The Road to Washington

Activists from around the country make their way to Washington for the National Equality March 2009

Just four months ago, June 7, at the Utah Pride Fest in Salt Lake City, longtime activist and Harvey Milk protégé Cleve Jones had something to say.

“It has been 40 years since the Stonewall rebellion launched the modern movement for our equality. We have been marching and struggling for 40 years. We will not wait 40 more,” he told the crowd. Then, invoking Milk’s name and demanding “equal protection under the law in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states,” as opposed to a piecemeal equality of a hate-crimes law in one jurisdiction, marriage equality in another state, employment protection in that county, and so on, Jones told the crowd that it was time again to march in Washington.

“I will see you all in D.C. on Oct. 11!” he shouted.

He poignantly called out the sections of the country from where the marchers should come. “From Utah and California, from Maine to Hawaii, from Alaska to Florida,” he began, with a patriotic fervor akin to singing “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.”

To some, it was a welcome invitation to seize the momentum of the November 2008 elections that had delivered a president who courted the GLBT community in his campaign, along with Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, yet simultaneously enraged the community as voters demolished marriage equality in California.

To others, Jones’ invitation was folly at best, reckless at worst. Couldn’t these Washington-bound resources be better spent in Maine or Washington state, for example, where new battles are underway? And just four months to plan? It can easily take longer to plan a local Pride festival.

Bil Browning of The Bilerico Project blog offered, within a day of Jones’ speech, 10 reasons to “chalk this up as one of the worst ideas ever,” ranging from short notice to the economy. Another prominent blogger and pundit, Pam Spaulding of Pam’s House Blend, was also immediately skeptical of the march as a possible misuse of resources.

Whatever the reservations, once Jones let the notion out of the box, it was not going back. As unpopular as the idea may have been in some corners, it was apparently just as popular in others. And people are coming. How many? That remains to be seen. But it’s not just the enthusiasts. Over the months, as the march has picked up a growing number of impressive endorsements, people with initial reservations seemed to join the tide. Critics became fewer or simply less vocal. Browning has endorsed the march. Spaulding has helped promote the event on her blog.

Metro Weekly spoke with 10 people who are coming. Some were march supporters from the word “go.” Some wrestled with the decision of whether or not to come. All are dedicated to fighting for the same equality Jones demanded in June.

Follow Will O'Bryan on Twitter @wobryan.

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