Some have already booked flights for Oct. 11 event in Washington, while others say community should focus on Dallas, Austin
There will be a gay rights march and rally in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, Oct. 11. The question is, who will be there?
Dallas activists Elizabeth Pax and Laura McFerrin have both said to count them in.
"I just reserved a room and booked my flight last night," McFerrin said in a recent e-mail. "I attended the march in 2000 and was impressed by the number of people that attended. I am looking forward to meeting people from all over the United States that are fighting for marriage equality."
And Pax said in a phone interview that she is "way excited" about the march.
"I think it’s a great idea. Any time we can remind the public we exist and are still fighting for our rights, it’s a good thing," Pax said. "Also, it would be awesome to have some face-to-face time with activists from around the country. I know a lot of people say there’s no point, since Congress won’t be in session then. But just being there and having the chance to make those contacts, having that media presence and getting the message out there counts for a lot."
But other North Texans say the time just isn’t right for a march in the Capital.
"It’s a nice sentiment. … Marches send a powerful signal. But for what purpose?" said Erin Moore, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. "We’re fighting the fight for marriage in the states, and we are winning. I just don’t think it’s a good idea. People march when they’re angry, and we are. People march when they are celebrating, and we could be. But I just don’t think a march is relevant for where we are now."
Moore’s partner, Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance President Patti Fink, also thinks the march is a bad idea.
"I think it would be much more effective if we all — on the same day, at the same time — converged on our own state capitals. More people could participate, and I just think it would be far more effective and energizing — and more affordable."
Queer LiberAction founder Blake Wilkinson said the country’s current economic straits mean a march on Washington in October would put many people in an "either-or" dilemma.
"It’s a good idea if people are able to afford the $700-or-more trip to Washington. But I don’t think most people can afford that. They have to choose: Either go to Washington for the march or invest in the movement right here in Dallas. If I have to choose, I choose Dallas."
Organizer Cleve Jones, who has been active in the LGBT rights movement since the 1970s and who founded the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, said in a recent telephone interview that the National Equality March will be a bare-bones event aimed at kicking off intense grassroots organizing and activism in all 435 congressional districts across the country.
"This isn’t going to be a big, expensive Robin Tyler multimedia spectacular," Jones said, referring to the activist who played a lead role in organizing previous marches in Washington. "This is not Lalapalooza. It’s not a convention. We’re talking about marching for two hours, having a two-hour rally and then going back home to create a true national, grassroots-based movement to demand full equality."
Jones said he has already acquired the necessary permits from city officials to march and to gather in the mall on Oct. 11, and he said organizers "don’t plan on spending significant amounts of money on this."
He said organizers have "some individual donors willing to help out," and that he believes the event will end up costing about $100,000, which can be "raised relatively painlessly in mostly small contributions online."
In answer to other criticisms leveled by activists and bloggers across the country, Jones time constraints are not a hindrance since "Join the Impact has shown us that we can move much more quickly than we have in the past" in organizing such marches and rallies.
"We have to look at this in a broader political context," Jones said. "Last November, we had our expectations raised by the election of President Obama. People were angered and energized by the passage of Proposition 8 in California. Young people all over the country were motivated and inspired and informed by the movie ‘Milk.’
"This is the time," he continued. "It’s a historic opportunity. I believe a door has been opened, but it is already swinging shut. We have to move now, and we have to push like we have never pushed before."
For more information, go online to nationalequalitymarch.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 26, 2009.