September 08, 2009

Updates on the National Equality March

The October 11 National Equality March appears to be gaining some positive momentum:

The National Gay & Lesbian Task Force has endorsed it:

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, a leader in building grassroots lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) political power, endorses the National Equality March, which will be held in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 10-11. Thousands of people from across the country will march and rally in front of the U.S. Capitol demanding equal protection under the law for LGBT people and their families in all 50 states. At the march, the Task Force will engage new activists, support fair-minded clergy and other people of faith, and mobilize volunteer activists to return home engaged and energized.

"For the past 30 years, LGBT people and our allies have come together in Washington to be inspired, to engage in political action, and to go home geared up to create change. The National Equality March will bring together those of us who have never marched, those who want to renew their passion for action, and those who demand their voices be heard. When we mobilize for LGBT equality, for racial and economic justice, for a transformed society, and to make our love and lives visible, the Task Force is there. The Task Force will be there at the march to support the voices of new activists, LGBT people and our allies who push and push for the end to hatred, discrimination and unjust laws," says National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey.

The march also received support from some big-name allies:

Lawmakers, celebrities and well-known LGBT activists are lining up to support the National Equality March, a weekend gathering set to begin Oct. 10.

Judy Shepard, the mother Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in an anti-gay attack in Wyoming in October 1998, is joining lesbian Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), bisexual actor Alan Cumming and about 140 others in endorsing the march.

Other supporters include radio host Michelangelo Signorile, actress Charlize Theron, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Daniel Choi, a U.S. Army lieutenant who was ordered out of the military after he revealed he is gay.

Kip Williams, one of the lead march organizers, said the endorsements come as the preparations continue at a fevered pitch for the October event.

“I’ve been having conversations with folks,” he said, “and people are seeing the bigger pictures and the hopes and dreams of what this march is about for us.”

There is also movement north of the border to organize solidarity events on that day:

A few Canadian gay activists are planning solidarity events in support of the US National Equality March in Washington, DC on Oct 10 and 11.

The Equality March aims to put pressure on Washington to address queer issues on a federal level. Organizers are demanding action on employment non-discrimination, ending the HIV travel ban, repealing the Defense of Marriage Act and eliminating the ban on gays in the military, among many other issues.

Some US-based activists have suggested that Canadians could play a role.

"When mobs in Caribbean countries attack LGBT people, when there are violent protests at Pride celebrations in Eastern Europe, we are obligated to help them in some way," suggests San Francisco-based grassroots activist Seth Fowler, who is involved with the group One Struggle, One Fight.

While Fowler recognizes countries around the world have their own queer issues to deal with, he would like to see activists in Canada and other countries organize solidarity marches on the same weekend. Fowler sees it as an opportunity to focus on queer rights in their own countries, but also as a platform to put pressure on their governments to act on injustices that are happening to queer people elsewhere.

"Coming together and fighting for rights and awareness of issues is a powerful thing," says Fowler. "It would be interesting to see hundreds of thousands of people descend on Toronto... and to get [the government of] Canada to step up and help create an international outcry when human rights are violated."

With a renewed understanding of the importance of relations with other nations in the Obama administration, perhaps that will open some minds to look at countries, including Canada, that are far ahead of the United States in the area of LGBT equality and understand that their societies have not crumbled as a result.

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