National Equality March

You made the bed, now sleep In it (alone)?

by: OpenLeft

Sat Dec 26, 2009 at 20:00

An Adam Bink Golden Oldie
From Thu Sep 03, 2009.
Original HERE.

Cross-posted at The Bilerico Project

The news out late yesterday was that the National Equality March was endorsed by "over 140 leaders from all walks of life in the LGBT community."

What was interesting to me about this was (a) the timing of the announcement (b) the number of people who decided to get on board after leaning against the march publicly, or in some cases, expressed outright opposition. There have been concerns expressed by many that it was/is shaping up to be a disaster, and other concerns such as those I expressed earlier this week over resources being spread thin.

If you'll follow me across the flip, I have some background on the March, and a general strategy question for you all.

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Moral hazard in the LGBT movement, vol. 2

by: Adam Bink

Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 13:30

A few months back, I wrote about moral hazard in the LGBT community around the National Equality March. The concept was whether march organizers, who up to that point (eight weeks out) had done a poor job of planning and the March looked like it would be a failure, who made the bed should be forced to sleep in it alone, or whether lots of LGBT community leaders and organizations would ride to the rescue to get them media attention, attendees, etc. It turned out to be the latter, as it became evident that many would rather not get embarrassed on a national stage. The moral hazard problem this created was that any big-name activist who unilaterally plans a major action that will get massive media attention can look at the March experience and witness that others will ride to the rescue to make sure the LGBT movement doesn't look stupid. Insulation from risk.

I'm starting to see this again in California as a movement to repeal Prop 8 is moving forward. The debate had been raging over the past year regarding whether to move forward in 2010 or 2012. Arguments in favor of 2010 include that civil rights should never wait, that there is a very palpable anger in the community to harness, that we could have won if the No On 8 campaign didn't suck so much. 2012 advocates argue that a presidential year is better for us in terms of turnout, that the polling hasn't shown any movement, that more persuasion needs to be done, that there isn't enough time or enthusiasm to raise the tens of millions necessary to win in California. And perhaps the biggest one is that if we lose in 2010, we're done for quite some time.

This past week, as Phillip with UniteTheFight reports, Love Honor Cherish, a Los-Angeles based advocacy group, announced a drive to obtain the one million signatures to qualify its already-submitted language for the 2010 ballot. There are a number of problems with their effort, though, and this is set up to be a very dangerous proposition.

Details on why are on the flip.

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(PICS) The Equality March: As Missed by the MSM

by: Rusty5329

Tue Oct 13, 2009 at 16:38

Originally posted at Sum of Change, with lots more pictures available here

Over the weekend, you probably heard about tens of thousands of people standing up for LGBT rights at the Equality March in Washington, DC. It got some decent coverage, mostly on C-SPAN, but for the most part, the MSM really missed the scene. They missed the personal stories attached to this event. Our own Laura Gilbert was there to speak with the protesters.


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The Definition of Success

by: Adam Bink

Sun Oct 11, 2009 at 20:20

So my boyfriend and I took a walk down to check out the National Equality March this afternoon and take a walk in it for awhile. Lots of cheer, good spirit, diversity of age, which is great. Lots of people I know wouldn't be caught dead doing any kind of "activism" who were holding handmade sides. Very encouraging.

The event itself was poorly managed- probably the result of throwing this together essentially at the last-minute, and on a shoestring budget (more about the history of the March here). Poor speaker equipment, lack of videoscreens, etc. Plus, it intermingled with a large breast cancer walk, so any numbers you'll see (I've heard Capitol Police are estimating 150,000, while March organizers are claiming 200K, so it's probably something in the middle) are likely to be a bit inflated with crowds mixing.  Congrats to organizers on an event that looked pretty good, considering they way it was put together.

But I want to stop short of "a success" and think about that for a minute.

I was fascinated by how many friends of mine who work in the LGBT movement and have opposed the March for months as a poor use of resources that was poorly put together, were on Twitter, e-mail listservs, etc. today gushing about how brilliant, awe-inspiring and successful it was. Some are doing it out of complement to organizers, some caught up completely in the moment.

