Civil Disobedience: A Proposal


A Million Gay March could have a large impact, but I like your idea as well. I'd be willing to go to DC.
Great idea, but I don't see you at the courthouses locally, demanding your rights.

Then again, it's a start.

Now, if you live near DC, this is a very cool idea.
I like the civil disobedience thing, but not quite into the White House idea. I think it should be something that directly underscores the discrimination gay couples face. No one gets to demand to see the President and be taken seriously.

will brainstorm more. I'm up for something though! We need to keep up the pressure!
I think this could have more press coverage then a parade. People are used to gays in parades. There would be dorthys. A real gay couple getting arrested every day, looking like normal Americans. That will turn heads. Why not Priest and deacons and deaconess' that are willing to go sit and be arrested, why just one a day.
I think this could have more press coverage then a parade. People are used to gays in parades. There would be dorthys. A real gay couple getting arrested every day, looking like normal Americans. That will turn heads. Why not Priest and deacons and deaconess' that are willing to go sit and be arrested, why just one a day.
I don't fit your needed couple, but I'll put money where my mouth is, and outsource as much of my husbands income that he'll allow towards helping with the cost.
@2 His point would be to have couples from all over the country show up, to make the point that it is a national issue.

One couple demonstrating at a small courthouse in their local area, and who cares? Many couples, showing up day after day at the White House, and you've got something that will grab people's attention.
Perhaps, contact Soulforce , maybe you could get the Rev. Mel White and his partner to be a couple, the organization is dedicated to nonviolence and has used civil disobedience before?

A symbolism needs to be created that can be taken subliminally from these arrests, like the couples tying themselves to eachother with white ribbon, which ends up getting tied to anything and everything everywhere all the time.

Copycats will do their thing all over the country to the point that no big city and a large percentage of small cities would not be immune.
What about gay couples refusing to pay any extra taxes that they would not owe if they were allowed to file jointly as a couple? They could show up en masse in DC on a given day turning themselves for not paying, and willing to be arrested.

Protesters could say that they refuse to pay a "gay tax" that the government de facto imposes on gay couples as a punishment for not being straight. We could then demand to know whether tea party conservatives (who ostensibly hate all taxation) agree that the government has no right to levy extra taxes on gays.
What happens when some crazies show up and decide to take it a little further Mr Savage?
very fashionable...

Famous publicity craving people
getting locked
up on the nightly news
"for The Cause".
I don't think America has ever seen that before, Dan.
Yes! where do I send money?
I would be willing to help pay for that... and why not have the couples family come too? Or their pastors/priests who would like to perform thier wedding, can you imagine it? Religious Leaders, Parents, children asking; "Mr Obama why wont you let my parents/children get married?" If two normal american looking gays getting arrested will have an impact imagine if its an all american looking family thats being taking to jail because they believe all thier children are equal?
It's a fantastic idea.

But what happens if a couple is eventually admitted to the White House? What if couple #426 gets a moment to meet with the President to talk about DOMA? I mean, ideally, they would be able to speak from the heart about why it should be repealed. But if it were me, I would flub it.

So all applicants should expect to get arrested or be prepared to make the case against DOMA directly to Obama.
The women's suffrage movement did something similar to this. They stood outside the gates of the White House every day practically and then they started getting arrested. They did it during WWI when criticizing the president was tantamount to treason. They used quotes of the president to highlight the disparity between fighting for freedom all over the world to half the US population being unable to effect change in the county.
I'm not in a couple, but I would be willing to stand outside the gates of the White House carrying a banner every day if I had support.
@13: We gently dismiss you and move on with our lives.
Um, would it work with one non-American in the homo couples mix? I am married in Canada; single in my home state of Massachusetts because my partner is French and Canadian. DOMA prevents us from marrying in MA. Would it help if we too joined the trying to meet Obama gay brigade?
@18: Yes, this was depicted in the excellent HBO movie "Iron Jawed Angels".

Woodrow Wilson claimed to be a supporter of the women's suffrage movement but repeatedly told the women that he had to much on his plate with WWI and negotiating tariffs (To which one suffragist replied "But how can you make tax policy when not all of your citizens can vote? Isn't that why we fought the American Revolution?" ZING!)
I like this idea.

@3, I don't think it matters that nobody ever gets to see the president. This is a symbolic gesture, and one that can't be ignored by press and public. Just wait until the international tourists start asking to have their pictures taken with the latest handcuffed couple. The US *hates* bad international PR, it's what finally made the feds get serious about stopping the unofficial slavery that was stil happening until WWII.

See you in DC, Dan!
@ 13: It's a potential risk. Living up to one's principles often exposes one to risk. It's both beautiful and inspiring don't you think?
@12, amen. If this happens, it has to be well-lawyered. Part of the reason the DOMA brief was so ugly is because the plaintiffs' case was so crappy. They asked for benefits, rather than being outraged that they were being unconstitutionally penalized with higher taxes. You can also pay your taxes under protest and explain why (e.g., the federal government is one of limited and enumerated powers, none of which includes the authority to tell Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, Iowa, California, etc., etc. that their definition of "marriage" can be ignored).
Tremendous idea Dan! Can someone with some tech savvy make a website and tell me where to send the check?!
@20 DOMA does not prevent you from marrying in MA. Anyone can now marry in MA. DOMA can't prevent that any more than it can prevent people marrying in VT, IA, etc. Check out the resources at for more info.
I believe Loveschildish is trying to invoke the specter of a gay couple showing up and becoming violent. Which gay couples are noted for -- wasn't it a gay couple who shot up the Holocaust Museum? And wasn't it a gay couple who murdered that abortion doctor? And wasn't it a gay couple who shot that military recruiter?

It wasn't, was it?
Good idea. Organize it, Dan.
The suffragists stood outside of the WH reading aloud Wilson's speeches about democracy and the importance of it ensuring its survival in Europe...while right here in the good ol US of Ahole women were not allowed to participate in democracy by voting.

As they read, the suffragists dropped pages of the speeches into a bonfire.

They got arrested, detained, and when they refused to eat, they were force fed.

If this is what it takes in this asshole country to prove worthiness for civil rights, then I guess we better line up .... force fed, arrest, fire hoses and police dogs, beaten by cops, .... ahh....American justice...never learn from the past and always remember to enforce supremacy.

Bring it on, husband and I were arrested in SF last month...we'd join you (of course, he has no idea I'm agreeing to this on his behalf).
23 A "potential risk", of someone harming our President. How courageous of you. I find no beauty and zero inspiration in that type of risk that you're so willing to take at the first family's expense.
Baconcat @ 11,

I like the symbolic ribbon idea, it's something that can potentially worn by supporters as well. Suffergists and their supporters wore yellow roses, and I think they wore lavender arm bands at the Gay Power vigil and march following the Stonewall Riots.
I think this is a good idea too, but there should also be a mass march that involves as many people as possible because not everyone who supports our cause is in a position to face arrest.

I hope Cleve Jones ignores those who oppose marching. I imagine those who oppose a march are similar to the old guard of the gay movement 40 years ago who tried to discourage participation in the Stonewall rebellion. We listen to such "voices of reason" at our own peril.

I am not willing to subordinate my rights to the time table of Obama or any other politician.
Smart, tactical civil disobedience is a great idea, but it really ought to be targeting the congress--the ball is in their court right now.
@30: Exact reason Kennedy had MLK wiretapped, wingnuts like you proposing that he intended to harm the president.
Sign me up as one of the support staff.

I think that it is a wonderful example that you and Terry are willing to provide for your son - that sometimes you have to take risks in order to fight for what you believe in and know to be right.

I'm very proud of you and Terry, Dan. I'll contribute whatever support I can.
@26: Yes DOMA does indeed prevent me from marrying a foreigner in MA. I was told this explicitly by the lesbos at the US border where I travel to and fro every frigging weekend. Marrying in the US shows intent to live in the US with your partner. If you happen to be a foreigner with no current visa to live and work in the US, getting married to your same-sex partner raises the red flag of said intent. And this then would force them (their words) to prevent her from even visiting inside the US. I believe the phrase: "She would not be able to set a single foot on US soil" was uttered.
Nice idea, but do get same-sex couples of color or it will (wrongly) be seen as racist. Gotta go catch the purple line, so I'll explain more in a bit, but, I mean, if folks have been calling me and other black gay people "house n*****s" then the gay community as racist meme is already out there and it is ready to be played.
@31: I'm down for conceptualizing on what they should look like and their function. Obviously, a larger and more conspicuous ribbon for the couples on their Day of Action would be the norm for active participants, but supporters could probably do well to wear something equally symbolic, like a smaller version, around their left wrist.

I'll price ribbon this week and see what we're working with, here.
30: My mistake, I thought you were worried for Dan, seeing as you claim to be kind of, sort of, in support of his partial equality.

No, the beauty and inspiration is all directed towards the couples willing to be arrested, and possibly threatened, and jeered at for standing up for themselves.

Great idea and finally -- some action!!!

However there is a flaw; the secret service will issue a press release saying there are new security rules and the new entrance to the new security cordon is 5 blocks away on some unsightly corner of NY Avenue somewhere defeating the media-generating "we're here at the White house, he can see us from his window" aspect of this idea. And if you get on TV debating whether we need this for the security of the president's body, um, they are going to bring up a noticeable higher level of chatter on racist web sites blah blah blah and you lose that debate.
But you're getting warmer, as WC said:
For a first step a few arrests at local courthouses would not be amiss, nor a picket line at that DNC thing in Boston. The point is to just START. The women, the suffragettes, they got arrested everywhere.

Now there was this other idea for a really cool state by state March from Maine to DC....very genius...could combine that with stopping off at county courthouses with local couples seeking marriage licenses and getting arrested....

it all deserves more stratergury .... keep the thinking caps on...
Why do I get the feeling that if the President repealed DOMA, and anti-gay activists (who have a more violent reputation) started a similar civil disobedience campaign, Loveschild would suddenly lose all her concern for the safety of the first family?
@41: That feeling is called "sound logic"

I don't think that paying taxes with a protest note will attract any attention. Having hundreds of couples arrested on the steps of the IRS will do the trick nicely.

The problem with state and federal DOMA laws is that they are difficult to violate on a practical basis compared to, say, Jim Crow laws. If someone tells you not to sit at the front of the bus, you can protest by sitting at the front of the bus. If the government tells you it will not recognize your marriage, there is only a limited range of situations were you break that law in an act of disobedience. Withholding unconstitutionally imposed taxes is one way, and it is a method with a pedigree going back to the American Revolution.

Again, I think we need to coin and popularize the term "gay tax", meaning the difference between the amount a gay couple pays in taxes and the amount paid by a similarly situated straight couple. This could also be an effective way to drive a wedge between libertarian conservetives and authoritarian theocons.

Dan: "GAY TAX" SPread the word!
First thing to do is hire a lawyer to research what the potential penalty would be for what you're proposing. Is this going to be a matter handled by the Secret Service with possible charges for threatening/blocking/whatevering the President? Or is this just going to be a citation from the DC police for blocking the sidewalk? Makes a big difference on how many volunteers you're going to get. Also makes a big difference on how the public will react. If it's the former, I think you risk a lot of backlash. People don't like it when actions are perceived as threatening to the President, whether a reasonable perception or not.
Gays are gentle people.
Butter won't even melt in their mouths...
Dan, I like your idea. I'd donate.
Kim- you have inspired me!
I also pledge to outsource as much of your husbands income that he'll allow towards helping with the cost!
How about a buttfucking marathon on the White House lawn.
That might garner media notice for The Cause.
47: Thanks for making me smile.
49 you are very kind
@ 45 -

We are angry, gentle people
And we're filling, filling up your jails.
@7 - good point.

When showing up from a state you should proudly wear things from your native state and talk about being from here - it makes you more of a person media-wise.

You could even have a waiting list and have Weeks Of Action in your local state and show up at specific county courthouses en mass for a month or so, rotating amongst each one.

Demand your civil rights. Politely, but firmly. Don't take no for an answer.

And, once in a while, have a fun parade. Heck, you could all dress up in wedding outfits and march en masse in the Fremont Solstice Parade this Saturday at Noon. Get your straight friends to join in as Bridesmaids and Bridesgrooms.
This is a great idea Dan. You should contact some people. Get the word out!
If I had funding, I would personally stand in front of the white house myself for a year, or five years, or however damn long it took for my parents to be allowed to legally marry.

That said, if you set up some simple obvious sort of website (they are old ladies and not super net-savy), I bet my parents would be willing to go. They're both going to get furloughed soon, so they'll have time at least.
We'll build more.
I love this idea and the other thoughts people in the comments have put forth. I would really like to see this as a reality. I would definitely give money to something like this.
I agree with this, as well as targetting key offices / locations for the house and senate. Or include those eating and drinking establishments that key leaders visit...nothing like making a big scene with lots of public around. Might I suggest asking for key lawmakers and the president to clarify their views on why we should be second class citizens. Use the Dallas Principles as a foundation for discussion.
You could even have Freedom Riders trying to get married for weeks on end in certain states, as kids from blue state colleges spent their summers trying to get registered for marriage licenses with their same-sex roommates.

Remember, this is how the miscegenation laws against whites and blacks intermarrying fell. Demand your rights, firmly but politely, and never take No for an answer.
@58 That seems like a great idea. One of the arguments in that odious legal brief was that denying gay marriage isn't unconstitutional because gays can marry straights. Well, what if a straight wanted to marry a gay? If straights can have quickie meaningless marriages every day in Vegas, gays should have the same right to ruin their lives.
"Gibbs would be forced to address DOMA on a near-daily basis."

Don't think so. There might be reporting for a week. Big names wouldn't get much coverage after that.

Since Dems are so lame on issues that most people feel strongly about such as Iraq and health care, why would they risk their hegemony for gay marriage?
Marvy idea Dan. Tell me what to do and how to donate. I'm so there.

@13: Funny, I got the distinct impression you were referring to YOURSELF when you mentioned the crazies showing up, and I took it as a not-so-veiled threat to Dan and Terry. I doubt I'm alone in that reading.

@Kim: You continue to rock, always.
This is a brilliant idea. If this actually happens, I will fly a couple there who needs it.
@61: No, Loveschild has threatened Dan and Terry multiple times and has made multiple insinuations about them in as demeaning a way as possible.
Who wants a moratorium on yet another Will in Seattle post about how gays need to do something locally? [raises hand]

Dude, I do do stuff locally. Every. Freaking. Day. With every hospital visit where I have to introduce myself (not as her sister), and every time I hold hands and someone gives me a dirty look. I was quietly respectfully protesty in front of Fred Phelps, I'm going to Pride, and I keep my straight-but-not-narrow friends in the greater Seattle area informed. And it's exhausting.

I'm not going to lead a march into Fremont, or whatever asinine ideas Will comes up with. I'm going to march on Washington, as I did in the 90s, and frankly, it's just fantastic after all the awful news out of the administration. Thank heaven for Cleve.

I want to be surrounded by likeminded gays. If it's anything like previous national march, it'll be the best pride ever, with an added side bonus of righteous gay anger. And that helps fuel all the other days of the year, and all the other fighting we have to do.

Oh, and Dan, hanks for all the posts on DOMA. It's a massively appreciated lifeline. And I'd be down to be one half of the Suffragette Spokegays if your plan goes through, too.
@36 Sorry, I misunderstood you. I thought you meant that DOMA prevented MA from allowing you to marry, which it doesn't. But you're right that if one member of the couple isn't a citizen or doesn't have a green card, marriage is interpreted by the US Gov't as a guarantee (whether true or not) that the non-citizen will not leave the country when their visa expires. Sorry for the confusion.
Put me and my man down. We could do it on our 6th anniversary.
My partner and I are on.

We think it's a great idea.
Brilliant idea a like-minded hetero non-attorney, I don't have anything to contribute besides my support, and money. I'd be happy to donate to the cause.
I think it is a brilliant idea. Just give us a website link - I'll send cash to support this. Formal policy change will follow the increased visibility of same sex couples and their children because the public will see that gay people are "ordinary" people - and public attitudes will shift. And perhaps everyone should get active in unions; non union workplaces; professional associations; and religious institutions to work on this too. Kim, have I mentioned you are a beautiful person? And LC, defending rights INCLUDES defending rights that do not apply to us, and of which we may not personally approve!
Freedom Riders ho! Saddle up!
I can't imagine why anyone would think marches are ineffective. Sure, Congress doesn't rush to enact laws immediately following a march but the long-term effects are evident. Marches—and any large gathering of people joined solely for one common goal—are unforgettable. This is why marches throughout history are brought up again and again.

