Op-ed: A Call to Action

As the Supreme Court considers marriage equality for the first time, activists Cleve Jones and David Mixner call for demonstrations in March.

BY Cleve Jones and David Mixner

January 30 2013 7:00 PM ET

“How long? Not long, because no lie can live forever.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke these words in Montgomery, Ala., on March 25, 1965, when the freedom marchers from Selma arrived at the State Capitol. They inspired us in our youth as they inspired the nation.

Between us, we have more than 80 years of experience in the movement for peace and social justice. In particular, as gay men, we have fought for the rights and dignity of our own community, known today as LGBT. We do not claim that age necessarily brings wisdom, but it does bring memories and we have many.

In the past five decades we have seen slow but sustained progress toward acceptance and equality. That progress was the reward gained from the extraordinary courage and hard work of hundreds of thousands of ordinary men and women who made this cause the center of their lives, generation after generation. All of us stand on the shoulders of those who gave so much in the past.

In the past five decades, we have never seen anything like the progress we witnessed over the past four years. In the months and years since Election Day of November 2008, our movement has advanced immeasurably. We are indeed on the cusp of equality. Now is the time, once again, to recognize the unique moment before us and to act with the greatest power and intelligence possible.

The United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the two marriage equality cases on March 26 and 27. Many people have asked us what the community should do as we approach this remarkable milestone in history. Some have suggested a march on Washington. Others have called for local vigils. Some are already engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience.

We have discussed this with some of the smartest and most dedicated activists we know, and, based on those conversations, we offer the following recommendations for action as the court considers our aspirations for equality.

We do not believe it makes sense to attempt a mass march on Washington at this moment, given the short amount of time remaining, the cost, as well as the uncertainty of weather in Washington, D.C., in March. We do believe it makes sense to push hard on many fronts in the weeks and months ahead.

As we are on the verge of victory, our tone and actions are critical. 

President Obama himself set the tone for this effort in his inaugural address when he spoke so movingly of Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall, linking forever the struggles for women’s rights, civil rights, and LGBT rights. We encourage all LGBT advocates and all fair-minded Americans who believe in equality and justice to take part in public actions during the last week of March.

- If you can be in Washington, D.C., there will be peaceful and civil demonstrations of support for the cases at the Supreme Court on March 26 and 27. While there, you can also visit your members of Congress to lobby for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and Uniting American Families Act as well as marriage equality. Our opponents will be marching — ignore them.

- For those who cannot travel, there will be local organizing opportunities and plans under way in all 50 states that will mirror the events before the Supreme Court. Stay tuned. Visit your representatives' local district offices. Hold teach-ins, campus rallies and town halls. Involve our allies in women’s organizations, the labor movement, racial and ethnic minorities and immigrant communities.

- Like, share, post, and retweet images and infographics you will see designed to gain broad support for the cases. Post your support for marriage equality in the week leading up to the court cases. Remember that positive portrayals of LGBT Americans go a lot farther and are more effective than efforts to tear down our opponents.

- Visit the editorial boards of your local newspapers and request editorials in support of equality to run during the last week of March. Submit letters to the editor in support of marriage equality.

- Reach out to our many allies within faith communities and organize interfaith events on Saturday and Sunday, March 23 and 24.
     
- Speak to the larger issue of equality, not limited to marriage. We seek equal protection under the law, in all matters governed by civil law, in all 50 states.

- Organize peaceful demonstrations for LGBT equality in every city and town across our country at sunset on Monday, March 25 — the anniversary of the Selma march — to put action to the president's words: "We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears."

Let the last week of March 2013 be remembered as a time when all of us contributed: LGBT and straight, young and old, Stonewall Democrats and Log Cabin Republicans, socialists and libertarians, people from cities and rural communities, the Human Rights Campaign and GetEqual, equality supporters of all races, faiths, and backgrounds. Regardless of our differences, let us come together once again in a united call for equality, community, and justice.

Let us remember what Dr. King proclaimed in Montgomery, almost half a century ago: “How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

 

CLEVE JONES is an American human rights activist and author. He was mentored by Harvey Milk, co-founded the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, created the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, served as historical consultant for the Gus Van San film, "MILK" (in which he is portrayed by Emile Hirsch), and co-chaired the 2009 National Equality March.

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