I think being complementary is warranted to some extent, but there is a difference between success as an event and success as a venture. What is the definition of success here? I put together over 60 events on a national book tour for The Progressive Revolution, nearly all of which were called "successes" by attendees and in my own opinion. But I would be the first to tell you the book was not a smashing success in the sense that it was on the NYTimes bestseller list or anything. That is not to say it wasn't a success in terms of a venture, and wasn't worth doing, as a tiny percentage of all books get on the NYTimes list, but that it wasn't equal to the gushing enthusiasm I saw at our events.

The same gushing enthusiasm is being outpoured to the March by some of its harshest critics, who are quick to call it a success. I will call it a success as an event, sure. I will wait to call it a success, and worth doing again, in terms of what it actually does. It's fun to come to DC and party at clubs, shout at tall white buildings the next day, then go home. Success for our movement is a lot different. And it's difficult to quantify what makes this a success, the way historians attribute civil rights legislation in part to Dr. King's 1963 march. We'll have to wait a good while to see whether this made a huge difference in terms of getting our movement equal rights.

Until then, let's call the event a job fairly well done, remember not to use the way in which it was done as a model for the future, and exercise wisdom and patience in thinking about whether it's worth doing it in the future based on what it gets us.

Discuss :: (3 Comments)

State vs. Federal Approaches to LGBT Equality

by: Adam Bink

Fri Sep 18, 2009 at 10:38

There is an interesting debate going on in the LGBT movement around strategy of where to focus resources. It had been coming up more and more around discussions of the usefulness/cost-effectiveness of the National Equality March vs. the Maine campaign to defend marriage equality, but then jumped into high-octane when Cleve Jones, the principal proponent of the March, made a remark in an interview with Bil Browning at the Bilerico Project:

We're trying to change the strategy of the movement. We believe that the strategy that we have followed thus far - which was what made sense at the time and a strategy that was advanced by good, dedicated, hard-working people - is nonetheless a failed strategy. I am tired of fighting state by state, county by county, city by city, for fractions of equality. I am tired of compromises and I am tired of the strategy that divides us from each other. It is time for us to unite across state boundaries in a truly nationwide movement to win full, actual equality, which can only come from the federal government. That's not my opinion. That's a fact. If we want to be equal under the law, we must now - as the great heroes of the Civil Rights movement of 1963 and 1964 showed us - turn our attention to the federal government.

He repeated this on September 14th:

"We are trying to change the strategy," he said. "We are doing this because we are tired with the endless state by state, county by county, city by city hoped for victories that, even when achieved, are incomplete and impermanent.

"It's our perspective that true equality can only come from decisive, unequivocal action from the United States Congress, the United States Supreme Court, and the president of the United States," he said. "We're really engaged in an effort to shift the strategy to open up a new front in this struggle at the federal level."

A few thoughts on this. One is the old adage, that the states are the laboratories of democracy. Toni Broaddus of the Equality Federation (the coalition of state-based LGBT orgs) nails that point in her response open letter to Cleve. If by chance a cautious Senator gets over his or her hand-wringing on anything LGBT, one big reason is because the states have done it first. One of the best predictors of a federal legislator's position on something is where his/her state is on the issues. That means that, however unfortunate, a state has to demonstrate that legalizing same-sex marriage does not cause the man upstairs to rain fire on the populace of Massachusetts as the haters have forecasted, does not force churches to marry couples, does not cause businesses to go bankrupt providing benefits to same-sex partners, etc. before federal action is taken on DOMA. This matters at the Supreme Court level too. It's the equivalent of planting the seeds before expecting the plant to yield fruit. You can't run off to DC expecting fruit to be borne by not investing in a state and local strategy.

Second, his "true equality can only come from federal action/state by state is incomplete" argument rings true enough. My quarrel is with his dismissal of the efforts altogether. It's one thing to make an argument that there needs to be more of an investment in federal efforts, and quite another to say you're tired of "failed" state-focused efforts (which is altogether weird, as Cleve is a Senior Advisor to the Courage Campaign, one of the pioneering groups working largely at the state level). In the first place, state-focused efforts have been somewhat successful. In 21 states and DC, there are LGB employment protections- even for transgender people in 13 states. In six states, same-sex couples have the right to marry, several more (like NJ) are close, and several more (NY and DC) recognize such marriages for couples wishing to reside there. Aside from that, issues like adoption for same-sex couples is considered at the state level, not federally. You have to focus on the states. What do we have on the federal level? Virtually nothing. What will we get without state-based investments? Nothing. Saying you're "tired" of "failed" state-based efforts is unstrategic and frankly offensive to many LGBT individuals and couples living in those places.