I've marched on Washington maybe half a dozen times since ERA in '76, and believe me—it's empowering! It's disheartening for me to hear that Dan or anyone else believes it's an ineffective form of protest. I think if you're not there on 10/11, I think you'll regret it later.
Hey Dan! Great idea! In fact, it's already happening... all around the nation... first in Denver, then in Long Island, then Chicago, then San Diego and San Francisco... we don't have video of every event, but check them out here:

Then visit to learn more!
A great article from Bilerico:…
I'm straight and religious, but I'd donate to this. It's focused, media- savvy and long term. The White House would ignore/blow it off at their peril.
This is a beautiful idea. Marches are great, but there are so many of them, and one can get a little jaded to them--being in them and seeing them on the news. (Though, hey, still good to have them--a mass showing is a great punctuation mark). I love the ongoing nature this--the opportunity for new faces and a new story every day. It's brilliant. It's personal. It captures the imagination.
I marched in the gay March On Washington in 1993. It was both one of the most memorable events of my life, and also a huge let down.

We didn't quite achieve 1 million people. But it was nevertheless the largest gay political march I've ever participated in. I'm in my mid-40s now, and it was the one single day in my entire life where I didn't feel like a minority. That alone was an incredibly empowering experience for me. It was also during the height of the debate over gays in the military after Clinton was elected, and I marched in my old uniform, along with hundreds of other gay former servicemembers.

But we were almost utterly ignored by the government. Clinton was conveniently out of town. I stayed an extra couple of days and visited the offices of a bunch of legislators, none of whom would deign to talk to me. A few months later, Don't Ask Don't Tell was passed.

So in the end, despite the euphoria of the day, it felt like a complete waste of time, money, and effort. I won't be marching this year. But maybe I can talk the BF into getting arrested with me.
My wife and I are in. You can tell we are a legally married CA couple because I just volunteered her and she's not home. But, she'll be up for it.
Dan, I'm good for $1,000 to the legal defense fund. Tell me where to send the check.

I'm not in a couple but I'd definitely donate to this.
The only problem I see with your idea is that you would need couples that are very, very knowledgeable about DOMA as well as forthright enough to fight for their opinions. Granted, the act of defiance at the White House sends a clear enough message, but once they give in (if the give in), what then?
The only problem I see with your idea is that you would need couples that are very, very knowledgeable about DOMA as well as forthright enough to fight for their opinions. Granted, the act of defiance at the White House sends a clear enough message, but once they give in (if the give in), what then?
A march in October? But ladies, you won't be able to wear white shoes.
I'd totally be willing to go to D.C. and do this.

There's no reason straight couples couldn't join in, get arrested, and show their support too. Or even singles, for that matter. Anyone who can show up on the steps, ask about DOMA, and refuse to leave could help.

You've never been to the White House, have you? Unless President Obama were to walk up to the fence surrounding the grounds, you can't get within about 150 yards of the building without going through one of the security checkpoints, so the likelihood of a suddenly enraged pair of marriage equality protesters busting through the multiple layers of physical barriers, not to mention the marines, secret service, and who knows what other sorts of undisclosed defensive capabilities are installed there is quite literally nil.

But, nice try with the completely unrealistic, bat-shit crazy fear-mongering - I realize it's your only really demonstrable skill.
Comte @ 84: Your response to LC @ 30 gave me a much needed smile.

Very true on all counts.

Well said.
i'm 100% willing to go to DC & get arrested with my partner. 100% willing. sign me up. where? how? when?
What if gay couples across America decided that on October 11th, 2009 we would all wake up first thing in the morning and go to our local government office and apply for marriage licenses. Take the day off from work, stop your other activities, but let's just all meet on Oct. 11 at our county court houses and apply for marriage licenses together.

Each couple should be polite and non-confrontational, and simply ask to be married..... and when denied, ask the reason for the denial. Same sex marriage licenses will be granted in five states on Oct. 11, 2009. Ask for a written and signed explanation for the denial of your marriage license for your records. Although it is very difficult to hear our fellow citizens and government deny us our right to our pursuit of happiness, it is equally important for them to hear themselves deny us our happiness and equality
I'll donate money.
This is a great idea. My partner and I are 100% ready to go to DC and get arrested. And the many, many comments coming in from straight and/or non-partnered people offering financial support are extremely heartening. Let's go!
I'd donate, too.

