Todd A. Heywood, a freelance journalist living in Michigan and a member of the Center for Independent Journalism is on assigment to RH Reality Check for the National Equality March in Washington. You can
follow Todd reporting from the march on twitter @rhrealityCheck. Heywood also has
interviews with Cleve Jones as well as HIV activist and author Shawn
Decker and will be cornering many others for interviews on Sunday so
check back regularly to see what the movers and shakers are saying
about gay America and the equality movement.
Thousands of Americans are expected to flood the streets the nation’s capitol Sunday to demand full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
The National Equality March which is the brain child of San Francisco organizer Cleve Jones and media mogul David Mixner, will feature a march through the nation’s capitol, past the White House and conclude at the lawn of the Capitol building. The event has been in over drive planning since this past June when Jones and Mixner called for the march.
While the original call to action was initially met with skepticism by the country’s leading LGBT rights organizations, including the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Human Rights Campaign, most have since signed on and endorsed the event.
Openly gay Congressman Barney Frank, D-Mass., has been vocal in recent days about his opposition to the march which he has dubbed a "waste of time," and called on LGBT Americans to stay home because "[President Barack] Obama doesn’t need pressure."
Obama addressed the annual HRC dinner Saturday night, laying out his vision of full equality for LGBT citizens. He has taken much criticism for not acting fast enough to repeal the military’s exclusion of gay soliders, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) and for a brief filed by his Justice department earlier this year which supported the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which allows the states to choose whether or not to recognize same-sex marriages. It also prohibits the federal government from recognizing marriages of same-sex employees by providing health benefits and other benefits of marriage.
Frank and other LGBT activists are not the only ones upset with the event. Fred Phelps and his clan of God hates fags family members have announced they will be in Washington to protest the rally and march and Terry Randall, head of Operation Rescue an antichoice organization, has announced he too will protest the march and rally.
In an interview Saturday, Jones said the march had a very important goal– sending energized activists back to all 435 Congressional districts to organize, lobby and fight for equality for LGBT Americans. He said the current trend of winning muncipality by muncipality and state by state was failing, and that the only way true equality will come is through the federal government. He noted as an example the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Jones also said it was time for gay Americans and their allies to create acts of civil disobedience.
In preparation for the march, NEM and sponsors such as Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, a media monitoring group; HRC; NGLTF and Soulforce held workshops all day Saturday for participants. Among the topics covered were nonviolent, civil disobedience, youth organizing, protests against DADT, discussions about transgender issues and laws, and the intersection of the battle for LGBT equality and the battle for racial equality in America. Many of the programs were directed at youth. Hundreds attended sessions across Washington.
Featured speakers at Sunday’s rally include pop icon Lady GaGa, Judy Shepard, mother of hate crime victim Matthew Shepard; Lt. Dan Choi, who was recently discharged from the U.S. Military for disclosing his sexuality on the Rachel Maddow Show; Julian Bonds, head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Oscar winning screen writer Dusting Lance Black who authored the script for the film Milk.