By Trudy Ring
Originally published on Advocate.com August 19 2014 7:40 PM ET
Heather Cronk, 36
@hcronk | @getequal
With LGBT-friendly politicians in office in the White House as well as many state houses and city halls, some activists have become insiders with an unprecedented degree of access to those in power — but sometimes it takes outsiders to push the powerful to do the right thing. That’s the mission of GetEqual and its director, Heather Cronk — bringing direct action and civil disobedience into the LGBT movement to a degree not seen since the height of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and early ’90s.
This type of activism “injects a different kind of urgency into the work,” she says. “It’s a way of putting your body on the line that, in my mind, raises the stakes.”
GetEqual activists have protested at the White House for the now-realized repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” an effort that still makes Cronk proud, and for the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. But now GetEqual and others have withdrawn support for ENDA because of the broad exemptions the current version makes for religiously affiliated employers. It was a hard decision, Cronk says, as ENDA is desperately needed, but the idea of codifying religious discrimination was a deal-breaker.
“I don’t think the freedom of religion extends to using religion as a weapon against people,” she says.
Cronk says she is happy with President Obama’s recent executive orders banning anti-LGBT discrimination by federal contractors, which don’t include such exemptions. She’s also happy about GetEqual’s part in another recent advance, the adoption of a fully inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance in San Antonio. “It was a proud moment for us,” she says. GetEqual and Cronk, who says she was led to her work by the realization that “I could die unequal under the law,” will keep pushing those in power — and other activists — to see that the cause of equality keeps moving forward. “That’s part of what our mission is — to move the movement,” she says.