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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!

Steve Colbert & The Gathering Storm

Posted by amy On April - 19 - 2009

Evan Wolfson, You’re My Hero

Posted by amy On April - 10 - 2009

Even Wolfson, Executive Director of Freedom to Marry and aughor of Why Marriage Matters (great book if you haven’t read it), continues to impress me with his view of this movement as well as his views of those who oppose us.

He wrote an article for the Huffington Post today entitled Winning the Freedom to Marry? Cue the Attack on the Gays.  His writing always seem to fire me up, consistently reminding me of the trite bumper sticker “if you’re not angry, then you’re not paying attention.”  Anger is something that can either defeat us, or it can lead to our victory – if used correctly.  Read his post and channel your anger toward positive actions.  His post gives all of the information necessary to startup important conversations about equality.  Let that anger you feel fuel the passion to have these conversations.

Check out the bullet points in the post if you don’t have time to read it all.  The next time you hear someone say “they’re teaching homosexuality in the schools” or one of those arguments against marriage and equal rights of LGBTQ citizens, remember his words and you will know how to educate that person about what is actually happening.  For instance, the argument that a NJ church was forced to accept gay people sounds strong, but consider the details.  The church was opperating a public facility that had multiple tax breaks from the government.  As a government funded facility, it has to abide by the same laws as all other government funded businesses.  These rules include an inability to discriminate against someone based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation.

I am a firm believer that few people truly hate (and you can feel free to disagree with me on that).  Instead, I feel that many people just do not understand, maybe choose to not understand, or firmly believe one side and have no reason to trust the explanations of another.  The only way to end this is to reach out and educate… but you have to reach out, because few people are going to go out of their way to learn the other side of the story.  This is true of ALL people regardless of sexual orientation.  We remain safest when preaching to the choir and vis versa.  So, reach out… infiltrate.  We can end discrimination in 3 easy steps:

  1. INFILTRATE – initiate the conversation, seek out the conversation, approach it with respect and you will recieve respect if they are willing to listen.
  2. EDUCATE – Tell them personal stories, use your knowledge of history, fact, and the present state to help them see the other side.  Respect their beliefs, because beliefs are something that few people will ever change.  What’s important is that their beliefs do not hurt you.  We must all coexist, and respect is the first step toward this
  3. END HATE

I Heart Iowa!

Posted by amy On April - 3 - 2009

I’m sure you all know the amazing news: The Iowa Supreme Court ruled in favor of Same-Sex Civil Marriage today!  As someone who is originally from Ohio, I never expected a Midwest state to jump on the marriage equality bandwagon before the coastal states, but Iowa has just proven me wrong!  Thanks to the amazingly hard work of groups like One Iowa and Lambda Legal, we are another great step closer to winning equality for all LGBTQ citizens!

Please take a moment today to celebrate.  Share the story with friends and family.  Tell your co-workers about today’s historic event.  Tell a neighbor.  Send an email.  Change your Facebook/Twitter status.  Or join one of the many celebratory rallies that are springing up around the nation:  MEUSA has planned one in San Francisco, many are happening in Iowa (thanks to One Iowa),  and the Civil Rights Front is holding one in Manhattan.  Check The Impact to see if a local organizer has set something up for your city.  Continue the conversation of equality with this amazing news!

Here’s some links to stories about it:

Finally, on a personal note, since the launch of Join the Impact, I have had the privilege to meet some extremely amazing people who are working toward gaining full equality for all LGBTQ citizens on both the local and national level.  One of those people is a man named Joe Maribella.  Joe organized the Seattle Light Up the Night event, and, since I live in Seattle, I have had many great opportunities to work directly with him as he organizes for Join the Impact in Washington State.  Joe is originally from Iowa and (by shear coincidence), he and his partner (also named Joe… yup, it’s confusing) of 5 1/2 years were home in Iowa visiting this week.  This morning, they woke up and saw their home state embrace their commitment.  They applied for a marriage license an hour ago with a formal proposal outside of City Hall!!  Congratulations to Joe… and Joe :-).  Also, congratulations to all of the amazing couples that will be married in Iowa!  And congratulations to all of you, who are working hard for the LGBTQ community as a whole and know that a win for one state is a win for all of us!

One Court Can Effect the Nation

Posted by amy On March - 31 - 2009

Yesterday, Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry posted an amazing article clearly defining the implications of Proposition 8, if the California Supreme Court chooses to uphold it.  Evan drives the point home that we have all said time and time again: If Proposition 8 is upheld, it sets a precedence in this country that a simple majority can vote on the rights of any minority group.  Though we keep saying this, his article sends the point home in a way that pinpoints the severity of Proposition 8.

