CommunityPam's House Blend

A really confusing article about the planned LGBT March on Washington

I don't know what to think about this article in the Washington Blade, “Joint statement expected for March on Washington: National gay groups said to be ‘very helpful’ with event.” It's an interview with activist Cleve Jones, who announced plans for a march in the nation's capital on October 11 during an appearance at Utah Pride in June.

In the piece, Jones makes a declaration that national LGBT organizations, specifically the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force — are expected this week to release a joint statement in support of the March.

Jones, a protégé of gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk, disclosed the information when asked how helpful national LGBT groups have been in making preparations for the march.

“At this point, I would say very helpful, and I think you’ll hear a statement from the organizations next week,” he said.

But the problem is, only a couple of sentences later, one org, HRC, has no comment and the NGLTF's Inga Sarda-Sorensen outright denies any joint statement is being prepped, saying she's “unclear as to what Cleve was referring in his interview.”

There are some critical ducks not in a row here, and based on the reporting as it stands, it looks like the support of the march is clearly not solid, at least publicly. I don't know if this is some sort of trial balloon or what.

I guess this isn't surprising since there is a real divide out there about the utility of holding the march — not because there isn't enthusiasm, but because in a time of financial crunches for non-profit organizations and average people out there, it's not clear whether this is the best way to spend limited dollars. And that point is underscored when we have state ballot initiatives that need resources to battle back well-financed, motivated fundie organizations.

However, it's not a discussion of whether there will be a march — it's going to happen and how does the community deal with it — do you jump onboard to ensure its success (or from the other POV, prevent a public bellyflop) during a time where visibility matters? The point of contention is whether it's the most effective visibility — coverage by the MSM of a large throng of LGBTs, or people meeting one-on-one with their elected officials who may be on the fence on critical legislation?

Of course the answer is both, but I'll stick my neck out here and make the call that many if not most of the people who show up for the march will not turn up in the same numbers to lobby their House and Senate pols, or members of their state legislatures when they have an opportunity to do so. Many people who like the excitement of the socializing function that a march or protest will provide, but are not at all interested in the drudgery of grassroots and personal political activism. If the march can convince and convert some of these people to realize their power is in their visibility in both environments, then that is the real mark of success.

There's also a good piece in MetroWeekly on this topic, “October's Advance Activists debate the pros and cons as national march looms.”

* Does a March on Washington make sense now?
* Five alternatives to another LGBT March on Washington
* Why a March in D.C.?
* 10 reasons why a march on Washington is a bad idea
* Why the 10 Reasons not to March Don't Convince Me
* Ocamb: Foot Soldiers Needed in California and Maine, Not Washington, DC

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding