Friday, September 4, 2009

Big names back National Equality March


Big names back National Equality March
Lawmakers, celebrities and well-known LGBT activists are lining up to support the National Equality March, a weekend gathering set to begin Oct. 10. Judy Shepard, the mother Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in an anti-gay attack in Wyoming in October 1998, is joining lesbian Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), bisexual actor Alan Cumming and about 140 others in endorsing the march.
Other supporters include radio host Michelangelo Signorile, actress Charlize Theron, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Daniel Choi, a U.S. Army lieutenant who was ordered out of the military after he revealed he is gay.Kip Williams, one of the lead march organizers, said the endorsements come as the preparations continue at a fevered pitch for the October event.“I’ve been having conversations with folks,” he said, “and people are seeing the bigger pictures and the hopes and dreams of what this march is about for us.”Williams said event permits have been secured for the Capitol’s west lawn and organizers are working with authorities to finalize the route for the Oct. 11 march. He noted that Equality Across America is only planning the march and rally; an Oct. 10 training and networking event is being planned collaboratively with the Courage Campaign.“There are going to be a lot of other events, but we’re not organizing those,” he said. “We’re going to start sharing the lineup of events that other people are scheduling soon, like a media training that [the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation] is organizing.”Williams said his planning work would next entail him reaching out to student organizations and working on social networking.“We’re going to reach out to student organizations on college campuses that are within a five-to-six-hour drive of D.C. and see if they’ll send a bus or cars of students,” he said. “We’re working on our social networking strategy, and we have two contests to find speakers and performers.”Stacey Simmons, one of three volunteers assisting with the National Equality March’s social media campaign, said the event has about 27,000 Facebook fans and 4,100 Twitter followers.“We link to articles and put up inspirational messages,” she said. “We also figure out what buses are coming in, and get them on the web site and Facebook page, so people can look and see, ‘Oh, there’s a Chicago bus, good.’”Derek Washington, director of diversity outreach for the National Equality March, praised the support that national LGBT organizations have given the event. He noted that the Human Rights Campaign is loaning march planners and space in its D.C. headquarters for the weekend of the march.“Everyone worries about resources being taken from Maine, but it’s not like we’re renting some big building — it’s being given to us,” he said.“If anything, people from Maine should send reps here to spread the word about what they’re doing. Everyone around the country should send people there to spread the word. You can sit on the Internet all day, but when you meet someone and shake their hand, you can say, ‘This is what I’ve got going on in Bangor, Maine.’”Washington said that the National Equality March would demand equal protection under the law.“We’re trying to come to D.C. with a new message, because we feel like for a generation we’re been forced into prioritizing a laundry list of legislative or state-by-state issues.” he said. “We feel like this is a time for us to act like we are free and equal people and come to D.C. and demand full equality. We’re not coming to D.C. with a list of items we want to get worked through in the next legislative session, but we’re coming to D.C. with one demand: equal protection in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states.”Source: Washington Blade

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