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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Exciting changes at GetEQUAL

Just last month, LGBT Americans and pro-equality allies experienced a tremendous moment in our fight for civil rights when President Obama repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" -- bringing us one step closer to full legal equality. Our common struggle for full federal equality is often punctuated with moments of reflection as we all debate how to move forward and, to that end, I want to share with you my own personal transition.
Two years ago, I had the amazing opportunity to work side-by-side with activists in the ultra-conservative Central Valley of California to help organize "Meet in the Middle" -- a statewide reaction to Proposition 8. We chose to organize in one of the regions of the state that voted most vehemently against equality in 2008. Our strategy was to show the power that equality-loving people could bring to the fight for civil rights -- even in the most resistant areas of our country.
Our message was loud and contagious -- over 5,000 people from across California participated in "Meet in the Middle" which, along with several other Prop 8 reactions, led to the call for the 2009 National Equality March. With over 100 committed organizers from across the country, and in just over four months, we were able to create a national call for full federal equality that resulted in over 200,000 people marching through the streets of DC.
GetEQUAL sprang from your grassroots passion to not only demand full legal and social equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, but also to take ownership of that demand. In the 10 months since we joined with you to start GetEQUAL -- and in studying valuable lessons from other social movements -- we have all learned that when people join together to take action, the legislative agenda of that movement becomes a priority. During these past 10 months, we've joined together with you to organize over 30 actions addressing federal legislative priorities [1], and have helped organize many more state-based actions in places like Missouri, Texas, and Mississippi -- places in which LGBT and allied activists are crying out for the opportunity to organize and take action to defend the dignity of themselves and their neighbors. [2]
The GetEQUAL community, comprised of tens of thousands of LGBT and allied Americans across the country, has made tremendous strides in building power in the streets that impacts conversations in the suites. Together, we have built a brand that makes it clear that anything less than full federal equality is unacceptable, and that holding accountable friends, enemies, allies, and organizations that stand in the way of equality must be an integral part of any strategy we create and promote. And, together, it will take critical mass, a renewed sense of uncompromising urgency, and courageous action in the streets to build the civil rights movement that the LGBT community and its allies need and deserve.
Statements made by some of our highest-ranking "allies" and "friends" -- including President Obama, former Speaker Pelosi, Secretary of State Clinton, and many others -- indicate that we need to "make" them prioritize our issues in order to provide the political cover they need to do what they know is right. Collectively, we should all be preparing to do exactly that.
Our natural next step is clear and moves me to the heart of my message to you -- we will work to organize a grassroots network of organizers who are willing to push for the equality that we deserve. GetEQUAL will make this shift by setting up three regional field directors who will oversee work in a series of states. They will identify, train, and organize state leads who will both proactively and reactively work with regional state coordinators to build a movement of people in each state who will be poised to take action locally and will be tied together by a national narrative.
Launching this exciting shift in our structure is accompanied by a shift for me. I made a decision one year ago to put my career as a tenure-track college professor on hold in order to work with GetEQUAL full-time -- intending to get things up and running, and then to step back a bit in order for other organizers to step forward. That work has been the opportunity of a lifetime and, though I am returning to the classroom, I will remain at GetEQUAL as Director. This shift is only possible because of the success we have seen in building up a community of folks -- including you -- who are unwilling to sit on the sidelines while others deal away our equality in the confines of Washington, DC.
While I am returning to the classroom, I am also keeping my feet firmly planted at GetEQUAL and will be encouraging all the talented organizers working with us now to take a more active role in GetEQUAL's work. GetEQUAL's co-founder, Kip Williams, will also be shifting a bit -- while he will continue organizing with us, he has succumbed to the siren call of graduate school and we're proud that he will be making academia just a bit more radical. :-)
While others might have decided to spend the past year fundraising, we chose to focus on organizing and I look back with no regrets in that decision, based on our ability to help push for legislative change. We have reached the end of the generous seed funding we received a year ago, so we are currently raising funds to support the full-time work of a small staff and the work of state-based organizers. GetEQUAL's staff will entail three full-time regional field directors and a managing director -- all of whom will be supporting our state-based work and continuing the march toward full legal and social equality.
The history of many different social movements shows that without multiple components, tactics, and people pushing for change, progress is slow. History has also proven that power is never given away freely -- it must be claimed by those who have been shut out.
We intend to continue organizing and taking action until we are recognized as full partners in American democracy and full citizens of the country we love. And we look forward to seeing you in the streets!
Get Out! Get Active! GetEQUAL!
Robin McGehee, Director
P.S. -- And if you want to help sustain GetEQUAL's work as we move forward, please visit We really value and appreciate the financial support that activists have provided to date, and we hope you'll consider supporting the really exciting work ahead of us with a one-time or monthly recurring gift!
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