The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Carrying On

I've received a lot of critical emails as well as some supportive ones. But to address some of the points that I am sure many others have as well, here goes.

As Jeff pointed out in a comment, Equality Alabama probably received information about the protest too late to do anything about it. It was a quickly thought up and organized event. That in itself should not have prevented the event from being a success.

I was told I don't really do anything. Here are some facts. Not including the time I spent researching and posting blogs about the protest, I spent over 4 hours yesterday communicating with numerous attorneys and police officers and mayoral assistants and event sponsors in two cities making a last ditch effort to arrange for this event. Yes I was too late just as every one else was. But I am sure that some people were already aware of the permit requirements in Birmingham. I learned yesterday.

Permits to hold a demonstration on Public Property in Birmingham require a permit if more than 6 people are demonstrating. I spoke with a person in charge of issuing the permits yesterday, and not until we were in the process of completing the application did I learn that application must be made three days in advance. I begged, but he could not issue the permit.

I contacted Join the Impact to see what they would think about moving the event to Bessemer if I could get a permit here. They said go for it. I thought a good protest and then lunch at the Bright Star, Alabama's oldest restaurant, would be a draw. I tried. Bessemer, too, requires a waiting period of two weeks. The officer I spoke with was very apologetic and supportive, once they were told what we were wanting to protest.

I let Join the Impact know and they felt it best to cancel the event here.

Yes I am an officer in a "gay" group and yes, that group did not actively support the event either. I tried to get the officers to support the demonstration, but when it comes down to it, and these are just my thoughts and no one else's, Stonewall Democrats should support the Democratic Platform, which does not support same sex marriage, so that is an out, although a pretty weak one in my view. In addition, we are not an advocacy group, we are a partisan political group that tries to get people to register to vote and vote our way. All of that comes from me, not the other officers.

As for Central Alabama Pride's vice president saying in a comment yesterday "Because of this status, the organization can NOT endorse or be in charge of political rallies/protests."

All 501(c)(3) organizations are also permitted to educate individuals about issues or fund research that supports their political position as long as they don't overtly advocate for a position on a specific bill.

From the IRS, " it (a 501c3) may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.

The protest was not about a bill or a candidate that voters here could vote on. It was to educate the public. Similar efforts to educate include Central Alabama Pride's annual march, excuse me, parade, in June, where similar signs promoting same sex marriage and equality are found.

A representative from EA said "The recurring opinion I heard was that marriage is a state issue so demonstrating at city halls would be confusing."

There is one state capital in each state. The legislatures by themselves are not going to change the laws in this state or any other. The support of the people is needed. There is a city hall in every city. More people could be educated by having events in every city.

Another email from an "EA" person said "Also protest are NOT effective or helpful for changing hearts and minds."

Sorry. Rosa Parks' action on the bus was a form of protest. Pretty effective.

The first ever demonstration for gay rights, in Washington DC, led by Frank Kameny, involved only a handful of people, in April, 1965.




That same year anti war demonstrations began. Pretty effective I believe.

Martin Luther King led a March on Washington. Wonderful protest.

I've protested in Montgomery. I've been to Washington. I've protested with members of Act Up at the Capitol. Don't tell me that protests do not work.

Let's just be more on the ball in the future and not let this happen again. If we need to start an organization whose only purpose is to protest, let's do it.

6 comments:

Jeff Worrell said...

I do not have years of social advocacy experience. I do not have the experience of those who have led EA and CAP. I do not discredit it either. But, I cannot help but agree with you, Joe, in regard to the effectiveness of protest marches. I too immediately thought of all the protests and marches of the Civil Rights movement in the 60s. The challenge is in maintaining the structure and discipline so that the efforts of many remain on message and that we do not allow fodder for our detractors. It can be done. On this we agree.

Kathy said...

Joe, I left a comment below as you were posting this piece. I agree with you that protest can be an effective means of pursuing change. Rosa Parks was indeed the symbol and rallying point of one of the most effective. But her actions on the bus were not spontaneous; they were the beginning of a well planned and crafted boycott that already had the buy-in of the local African-American community. She was chosen to be the public face of that boycott because of her unimpeachable character and background. And it worked. It is an example for us.

Thanks again for everything you do!

Jeff said...

Kathy, you mention a couple of really important points with regard to the icon of protestors. Her impenetrable reputation and the absolute buy-in of the community are two key points I have heard mentioned again and again since then. The road to equality is a long one and supporters (straight and gay) have to be committed to be there for as long as it may take-beyond just next week.

Joe Openshaw said...

Kathy and Jeff,
I only included Rosa Parks because, as planned as her actions were, the comment in the email was a blanket statement about protests in general.

You know, there was at least one person who wanted to take place in this protest who was too young to drive, and I assume this was to be their first action. I only hope that the cancelation does not dampen their spirit.

There is not a shred of doubt in my mind that gay equality will be achieved. Especially as young people become active in making their voices heard and by voting. But us old guys will keep up the fight too.

Dianne Lightfoot said...

Joe,
You have the mightiest weapon available, the pen. You are an excellent writer and can inspire people to greatness. Keep it up.

Dianne

Joe Openshaw said...

Thanks Dianne,

Will do.