Thursday, April 22, 2010

Shaking Things Up a Little in the Gay Rights Realm

I think that it is important to recognize that shifting circumstances often force civil rights movements to adapt to new conditions. For example, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) came into being because younger people fighting for civil rights in the South felt that the existing organizations were not doing enough to really confront segregationists, and following SNCC's founding, there was a expansion of sit-ins and boycotts throughout the South. The older leaders of the Civil Rights Revolution ultimately incorporated aspects of the more aggressive tactics of SNCC and other upstart organizations. The Birmingham campaign, I think, is the best example of how traditional non-violent civil disobedience tactics, coupled with a more "in your face" style, really brought home to the nation the plight of millions of natural born U.S. citizens.

Perhaps what we are seeing, with the rise of the organization GetEQUAL (which is simply reviving the tactics of older GLBT organizations particularly from the early 1970s, as well as Act Up from the late 80's and early '90s), is the beginning of yet another evolution in the current gay rights movement. Sometimes, someone has to decide that the insider tactic isn't always enough, and it seems that GetEQUAL has decided to take on that heat.

If the White House continues to give bizarre mixed signals regarding gay rights, then we should get comfortable seeing more direct action, like this and this. I also think that it is healthy to have a diversity of organizations working toward the same goal. For example, there is no question that the Human Rights Campaign, Log Cabin Republicans and GetEQUAL are happy to work with the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network to end DADT, albeit through different means.

Meanwhile, it is disappointing to see the lack of an organizational strategy from the Obama administration on GLBT issues, a lack of strategy that is helping to fuel this direct action. This is not 1993, and the GLBT community is more in the mainstream now than at any other point in time in our history. It really makes little sense for this White House to dance around the low hanging fruit (pun so not intended) of ending DADT or pushing the Employment Non-discrimination Act to members of Congress, particularly when one considers how hard Obama himself pushed to gain support from the GLBT community.

I've no idea how these direct actions will play out in terms of moving things along at a faster rate, but it will be interesting to see what will happen next, particularly if some of the more established organizations develop a more urgent sensibility about achieving gay rights.

No comments: