I initiated the first call for the 2000 Millennium March on Washington and then watched as our community ripped itself apart.
When Elizabeth Birch, then the executive director of the Human Rights Campaign, got into a screaming argument with Kerry Lobel, then the director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, in my living room, I realized I was going to be caught in the crossfire of major egos. I quit the organization team for that march shortly thereafter and swore I would never again call for a LGBT march. I never again wanted to get caught between the insanity of the politically correct left on the one hand, and the need for major LGBT organizations to dominate, control, and financially gain from any and every event on the other.
I went on to happily co-found StopDrLaura.com, and then to work on marriage equality, through my own, all-volunteer organization, DontAmend.com. For the first time in my political life, I was at peace.
That time is over. We are under siege. And I am calling on LGBT Americans and our allies to march on Washington in 2008.
How many state constitutional amendments need to pass before we get angry? How many of our so-called friends in elected office need to betray us by supporting marriage segregation, while accepting awards at LGBT dinners, as if civil rights stop at the altar? We still do not have one civil right on a federal level, and the radical right is raising tens of millions and political capital by making us the ultimate scapegoats. Where is our outrage? Where is our passion?
Where are the celebrities who publicly ran to our defense during the AIDS crisis? Do they not see the crisis we are in now? Barbra Streisand and Cher, don't you think your gay and lesbian children should have the right to marry? Would you appear at our next march and say so? Madonna, what about you? Elton, would you come on the main stage? How about you, Angelina Jolie? You are honest about being bisexual and seem to have courage and conviction. Can we count on you?
This would not just be a march about marriage equality. This needs to be a march—finally—demanding all our civil rights.
Some people insist that marches do no good. Let me answer the critics here:
The 1979 march brought us together and gave birth to many organizations and new activists. During the 1987 march, we did not ask for "help" with the AIDS epidemic. We demanded immediate action. And because of our radical stance, we made it a national issue.
The 1993 march was the first one to be televised—an important breakthrough. Our own stars came out: Melissa, Martina, and Sir Ian. The march was overwhelmingly supportive of President Bill Clinton. Clinton at first promised to appear at the march and then promised to send a video. He did neither. He went on to break his other commitment to gay and lesbian Americvans. He broke his promise to let gays and lesbians serve openly in the military by signing the hated "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" law. He went on to sign the Defense of Marriage Act.
The 2000 Millennium March was used as an effective organizing tool for the Democratic Party. Despite Clinton's betrayals, we thought we had a home in the Democratic Party. But our friends in the Democratic Party keep moving to the right. So the 2008 march will be different. At this march there must be a litmus test: Either support full legal equality for LGBT people, including the equal right to marry, or be prepared to catch hell, regardless of party affiliation.
We cannot remain silent in the name of "party unity" as fundamentalists strengthen their chokehold on our political system. Our opponents use code terms like "moral values" and "pro-family." We must stand up to these bullies. The truth is, we have no federal rights to sacrifice. None. We have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, by marching the same year the next presidential elections are held. ■
Robin Tyler initiated the calls for the 1979 and 2000 Marches on Washington. She produced the main stages for the 1979, 1987, and 1993 marches. Anyone interested in helping to begin organizing a 2008 march on Washington can contact Tyler at email@example.com.