. Their most recent work has been towards passing the Civil Unions Bill in IL & a Federal Fully Inclusive ENDA. Nik also serves as the North Central Regional Liaison for Join The Impact. Willow thinks he’s a brilliant example of what can happen when a barrista finds their calling in activism.

Prop 8 Remains – What’s Next?

Posted by amy On May - 26 - 2009

On November 7th, sometime before noon Pacific time, Willow Witte and I were emailing back and forth about Proposition 8.  What came from those emails was JoinTheImpact.com and a blog post that called for national protests across the country in response to Proposition 8.  Now, 6 months later, I have that same lump in my throat and the same feeling of anxiety, mixed with anger, mixed with sadness.  Basically, it’s like getting side-swiped by a car.  But there’s something that makes today far different than those days following the November 4th passage of Proposition 8.  That difference is you.

On November 7th, Willow and I assumed we’d get maybe 4 cities involved in a protest of Prop 8.  We figured that would be a huge accomplishment after just a week of notice.  We assumed that we would have one high stress week and then go back to our local activism and wait with everyone else to see what happens next.  But in that week, EVERYTHING changed.  Within just a few days our servers crashed from the amount of traffic to this site.  By November 10th the national protest became international with 10 other countries signing on.  By November 12th we were discussing how to become a non-profit.  By November 14th we were forming a board.  And by November 15th, we stood in amazement as we realized that Prop 8 awoke a sleeping beast and we were lucky enough to be just one small piece of the extremely loud roar that this beast has continued to chant.

This sleeping beast is grassroots.  This sleeping beast is netroots.  It is flash activism in it’s purest form. This sleeping beast is every single one of you who came out on November 15th.  And every single one of you who has come out time and time again.  Those of you who organized for November 15th and continue to organize across this country.  This sleeping beast is led by activists who have been fighting this fight since Stonewall and before.  It is led by new activists as well; young people who can intuitively harness the tools of their generation and spread the message of equality far and wide in milliseconds.  In this past 6 months, so many new organizations have sprung up, and so many seasoned organizations have lent a helping hand to ensure that we are all one family fighting for the same cause.  In 6 months we have won marriage equality in 4 other states: Connecticut, Vermont, Iowa, and Maine with Domestic Partnership expansion laws passing in states like Washington.  The Matthew Shepard Act passed in the house by a vote of 249 to 171.  We have new rights in our grasps (rights that others in this country have always had without a second thought).  We have an end to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell on the horizon, a stronger ENDA law, and the Matthew Sheppard Act sitting in the Senate.  It is amazing what we have accomplished in 6 short months. And if they think that the movement for equality is going to stop now, then they are in for one gigantic surprise!

On November 15th, we asked everyone to unite as one.  One loud voice across over 320 cities and 11 countries chiming in at the exact same moment in history to declare that OUR RIGHTS WILL NOT BE TAKEN FOR GRANTED!  Now is the time for us to come together and STAY TOGETHER.  We will no longer be pinned down by a national force fighting a local force.  We showed the world that Prop 8 is not California’s problem,  it is the NATION’s problem. It is time to fight inequality on all 50 fronts.  We ALL need to come together and take the conversation of equality to the next level.  It is time everyone in this country learns about the harms caused when all families do not receive equal protections under the law.  We need to infiltrate the masses by going to the areas of our country, our states, and our cities that do not understand us.  We need to educate those we meet about who we are and what our families mean to us.  And most importantly, we must end hate by showing the world that we are fighting for love.  We will not back down until our families receive full equality under the law!

Infiltrate. Educate. End Hate.

But how do we do this?  What is next for us?  Well that is up to you.  We are all united in this struggle.  This struggle has roots far deeper than marriage equality.  We must fight for all of our rights.  We must recognize that our fight is no different than the injustices other minority groups receive and we must join with them in our journey.  We must come together as a family – one large family of people who support each other, protect each other, and fight for each other.  If there is an issue in Idaho, we must all lend our support.  If there is an issue in Manhattan, we must all lend our voices to the roar.  If we can all work together, for the greater good of this movement, then VICTORY IS NEXT FOR US.

