The Game-Changing Importance of GetEQUAL’s Direct Action Campaign

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As you may have already heard, GetEQUAL has stepped up its direct action campaign. Yesterday, protesters interrupted President Obama’s speech at a Barbara Boxer fundraiser, calling for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Today, six LGBT veterans chained themselves to the White House fence and have just been arrested.

Here is the GetEQUAL press release about today’s actions:

Our hopes swelled when President Obama promised at the State of the Union to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), the policy that discriminates against lesbian and gay servicemembers. But his words mean nothing without action. And he has an opportunity to take action right now. The Defense Authorization Bill (DAB) provides funding for all military operations, and it will soon be up for renewal.

President Obama knows that the DAB provides a way to repeal DADT immediately. And he knows that repealing the policy quickly and decisively is the right thing to do for LGBT servicemembers and for all of the armed forces. But recent reports suggest that the Administration is trying to delay any law change until December or even later.

Join us in supporting Lt. Dan Choi, Capt. Jim Pietrangelo, Petty Officer Larry Whitt, Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen, Cadet Mara Boyd, and Cpl. Evelyn Thomas as they take action at the White House to demand that DADT be repealed through this year’s DAB.

When the chaining took place, Kerry Eleveld tweeted that a “Man in crowd yells time for potus to get some (guts) on this issue.” (Read her detailed coverage on The Advocate here.)

So what does this accomplish? What is gained by this civil disobedience? Why is it worthwhile? Why should we care?

I’m no expert on civil disobedience. I didn’t live through civil rights, nor do I claim to be a scholar of that movement. Nonetheless, here is my own (perhaps naïve) understanding of why this is a big deal and one we should pay attention to and support.

For decades, the LGBT movement has been built on us complaining about our inequalities and trying to get people to support rectifying our inequality. As long as our inequality persisted, we were the ones who suffered. Scores of politicians, including ones in office now, have stolen our support by promising support for our issues and then not following through. Our own lobbyists have become apologists that buy into this cycle of inaction, and where are we left? We’re still inequal and now out the money we invested in organizations like HRC.

Politically—and I mean officially/legally/on paper—we have made almost no real progress since Stonewall. We still can’t marry. We still can be fired for who we are. Our social gatherings are still the target of police raids. We are still perpetually the victims of hate crimes that are not prosecuted to the full extent of the law. We haven’t progressed, and we are still the ones burdened by our own lack of success.

GetEQUAL’s direct action is changing that.

President Obama is now responsible for veterans and active servicemembers being arrested. If he had followed through on repeal as he campaigned on and as he said in his State of the Union a year into his term, those six would not have just been taken away in a paddywagon. The President has actually continually contradicted himself and abandoned his promises on repeal, and then has the nerve to get pissy when protesters call him on it? No, the responsibility is now upon those who have allowed inequalities to persist when they have the potential to actually make the change.

The old way allowed politicians to feel guiltless. By not doing anything, they weren’t responsible. Everything was just staying the way it was. They could sleep at night knowing it wasn’t their fault how many inequalities persisted. DADT discharges, hate crimes, discrimination in hiring or housing or any number of things, awful stories like that of Clay and Harold… these are just the way things are. Just knowing that they vocally opposed them was enough to soothe their consciences. But not anymore.

Now, they are responsible for arrests, incarcerations, government oppression. They have to try to sleep at night knowing that their inaction isn’t just perpetuating the same old inequality; it is actually exacerbating oppression against a group of people.

GetEQUAL acts on our behalf, but the power of their actions is determined by the support we give them. The first chaining was two. This one was six. It’s a growing effort, and one that we have to rally behind. It is GetEQUAL that is truly standing up for those of us who have been denied equality, as opposed to those who stand up for the politicians that continue to deny us.

What happens when the government has to choose between giving us all equality or putting us all in jail? The measure of a true democracy is when liberty is tested against injustice and liberty wins.

It’s time for accountability. It’s time for action. It’s time to stop handing over money to apologists and to stand up for ourselves! I applaud the GetEQUAL efforts and hope they beckon a wake-up call for our entire movement.

Note: Autumn Sandeen, one of the six, shares her thoughts today on Pam’s House Blend.

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