This update is in a blog format to share the two-day journey from NYC Pride to the White House to Rev. Dr. MLK Jr.'s Memorial where we launched the "Add 4 Words" campaign in community.
Things are going great on so many fronts! There was lots of exciting and useful interaction in D.C. with the White House and President, our Vigil at the MLK Memorial was moving and inspiring; and the movement conversation is at last veering toward demanding Full Civil Rights Equality.
Next our sites are set on conducting The 2014 Equality Poll - to ask every Congressional candidate where they stand on LGBT equality. But more on that soon.
First, I have to thank Richard Noble who invited me as his guest to the White House Pride reception. I had no desire to join the glad-handing until we had a full-equality bill to sign. But I went and networked our campaign, asked tough questions during the 3 hour morning briefing, and ended up unexpectedly speaking directly to President Obama about our bill.
Before that engagement, during his remarks I held up a sign, standing politely to the side of the room: "ADD 4 WORDS".
I could not let the moment go by without protest. Yes, I admire President Obama immensely. But the White House is the seat of our oppression by our government, and it is the job of the presidency to lead us to equality under the law, not just administratively, albeit that admirable. His new angle is to advise us to focus first on inter-sectionality of oppressions as he said at his gay fundraiser in New York, and again at the White House Pride event. It is a good idea to work across oppressions, obviously, for lots of reasons. Yet he fails to even mention that we are left out of the civil rights laws that cover everyone else already. Everyone but us. He could include a call to action to fix that issue - "all working together" - first or sometime soon. But he doesn't.
TALKING TO OBAMA
So when I saw him working the rope line after his remarks, I worked my way up and tried to give the hastily made poster "Add 4 Words" to him, but the secret service grabbed it, so I gently prolonged our handshake, and said "we need you to help us file an equality bill" and he said "file it" and I said "the DNC or the LGBT Caucus is blocking us" and as he maneuvered away he snapped back, "I'm not blocking anyone from filing any bill." It all happened so fast.
At first I thought this was a fumbled moment on my part, but later I realized he gave me invaluable information. The blockage is not coming from the White House. So it must be coming from the LGBT movement itself as long suspected. I told his senior LGBT policy person this exchange, and he agreed to have a real conversation, without the run-around. We'll see.
Later, Richard and I spoke with the LGBT Caucus Executive Director, Brad Jacklin, formerly of HRC & NGLTF. For over an hour we explained the inherent value of a full equality bill, while he questioned why they haven't heard any "grassroots demand" for an equality bill, or why a bill was even necessary for organizing. Ha. I explained that the LGBT Caucus was not elected by the LGBT community, so it needed to listen more and question less. We agreed to plan a Congressional teach-in on "full equality." More on that later.
Back to the White House, in the morning there was a 3 hour briefing by Administration officials from various agencies from the Department of Justice to the Department of Agriculture. There I asked many questions. I asked about the religious exemptions and the pending EO, which they refused to discuss, so I told them "better no EO, than a regressive one". I explained how internationally the U.S. has no credibility on LGBT human rights, since it doesn't protect us from discrimination here domestically. They replied with an unconvincing distinction between life-time incarceration abroad and suicide at home. So I also gave a brief overview of "minority stress" and urged them to do a PSA campaign targeting our community directly about this.
I asked each a question (or two) with humor, after bending the ear of Tobias Barrington Wolff, a close academic advisor to the President on LGBT issues, who happened to be sitting next to me. He said "You'll be happy with my article in the Nation" which he suggested was against the religious exemptions, and I said "Where is your article on full equality?" and gave him a sparkle of glitter that was lingering from NY Pride the day before.
There is a picture below of us marching down 5th Avenue NYC with our "SEEK FULL EQUALITY" banner, made by the Radical Faeries and my husband Giovanni. In this shot, we're together with Queer Nation's banner, made by Gilbert Baker, the creator of the original rainbow flag: "ENDA IS NOT EQUAL!" Before this shot, we had book-ended the HRC contingency, which turned out to be a corporate sponsor doing HRC's parade walking for them. But I'm sure they got our message.
At sunset, after nibbling the White House sweets selection, I was off to the Vigil. As an aside, the WH pastry chef was retiring and gay, I guess, since he was there, and the President was teasing him as a farewell, and the President said, "I think he put crack in those pastries." I couldn't believe it. But it was hilarious. And I felt better about taking my sign out, since we were clearly being informal.
The Vigil was very special. The mixture of our circle was lovely, deep and profound. Together we were assembled: amazing activists and allied faith leaders, the first "out" Teachers-of-the Year from Oregon and Wisconsin, three powerful trans voices spanning generations, an activist who had walked across America on foot for equality, and another who in retirement, has made D.C. her home to be a full time activist for our cause. We were all united, and as we sang "We Shall Over Come," lead by a black lesbian faith leader, Mr. Bayard Rustin and Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt were summoned with all our lost children to the dance ahead for full equality.
For an end to homophobia.
For freedom for transgender people everywhere.
The call went out "Add 4 Words". "Add 4 Words."
Thank you to all involved.
Stay tuned for next steps: The 2014 Equality Poll.
We need a committee for this, and volunteers are welcome from every state.
Let's figure out where they stand, and the road ahead will be clear(er).