What is next for you?  What can you do?  Get in touch with your local LGBTQ organization and pledge a minimum of 5 hours per month to help them.  If EVERYONE who reads this blog volunteers 5 hours per month to this movement then we will have over 1 million hours per month of new volunteers across the nation!  Pledge your time.  Get on the phones and phone bank.  Grab a friend and go door to door to educate your neighbors.  Go into the towns that would vote for a Prop 8 in your state and hold a teach in.  If the past 6 months has shown us anything it’s that just one voice can change everything.  Work with organizations like the Courage Campaign, Marriage Equality USA, Join the Impact, the HRC, the NGLTF, One Struggle One Fight, and on and on.  EVERYONE has something that they need help on.  Grassroots orgs in California already have taken the next steps to repeal Prop 8 through a ballot initiative.  Volunteer your time to help.  In Washington, a group is trying to repeal the latest Domestic Partnership expansion bill through the ballot.  Even if you’re on the other side of the country, there is still something you can do to help.  In government, the Matthew Sheppard Act is sitting in the Senate.  Call your senator and urge them to pass it.  We need to continue all the hard work that so many amazing organizers have been doing over the past 6 months, but we all need YOUR help.  5 hours is all I’m asking.  Find an organization that you love and ask them how you can help.  Stop another Prop 8 before it happens.

My friend Jonathan Bruns is preparing his speech for tonight’s Day of Decision event in Seattle.  He ran by a very small portion of it with me and I asked him if I could steal it for my closing of this blog post.  Simply and eloquently put he said: We must not focus on this defeat, instead, we must now focus on our future victory!

Prop 8 Decision announced tomorrow!

Posted by willow On May - 25 - 2009

In November, over 6 months ago, we were devastated by the passing of California’s Proposition 8. Since March 5 our community has awaited the decision from the California Supreme Court on the validity of Proposition 8 and whether the 18,000 Marriages, JTI’s co-founder Amy’s among them, would stand.

Wanna get involved? Wanna help? Wanna know the moment the decision comes down?

1. KNOW THE RESULT- The court could issue the ruling as early as 10am. Be the first to know the decision with text alerts:
From National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) at http://www.nclrights.org/site/PageServer?pagename=nclr_getinvolved_mobilealerts

From Credo Mobile & Courage Campaign by texting DECISION to 27336

2. RESPOND- Whether we celebrate or protest, Day of Decision events have been organized throughout the US & Canada 90 cities & counting. To find the rally nearest you go to www.dayofdecision.com or text RALLY + your zip code to 27336

3. GET INVOLVED- Whether we win or lose Proposition 8, there is still much work to be done to get full equality under the law. We must engage communities that are reflective of Middle American values. In California this means heading to the Central Valley- which is why every Californian who is passionate about being involved in the fight for full equality in their state will be heading to Fresno for Meet In the Middle the Saturday after the Prop 8 decision. http://www.meetinthemiddle4equality.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3&Itemid=6

Join The Impact has endorsed Meet In the Middle because we believe strongly that when we envision the necessary work in the LGBT movement we MUST take our stories beyond progressive states, cities and neighborhoods. We must do the work where it is hardest. We hope you’ll join us in the fight.

Cleve Jones, Dustin Lance Black, Michele Clunie, Charlize Theron and 70 plus endorsing organizations will be there. Will you?

If you’re outside California or can’t make it to Meet In The Middle you can support by giving a small donation, even $5 helps, to Meet In The Middle at http://www.meetinthemiddle4equality.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=71&Itemid=18

In my family, our history is a sacred part of our lives.  The stories of my ancestors were the stories I heard at bedtime; not Little Red Riding Hood.  In my mind, I can see the dewey morning that my great, great, great grandparents Frank and Sarah Martin set off from Indianapolis in a covered wagon 160 years ago much more clearly than I can see pigs building houses.  I’m actually embarassed to admit that before last November, I didn’t know who Harvey Milk was.  The tragedy of my generation of LGBT activists is that we have little ties to our roots.  LGBT history is not taught in public schools, or even at a college level unless you very specifically seek it out.  I studied business in college and never sought the history of our community; and so, I embarked on my journey into activism without ever hearing the name of one of our greatest heroes.

Over the course of the last several months, I have sought an education on Harvey Milk.  The movie MILK was gut-wrenching and uplifting at the same time, and formed a basis for my understanding.  Later, I would meet Cleve Jones, one of Milk’s interns during the late 1970s.  I watched The Life and Times of Harvey Milk and gained more insight. Harvey Milk was born 79 years ago today in New York, and before his entrance to activism he was a math geek.  This makes me smile — it’s nice to know that someone else has made the (sometimes rocky) transition from number crunching to community organizing.  What I also learned about Harvey Milk was that he served in the Navy right here in San Diego.  It wasn’t until he was 40 years old and had moved from New York to Texas, and then back to California, that he decided to stay in San Francisco.
If there is one moral that I take away from my new understanding of who Harvey Milk was, it is never too late to make a difference.  Harvey Milk truly lived an active life once moving to San Francisco.  He built coalitions with organized labor and showed that he wasn’t a single-issue organizer.  Milk respected and engaged youth in the movement, showed love and compassion for all of the people he represented (not just LGBT), and remained unphased by the cacophony telling him that he could not succeed.  And he did it all while remaining truly fabulous.  In 1999, TIME magazine honored Harvey Milk as one of the Most Important People of the Century, saying,