Think about it this way: If Prop 8 sticks, then there is nothing stopping the KKK from rallying together to put something on the ballot that takes away the rights of the African American Community.  A state would be able to choose to take away voting rights of women.  Hell, maybe the next ballot initiative will be to take the LGBTQ community back to a pre-Stonewall era where we could get arrested just for holding hands with our partner!  Yes these may be extreme, but the California Supreme Court has the power to say that anyone can rally a simple majority to strip rights of any minority.  Our Constitution is meant to protect all of us… even from each other.  While many who voted for Proposition 8 did so because they felt that they were protecting the word “marriage,” the vast implications of what they perceived to be good intentions, were left in a black box only to be opened now.

I consistently come back to Jim Crow laws here; a time when a man and woman who loved each other, could not legally marry based on the color of their skin.  At the time, the same “moral” arguments were used to protect the word “marriage.”  And, as Evan so eloquently puts it:

…the “essence” of which, the California Supreme Court explained in 1948 when it became the first court in the U.S. with the courage to strike down race restrictions on marriage, is the right “to join in marriage with the person of one’s choice,” the person who to you may be “irreplaceable.” Imagine what California and our country would look like today had that court flinched in the face of the 90% disapproval of the then-majority. Imagine what the Constitution would look like if a mere majority could always cement inequality or a selective denial of fundamental rights into it, without even the procedural protection of the deliberative revision process the people themselves set forth.

So what will you do on the Day of Decision (D-Day)?  We all hope that we’ll be celebrating in the streets, but are we prepared for the worst?  If the California Supreme Court upholds Proposition 8, then all minorities are at risk.  Will you be ready to fight for your rights?  Will you be prepared to fight for the rights of all minorities?  Will you be ready for the next ballot initiative – The one that is in your own back yard?  Proposition 8 is not just a California issue.  It is not just a marriage issue.  And it is NOT just an LGBTQ issue!  Join the many organizations that are gathering on D-Day.  Prepare your city, your friends, your family, and your powerful voice for what might happen next.

You Have a Voice – Use It

Posted by amy On March - 25 - 2009

Yesterday, on 99 Problems, Sarah Silverman expressed a problem: The fact that we don’t have gay marriage in this country is embarrassing.  Willow Witte, co-founder of Join the Impact, provides a  solution to the problem: Stand Up. Be Visible. Work Together Against ALL Oppression…We ALL Have a Voice, Let’s Use Them!

The Eve of Justice

Posted by amy On March - 9 - 2009

What an amazing video from Sean Chapin, whom I regretfully did not get a chance to meet when I was in SF on Thursday.  Sean has captured this movement on film in many wonderful ways and has been nominated for an award because of his use of video to push this movement forward!  This video captures the Eve of Justice that occured on Wednesday March 4th.  It makes a profound statement regarding how far we have come, and how far we have yet to go.  There are many sacrifices along the way, which Cleve Jones expresses as he speaks.  What we must take from this is that with our hard work and our love will come success!  WE WILL PREVAIL!

Beyond California

Posted by amy On March - 9 - 2009

Prop 8 is a huge fight that we have going on when it comes to equal rights for members of the LGBTQ community.  When JTI began, we called for everyone around the nation (and the world) to unite as one voice for equal rights.  We explained that Proposition 8 is much more than California’s problem.  If Prop 8 is not repealed, it sets a precedent that the majority can vote on the rights of the minority.  As argued on Thursday, it states that people who are NOT affected by a lack of rights, can choose to keep those rights from a suspect class.  This is appalling.  California is a HUGE battleground right now which we will all continue to be a part of.  Beyond California, there are many many issues at stake that we all need to support and take actions on.