Also, send each couple in with a set of notes/outline for what to say. Then, on the off chance they would actually get in to see Obama (or, more likely, some other functionary), they'd have something to back them up so they don't panic in the heat of the moment. You don't need to be a rhetorician to effectively list your issues, reasons, demands, etc. And manifestos are fun!
When I was a student at GW, all my friends got arrested in front of the White House on World AIDS Day to protest the lack of anti-retrovirals in the global south. It got on the cover of the Post. It works.
If the couples don't get arrested, there won't be any news coverage. What happens if on day 2, they start letting people in to talk to a "functionary" (as in @91)? You have to consider that possibility as well.

i never comment here
i am now
i with number 83
Dan, please don't overlook the additional ammunition if STRAIGHT COUPLES also go and get arrested for wanting to talk to Obama about repealing DOMA and supporting gay marriage this way.

i volunteer - my boyfriend and i would be *great* - he is black, and while *I* am cherokee, everyone thinks that i am white. so we evoke, vividly, Loving vs. Virginia
PLUS i am pretty badly disabled - my hip is just *messed up*, i need more surgeries on it, i HAVE to walk with a cane - that gets press. and i'm not allowed to work, and boyfriend is the manager and so can schedule vacation time (of which is has a bit) and his immediate boss is gay and would be *thrilled* if BF took vacation time for this...
The press has a very short attention span, and I'd worry that they would lose interest after a week or so. In fact (and I've never been there personally), but aren't people arrested regularly already, with little fuss or press?

It just seems like there needs to be something more "newsworthy" about the display. Assuming that we were to catch the media's attention at all, then I would imagine there'd be a little mention about an arrest, and -- once someone notices the pattern -- perhaps another mention of the larger effort. But what after that? Continued coverage won't sell advertising. Some smaller media niches might occasionally say something on a slow day.

This is why large marches make sense. But maybe there's some way to make this idea interesting on an ongoing basis? Perhaps each of the couples could be profiled in a way that would draw some human interest? Call me cynical, but I don't know how long even THAT would keep people's attention, unless there were a progression of increasingly fascinating couples.

The press craves novelty, and the halflife of the novelty of this event would be very short, I think. Maybe I'm wrong.
I have some confidence that we could get more than one couple per day for a year arrested. But I like the scale of it and the persistence of it. It has legs, it has balls. Very good.
That is a great idea. Having been part of the planning of numerous similar actions back in the ACT UP days of my golden youth, it seems to me that logistically it would be not too difficult to pull off.

Also, lawyers, media people, local support folks in DC come out of the woodwork for things like this.

I do think that LC @ 30 raises some important concerns though, and all the couples are carefully screened to make sure that they're not Secret Psychopathic Ninjas. That would just ruin Everything!
Why not both. If you ask me there are plenty of extremely disappointed, angry, LGBT out there right now - surely we can find enough of us to do it all! In addition, speaking of Civil Disobedience. I want to draw everyone's attention to action:

This is a NATIONAL Call to Action! Start planning and organizing TODAY in your city or town!:


Distribute to the ENDS OF THE EARTH!
@94 No offense, but DOMA isn't about straight people. This act is best shown with actual gay couples who want to get married/recognized as married by the government. Straight people could help by contributing financially, spreading the word, or coming up with a separate plan for civil disobedience. Maybe you could come up with some sort of demonstration showing the parallels between loving v. virginia and marriage equality for gays?

@95 The "newsworthy" part was given consideration, which is why Dan suggested that gay celebrity couples also be sent. Would it be enough? Maybe not.
Not a bad idea, but it shouldn't be limited to couples & gay marriage. Why not open up such an action to the spectrum of issues facing our communities? The DADT folks could come. Pro-queer adoption folks could come. People with HIV facing severe cutbacks in care could come. Youth facing violence could come. TG issues could be raised. Perhaps something more in line with the breadth of focus highlighted by the Dallas Principles.
While I can't get arrested, (It would hurt, possibly revoke, my licensing and accreditation for my chosen profession) I will gladly donate funds.
My husband & I would be willing to be one of the couples arrested from godless Vermont!