“There was a time when it was impossible for people — straight or gay — even to imagine a Harvey Milk. The funny thing about Milk is that he didn’t seem to care that he lived in such a time. After he defied the governing class of San Francisco in 1977 to become a member of its board of supervisors, many people — straight and gay — had to adjust to a new reality he embodied: that a gay person could live an honest life and succeed. That laborious adjustment plods on — now forward, now backward — though with every gay character to emerge on TV and with every presidential speech to a gay group, its eventual outcome favoring equality seems clear.”

(The excellent bio that TIME wrote of Milk can be found in full here.)

Here in California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had the opportunity to honor Harvey Milk last year, and declare May 22nd Harvey Milk Day in California.  The legislature overwhelmingly supported this.  Instead, the Governator chose to veto the bill, claiming that Harvey Milk was a historical figure of local importance only.  This year, San Diego was proud not only to recognize Harvey Milk in our city by declaring today Harvey Milk Day in San Diego, but we also hosted the Inaugural Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast.  We recognized Milk for his great contributions not only to the local area of San Francisco but to the broad issue of equal rights.

The genius of Harvey Milk was not that he had any special perception of the problems facing our community. We all – given the time and inclination – can enumerate any number of problems that we would like to see addressed. Rather, what Milk saw differently was the need for new solutions.  He saw that change was coming too slowly when it came at all, identified the need for a new angle on creating that change, and then took the all-important step of acting personally to make it happen.  Milk didn’t just open up the opportunity, he also created a standard against which we can and should measure ourselves.  By refusing to accept the establishment position on slow, plodding, non-disruptive “progress,” he set the bar to which our entire movement ought to be holding itself.

Tonight, as I light a candle in honor of the 79th birthday of our great hero Harvey Milk, I am thankful for the way in which he lived his life without apology, and the legacy he left for each of us to follow: a legacy of hope, of coalition, and of not being afraid to be who we are.

Sara Beth Brooks, who authored this post, is the Western Regional Liason for Join the Impact.  She helped organize San Diego’s November 15th protest which had 25,000 people in attendance.  She is the Executive Chair of the San Diego Equality Campaign.  In her day job, she is a bookkeeper.  You can contact her at sarabrooks@gmail.com.

Our History: White Night Riots

Posted by admin On May - 21 - 2009

On May 21, 1979, 30 years ago today, the White Night Riots erupted in San Francisco as Dan White was given the most lenient sentencing possible for the assassinations of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Harvey Milk, the first elected openly gay politician in U.S. history.

When Milk’s friend Cleve Jones heard White was sentenced to only 7 1/2 years and could be out in as few as five years he hit the streets.  With bullhorn in hand he led 500 people around Castro shouting, “Out of the bars and into the streets!”  As people spilled out of the bars the crowd grew.  Jones led approximately 5000 people to San Francisco City Hall where people called for the death of Dan White.

The crowd continued to grow as other gay neighborhoods led marches to city hall.  After three hours of angry but otherwise peaceful chanting, the San Francisco police turned on the crowd with black tape covering their badges so they could not be identified. They beat the protesters with batons and tear gassed the crowed.  Tired of years of violence against their community, they fought back using whatever they could find as a weapon, including tree trunks and even chunks of the street blow their feet.

Watch for yourself here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_mvk4istzo

The physical damage to the city cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the strong voice the LGBT community gained was priceless.  When reporters were searching for a gay leader to apologize for the riots they were surprised to find no one willing to turn on their community.  Instead Supervisor Harry Britt (Harvey Milks replacement) said, “Harvey Milk’s people do not have anything to apologize for. Now the society is going to have to deal with us not as nice little fairies who have hairdressing salons, but as people capable of violence.  We’re not going to put up with Dan Whites anymore.”

30 years later and our equality movement has come a long way.  We are at a tipping point in history when equal rights are shining over the horizon.  5 states grant same sex marriage. National polls indicate growing support for marriage equality with a strong majority young voters on our side.  Our opponents are finding little to no support any more, as their old allies realize Americans see them for who they truly are, Dan Whites.

Harvey Milk’s famous saying, “Hello, I’m Harvey Milk and I’m here to recruit you” still rings true. Cleve Jones pointed out an important change in the new voices in our movement.  No longer are LGBTs alone, but straight people are standing with us. They showed up by the thousands on November 15th when the world shouted “No More Hate!” at rallies protesting Proposition 8. They will continue to stand with us all the way to equality and beyond.