  • Only 13 states have laws protecting LGBTQ citizens from employment discrimination based on sexual or gender identity.
  • There are 7 more states that protect LGB citizens, but do not protect Transgendered citizens from employment discrimination.  Soon we will all come together to support a federal ENDA law that secures equal protections in the work space.
  • Throughout the country, families are at risk of deportation because we can not legally sponsor our partner to become a citizen of the US.  The Uniting American Families Act has been reintroduced to Congress, and we encourage you to call your representative and ask that they support this act and support our families!
  • In the state of Washington (my current home) a Domestic Partnership Expansion Bill has been introduced and will hit the Senate and House this week.  This bill will give Washington LGBTQ citizens protections under the law at a state-wide level that are equal to the state-wide protections of marriage. Those who oppose same-sex civil protections are stating that this law (which again uses the semantics of Domestic Partnership) is seeking to redefine the word marriage, even though we are not.  They are taking action and we need to respond by educating our representatives on the realities of this bill and how it will help us.
  • In the state of Hawaii, another battle surges as our LGBTQ brothers and sisters fight for Civil Unions.  The opposition has come out in full force and Hawaii needs you!  If you are from Hawaii or know someone who is, please contact your representative (or ask your friend to) and ask that they support HB444.
  • HB2234 is going to the House floor for a vote in Illinois.  This same-sex civil union bill does not grant all of the state-wide rights of marriage, but it does grant some very important protections.  Please take action by contacting your representative (if in Illinois) and asking that they support this bill.
  • Here’s a great state by state breakdown on LGBTQ adoption rights.  Clearly we have work to do.  With an average of 500,000 children needing families every year, only 50,000 get adopted.  In a country where so many go without family, why do we have to fight to provide safety, shelter, and parental care?
  • Despite the evolutions in the field of science, we still live in a country where gay and bisexual men cannot donate blood.  This ban on blood donations began with the AIDS crisis and a fear that blood donations would be tainted with the disease.  According to the CDC, the incidence of AIDS is lowering in gay and bisexual men and raising in the heterosexual community.  Yet this ban does not extend to members of the heterosexual community.  A JTI member and amazing organizer for many great grassroots groups has worked hard on this front with her program called the Right to Save.  She is calling for national actions on May 16th 2009 to send a message to the FDA that this policy is discriminatory.
  • These are just a FEW of the many battles brewing in this EQUAL RIGHTS MOVEMENT.  Add more in the comments and let’s organize together to work toward winning these battles and our equal protections under the law.

A JTI Weakness

Posted by amy On March - 7 - 2009

This afternoon, I was running errands looking for the proper attire for a black tie event.  I’m going to an LGBTQ gala tonight and it’s formal, but the only dress I have is my wedding dress and my fashion sense is slim to none.  Anywho, I digress.  As I was trying to find a black tie (because I just can’t bring myself to wear a dress), I got a text message saying “Why didn’t I know that there was a JTI event today???”  My response was “What JTI event today?  There wasn’t one.”  The next response “The fliers said it was a JTI event.”

Herein lies a weakness of JTI.  We organize in the virtual space for the most part.  We talk online, text message, email, and call each other.  Willow and I barely see each other in person.  In fact, in San Francisco on Thursday, we saw each other for only the 2nd time since the launch of JTI.  Organizing online can sometimes lead to mixed messages.  JTI-national did not have any event today, but some of our organizers may have chosen to have an event in their city for something local.  JTI seeks to empower our members to stand up for what they believe in locally and nationally.  Because of this, sometimes there will be events that a member holds that Willow and I or JTI-national are not a part of.  Most of our organizers follow the protocol of checking in before listing JTI as endorsing an event that is not officially a JTI event.

So, this text message led me to thinking about this weakness, and wondering how we can fix it.  We do have an Official JTI Events page that speaks to events or protests endorsed, hosted, or sponsored by JTI.  We have an Other Events page, which speaks to events that we want to help get the word out on, but they are not run by, hosted by, endorsed, or sponsored by us.  Still, there seems to be confusion out there, and we’re curious about how you think we should help to clear up this confusion?  We do not want to become an organization that makes all the decisions of what to do, without listening to the needs of our members. This is why we’ve used The IMPACT the way we do and why we do not treat our organizers like employees… these organizers are what make us a success, we do not make them a success, and we want our actions to show our appreciation for them.  We will NEVER tell our organizers that they cannot have an event without our approval.  So how do we clear up the confusion when an event is held in our name, that isn’t actually one JTI is behind or even aware of?

We want to continue learning from you and working with and for you.  Willow is at Camp Courage today.  She is learning how to help provide more support for our organizers so that we can better serve you.  That is one step, but we know there are more.  So what do you think?

March 5th Watch Online

Posted by amy On March - 4 - 2009

Just a quick update to everyone who can’t make it to SF on Thursday.  You can watch the opening arguments online at www.calchannel.com. Everything starts at 9am PST (that’s 6am EST so hopefully you’re an early bird).

It’s not too late to setup a viewing party.  Many local theaters around the country have announced that they are willing to show the streaming video at 9am PST sharp, if enough people will come.  Call your local theater or gay bar and ask that they open their doors early to show this event to the masses!