Marching to make a stand

September 24, 2009

Adriano Contreras, writing on behalf of the Civil Rights Front in Rochester, N.Y., explains why people are ready to rally at the National Equality March.

WHY WE'RE marching:

Because we're equal.

"I believe we're equal. If you believe we're equal, it's time to act like it. A free and equal people do not settle for compromises. We do not accept timelines where we can't get that this year, but maybe if we fight for five years, we can get marriage in 20 years, and on and on. No--now is the time."

Those are the words of Cleve Jones, Harvey Milk's collaborator and initiator of the National Equality March taking place October 11 in Washington, D.C., as he addressed hundreds at a Chicago event this past August.

In the wake of Proposition 8 being upheld in California and the outburst of people who took to the streets, new faces are entering a new movement for civil rights. What started as a cry for marriage equality has transformed into a movement also demanding a repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," and a transgender-inclusive employment non-discrimination act.

Even straight people have something at stake as this movement challenges gender norms. They, too, sexually repressed, are forced to fit within narrow gender constructs. This time around, straight allies have entered a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) movement that is welcoming and not hostile. Around the country, the consciousness that an injury to one is an injury to all has manifested itself on the ground in cities around the country. In the streets you can hear the chant, "Gay, straight, Black, white--one struggle, one fight!"

Marching for LGBT civil rights in Chicago
Marching for LGBT civil rights in Chicago (Fausto Fernos)

Because LGBT civil equality is not inevitable.

Just take a look at the struggle against Proposition 8. Right-wing forces who did the door-to-door work in an organized fashion with less money than our unorganized side dominated the struggle on the ground in California.

We actually have to put up an organized fight, the kind that won marriage equality in Iowa. The kind that can force two KRXQ shock jock radio hosts who called for the beating of transgender children on their radio show to issue an apology and dedicate two hours of their radio time to allow transgender people to speak about their difficulties.

This is the key reason for why the National Equality March in October is so important. Nothing is inevitable and history proves it. We need only look at the civil rights movement of the 1960s that inspired the way future struggles took place: from the anti-Vietnam war movement to the women's movement and the outburst of a gay rights movement. It was people acting. When people get into motion, fight back and win, they gain the confidence to fight for more.

Because marriage is materially important to LGBT people.

The debate on whether marriage is inherently oppressive is a valid issue to be discussed. But how can LGBT people fight for true liberation if they don't address a real material need that is systematically denied to them based solely on their sexual orientation and gender identity?

Many couples go without the hundreds of material benefits that straight married couples enjoy such as tax breaks, hospital visitation rights and adoption rights. Not to mention the absurdity of individual state's choosing to recognize LGBT civil rights from one state, and not another. Many seek a marriage in order to continue to support themselves financially because their bosses continue to reap profit from their labor and amidst an economic crisis the brunt of it becomes unbearable.

Conscious of the fact that an injury to one oppressed group sets precedent for it to happen to another oppressed group, so we must conclude that winning this reform for marriage equality is a victory for all working class people. The divisions we're able to break down, create opportunities for us to unite.

Because the National Equality March has the potential to create a new layer of activists.

With thousands of people building this march, free of corporate sponsors, we can set an example for future LGBT struggles and other movements, that a genuine independent grassroots movement is plausible and the best way to fight back. In turn, we can really put pressure on policy makers and finally hold President Obama to his famous campaign words, "change doesn't come from Washington. Change comes to Washington."

We can't wait for another election. Lets push him. Come this October, we have the power to decide where this movement will go. So join the Civil Rights Front! Get organized! Let's fight!

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