It has been 30 years since the White Night Riots.  30 years of bloodshed and struggle, marching and fighting. 30 years of conversations and courageous coming outs. 30 years of wins and losses.  We have come a long way and the end is within reach.

30 years ago today, gays and lesbians said enough is enough. Because they did, today is a peaceful day. The sun is shining and the dark shadows of the past are growing short. There is little doubt, if Harvey Milk could see us now he would be smiling.

Joe Mirabella, who authored this post, is the Washington State Community Organizer for Join the Impact. He and his fiance Joe Brokken are engaged to marry in their home state Iowa this summer. Joe works as a professional writer and content developer for an online retailer.

Our History: White Night Riots

Posted by willow On May - 21 - 2009

On May 21, 1979, 30 years ago today, the White Night Riots erupted in San Francisco as Dan White was given the most lenient sentencing possible for the assassinations of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Harvey Milk, the first elected openly gay politician in U.S. history.

When Milk’s friend Cleve Jones heard White was sentenced to only 7 1/2 years and could be out in as few as five years he hit the streets.  With bullhorn in hand he led 500 people around Castro shouting, “Out of the bars and into the streets!”  As people spilled out of the bars the crowd grew.  Jones led approximately 5000 people to San Francisco City Hall where people called for the death of Dan White.

The crowd continued to grow as other gay neighborhoods led marches to city hall.  After three hours of angry but otherwise peaceful chanting, the San Francisco police turned on the crowd with black tape covering their badges so they could not be identified. They beat the protesters with batons and tear gassed the crowed.  Tired of years of violence against their community, they fought back using whatever they could find as a weapon, including tree trunks and even chunks of the street blow their feet.

Watch for yourself here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_mvk4istzo

The physical damage to the city cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the strong voice the LGBT community gained was priceless.  When reporters were searching for a gay leader to apologize for the riots they were surprised to find no one willing to turn on their community.  Instead Supervisor Harry Britt (Harvey Milks replacement) said, “Harvey Milk’s people do not have anything to apologize for. Now the society is going to have to deal with us not as nice little fairies who have hairdressing salons, but as people capable of violence.  We’re not going to put up with Dan Whites anymore.”

30 years later and our equality movement has come a long way.  We are at a tipping point in history when equal rights are shining over the horizon.  5 states grant same sex marriage. National polls indicate growing support for marriage equality with a strong majority young voters on our side.  Our opponents are finding little to no support any more, as their old allies realize Americans see them for who they truly are, Dan Whites.

Harvey Milk’s famous saying, “Hello, I’m Harvey Milk and I’m here to recruit you” still rings true. Cleve Jones pointed out an important change in the new voices in our movement.  No longer are LGBTs alone, but straight people are standing with us. They showed up by the thousands on November 15th when the world shouted “No More Hate!” at rallies protesting Proposition 8. They will continue to stand with us all the way to equality and beyond.

It has been 30 years since the White Night Riots.  30 years of bloodshed and struggle, marching and fighting. 30 years of conversations and courageous coming outs. 30 years of wins and losses.  We have come a long way and the end is within reach.

30 years ago today, gays and lesbians said enough is enough. Because they did, today is a peaceful day. The sun is shining and the dark shadows of the past are growing short. There is little doubt, if Harvey Milk could see us now he would be smiling.

Joe Mirabella, who authored this post, is the Washington State Community Organizer for Join the Impact. He and his fiance Joe Brokken are engaged to marry in their home state Iowa this summer. Joe works as a professional writer and content developer for an online retailer.

Making an Impact in the State of Washington

Posted by willow On May - 21 - 2009

Referendum 71 and Washington’s Domestic Partnership Rights

The Washington State Legislature passed the Domestic Partnership expansion bill of 2009 and Governor Gregoire signed it into law.  This is the third element in a three year plan to deliver all the same state rights and obligations of marriage to same sex couples. The Domestic Partnership registry also provides a legal framework for heterosexual senior citizens 62 and older.  Domestic Partnership registries are popular among senior citizens because they protect their relationships at the state level while still permitting them to enjoy the benefits of social security income from a previous spouse.

I attended the signing ceremony on Monday, May 18 in Seattle, Washington along with hundreds of gays, lesbians, and allies.  About 30 or 40 children were present.  I overheard an 11 year old boy interviewed by a KOMO radio news reporter.  He said, “Now the state knows what I have know for a long time.  My family is legitimate.” It was a moment I will never forget.

The Domestic Partnership Expansion Bill was step three in a three year process to bring over 450 rights to LGBT families. While the strategy was criticized by some in the community who wanted instant gratification, it was a strategy that proved to be a winner.  According to Senator Ed Murray and Representative Jamie Peterson who have sponsored the bills, we are now poised to press for full marriage equality in name and law in Washington.

Before we can go for full marriage equality though, Washington residents must protect equality from a Referendum attempt.  A group of fringe right wing extremists are attempting to put Referendum 71 on the ballot.  To do so, they must  120, 577 signatures by July 25, 2009.  If they are successful voters will have to vote to “Affirm” the Domestic Partnership law to protect equality.  It will undoubtedly be very confusing to many voters who want Domestic Partnerships. Check out the Secretary of State’s website to see how Referendum 71 would appear on the ballot. http://blogs.secstate.wa.gov/FromOurCorner/index.php/2009/05/update-gregoire-signs-domestic-partner-law-challenge-afoot/

Our opponents face an enormous challenge.  Immediately following their threat, Join the Impact, Equal Rights Washington, Fuse, the GSBA,the Labor movement, and many others, joined together to ask Washington voters to Decline to Sign 71.  I formed a facebook group and within the first few days nearly 100 people registered per hour.  Now we have approximately 6000 facebook pledges to decline to sign referendum 71 spread over two groups and a fan page http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/pages/Decline-to-Sign-71/79860412479.  Equal Rights Washington has tens of thousands more. http://eqfed.org/campaign/DeclineToSignPet_71

We are united in Washington to Decline to Sign 71 while our opponents are fumbling to find their voice. Washington law requires each signature sheet to present the entire bill.  Each sheet can only hold 20 signatures and the bill is 100 pages long.  The cost to produce the petition is astronomical and the physical challenge of carrying it around is laughable.  According to a University of Washington poll, well over 70% of Washington voters support some form of legal recognition for same sex couples.  In short, our opponents will drain their war chests against a battle that seems largely over. By their own admission it will take “a miracle from God” for them to win.  Traditional anti-equality groups have withdrawn support because of the daunting challenge, leaving a splintered fringe group with little to no chance of winning.

However, whenever our community is under attack we need to take it seriously.  So for now please join me and others by asking your friends and neighbors to Decline to Sign 71 so that we can realize equality as quickly as possible. http://eqfed.org/campaign/DeclineToSignPet_71

Together we will make an IMPACT!

Joe Mirabella, who authored this post, is the Washington State Community Organizer for Join the Impact. He and his fiance Joe Brokken are engaged to marry in their home state Iowa this summer. Joe works as a professional writer and content developer for an online retailer.

President Obama: Don’t Flip Flop on DOMA!

Posted by willow On May - 20 - 2009

OPERATION FLIP FLOP:
Asking President Obama to keep his promise on DOMA
MAIL A FLIP FLOP CARD TO THE WHITE HOUSE

Mail Flip Flops to:

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

The first ever federal lawsuit against Section 3 of DOMA (“Defense Of Marriage Act”) was filed on March 3, 2009 by GLAD (Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders) on behalf of eight same-sex married couples and three surviving spouses from Massachusetts who have been denied federal legal protections available to spouses. They served the government with the lawsuit the week of April 27th and now the Department of Justice, under President Obama’s authority, has until the week of June 22nd to respond.

President Obama now has a choice – direct Attorney General Holder and the Justice Department to defend DOMA in court or keep his campaign promise by asking Holder not to defend this unconstitutional law.

Past presidents have ordered the Justice Department not to defend certain federal laws being challenged in court where such laws appeared on its face to be unconstitutional. There is no clearer example of a blatantly unconstitutional law than DOMA which President Obama himself has called an “abhorrent law” and that its repeal is “essential”.

There is also a Washington Post editorial urging President Obama to take the very same action, “President Obama is on record opposing DOMA. Although the Justice Department typically defends acts of Congress in court, Mr. Obama should ask his legal advisers to determine whether they, like the plaintiffs, believe DOMA as applied in this case is unconstitutional. If so, Mr. Obama should consider whether this is one of those rare instances where the Justice Department declines to defend a law.”

Use this fun and creative way to let Obama know YOU WERE LISTENING to his campaign promises, and expect him to keep them!object>

This is an issue of equal rights for all Americans! Stand up and make your voice heard! Join us in ensuring the federal government and President Obama get rid of DOMA by mailing flip flops to the White House!

SPREAD THE WORD! Please pass this on and alert your friends, classmates, co-workers, family members, progressive groups, etc.

For more info on Operation Flip Flop, visit www.domaflipflop.com or the facebook page .

Operation Flip Flop!

Posted by willow On May - 20 - 2009