Third, two of the main criticisms of the march are that poor planning set it up to fail, and that it's not cost-effective in terms of what it will accomplish. Cleve, in a clever bit of PR jujitsu, is trying to pivot away from that criticism by arguing such critics are following a failed strategy in the first place, so why should you listen to their criticism. It doesn't actually answer a lot of the basic logistical arguments against the march- such as Congress not being in session during the event and serious budget cuts in orgs across the country leading to problems such as no resources for the planned AIDS vigil at the Lincoln Memorial. State or federal strategies aside, there is still a basic failure in how Cleve ran this show, which is announcing on June 7th there will be a march and then going to plan it, leading to the problems I describe above. Arguing critics have a failed strategy doesn't change that valid argument.

Discuss :: (10 Comments)

How Do We Stop This From Happening Again?

by: Adam Bink

Mon Sep 07, 2009 at 19:00

Two interesting dialogues resulted the other day in response to my post on the National Equality March, resource allocation, collective responsibility and moral hazard (both here and over at The Bilerico Project).

While I asked three questions in the post, nearly all of the conversation concerned just two. One concerned whether, given the other fights in Maine, Washington State and elsewhere, folks should direct their time and money towards the March, and encourage others to do so. The other concerned whether LGBT folks had a responsibility to drop what they were doing and help make sure the March was a success.

The third question didn't get as much play, it's been bothering me for several days, so I'd like to put it to you here.

Cleve announced this march idea on June 7th, proposed for October 11th. It received near-universal criticism and even many people privately and publicly asking for it to be called off, primarily for the resource allocation issues, and partly over questions re the cost-effectiveness. This proceeded for several months until conversations were had that amounted to "well, if this thing is going to happen, we might as well make sure we don't get embarrassed in front of a national audience if it's poorly organized/no one shows up." And so 140 "leaders" in LGBT world, along with HRC and NGLTF, after three months of refusing to, endorsed the March publicly. It represented a tipping point.

Now we come across the question of how those people, along with others who outright opposed the March, have to contribute. Some of the best minds in our movement, particularly in the media training world, PR world, fundraising and logistical organizing, have rightly complained they have to drop what they are doing and make sure an idea they opposed from the start is a success. Some have privately told me they're even even being asked to do so without any compensation at all by the March folks (and this is what they do for a living). It seriously angers me because it represents not just a lack of planning and a lack of fundraising to account for this, but because others are being forced to clean up after a poorly organized and pretty dumb idea. There are a lot of dumb ideas put forward in progressive politics, and we don't even realize how many we dismiss/ignore- some even put forward here at OpenLeft. Now imagine having to work to execute the ones you opposed as part of your day job.

So, my question is how to keep this from happening again. The en masse endorsements created a serious moral hazard question for the future. They insulated Cleve and his cohorts from the twin risks of (a) this effort failing and our movement being scoffed at on national TV by talking heads, lawmakers, and the general public (b) looking like fools for trying to throw it together in four months with poor planning and execution.

Let's imagine the next time any major name with a microphone and a following proposes a mass action that requires mass commitment of resources and, regardless of the success or failure, will receive intense media coverage. Let's imagine there is near-universal agreement that the idea is a stupid one. Let's imagine the proposed action affects everyone else in that issue space, be it environment, LGBT, or other, in terms of resource allocation and media perception. So there is a serious incentive for everyone opposed to it in that issue space to make sure it's either a success, or that it's called off.

If you're an organizer opposed to the mass action, how do you get it called off to prevent (a) a moral hazard issue that keeps any and every individual with a microphone and a following from proposing their random stupid ideas, and (b) forcing the best in that issue space to drop what they are doing and help with an idea they opposed in the first place?

How do you stop this from happening again?

Discuss :: (7 Comments)

You Made the Bed, Now Sleep In it (Alone)?

by: Adam Bink

Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 16:30

Cross-posted at The Bilerico Project

The news out late yesterday was that the National Equality March was endorsed by "over 140 leaders from all walks of life in the LGBT community."

What was interesting to me about this was (a) the timing of the announcement (b) the number of people who decided to get on board after leaning against the march publicly, or in some cases, expressed outright opposition. There have been concerns expressed by many that it was/is shaping up to be a disaster, and other concerns such as those I expressed earlier this week over resources being spread thin.

If you'll follow me across the flip, I have some background on the March, and a general strategy question for you all.

There's More... :: (14 Comments, 1064 words in story)

Being Spread Thin

by: Adam Bink

Tue Sep 01, 2009 at 12:15

I have a good friend in southern California who is gay, helps out with some local causes, but not a politico activist by any stretch. He e-mailed me recently because he has some extra money to spend this fall, and needed some advice on whether he should go to Maine to help defend the recently-passed marriage equality legislation, or fly to DC to participate in the National Equality March, an LGBT rights march on The Mall this fall. On the one hand, he is still upset over Prop 8 and said he wanted to make sure the same result doesn't go down in Maine. On the other, he heard the March was extremely poorly organized (it is) and needed all the help they could get, and there were concerns about turnout given that it's being organized in five months' time and a glaring lack of national media coverage around it.

His question brought up a point I want to make about a problem I have noticed among progressive leaders.

There are other multiple fronts opening on LGBT rights this fall. As I wrote last night, Referendum 71 is now going to be on the ballot in less than two months' time in Washington State, stripping LGBT couples of pending rights regarding sick leave to care for a partner, adoption rights, and more. In New Jersey, Gov. Corzine is one of a few gubernatorial candidates I can remember who talks on the stump about marriage equality and his pledge to sign a bill, which finally has enough support in both houses of the legislature to pass. He talks about it even when he was down by double digits earlier this year. He is down 10 points in the Quinnipiac poll this morning. That is a major fight.

Here in DC, a local homophobe major domo is filing this morning to collect signatures to put a ban on marriage equality on the DC ballot for next year. On top of that, despite 12/13 of the DC Council members supporting marriage equality, along with Mayor Fenty, we still face a fight to make sure Congress doesn't overturn the law we pass. In California, activists may go back to the ballot in 2010 on marriage. For these two fights, we have to start pumping resources in now.

I keep being told that there are enough resources for both. I participate in weekly calls on Maine online strategy, and one participant in the call starting discussing plans for a significant event to help raise money online, and possibly doing offline events, too. I expressed concerns that trying to make an online-only event into house parties and other offline events would conflict with health care rallies between now and Labor Day, and that among probably 80% of my straight allies, their attention was so focused on health care. It would be hard to raise serious money without their commitment, and their time is limited. The participant proceeded to lecture me that there are enough resources for both, and people "should be" paying equal attention to both health care and marriage equality in Maine.

A few weeks ago, Robert Reich called for a march on health care on September 13 (a date he got by glancing briefly at his calendar) before being told it was absurd to think it would be successful in just a few weeks' time. But not before he was deluged with supportive e-mails, someone set up a website, a Facebook group, and a member of Congress announced support for it.

When the National Equality March was announced for October 11th, nearly every single LGBT organizational leader, activist and commentator I knew- national, state, or otherwise- said it would divert resources from serious battles coming up this fall. We were told that our movement can walk and chew gum at the same time. Well, as my colleague Steven Goldstein, who runs NJ's Garden State Equality, likes to say, "Well, you have to have money to buy enough gum for every state where there's a current or imminent battle, and our movement does not - and it forces you to make choices."

I encountered this on a real basis. I was forced to leave early from a health care messaging discussion last Wednesday night to make the Maine call. My friend only has money for a roundtrip flight to Maine and rental car or a flight to DC and hotel room. We are being spread thin, which is the right's strategy, and not every state is getting the resources it needs.

I am not saying this to reiterate how bad an idea I think the National Equality March is (a whole separate topic). I am saying this because progressive activists- straight or LGBT- have to stop and think before opening their mouth and assuming that in a recession, when people are losing their jobs, progressive foundations are closing or cutting their grants, non-profits are suffering, and people generally have less money and time to give, that there is some bottomless pool of resources.  There isn't. We are being stretched intentionally, and face across-the-board losses because of it.

Discuss :: (9 Comments)

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