Yesterday I had a choice: Attend my children's Valentine's Day events at their elementary school or get arrested in a nonviolent civil disobedience stand for LGBT equality in San Francisco. I can only imagine the choice that First Lady Michelle Obama or retired Secretary of State Hillary Clinton might make if either were faced with such a dilemma, but I have to believe that they'd miss the Valentine's Day events and seize the moment that has the greatest possible likelihood of changing the lives of families like theirs.
You see, we are in the middle of a "movement moment" for LGBTQ equality, a fight that has gone on for decades, and that many believe we will inevitably win. President Obama referenced one of our movement's most famous moments, "Stonewall," in his recent inaugural address -- perhaps or perhaps not knowing that he was referencing a moment led by queer and trans people of color whose ferocity revolutionized our movement. We are decades past those days in New York, but we are still fighting for our lives, our families and our rights, and although it feels like we are so close, we still have miles to go before we are fully equal under the law. And our challenge is to seize this movement moment as was done at the Stonewall Inn in 1969.
It will take more than the president's words to complete our journey to full federal equality in all matters governed by civil law. It will take action, as two of our movement's historical leaders, Cleve Jones and David Mixner, so eloquently point out.
When I first joined this fight, I was a mom who was working full-time while raising my beautiful young children in the conservative Central Valley region of California. I took action because inequality came knocking on my door: Though I had run from the oppressive environment of my native Mississippi and sought refuge in the gleaming promise of California, I couldn't escape the shadow of inequality when Proposition 8 passed. It's been five years since our families were targeted by the religion-based bigotry that stripped the freedom to marry away from so many Californians.
I will never forget the pride I felt while watching the emergence of the Join the Impact events and actions that quickly transpired in response to the passage of Proposition 8. Many of us were so inspired by that "movement moment" that we dove into organizing in our local communities -- calling attention to our demand for full equality under the law by highlighting the real and concrete harm that discrimination causes. Thousands of people across the country made a pilgrimage to the center of the state for Meet in the Middle for Equality, and then we marched on Washington for the National Equality March.
Nearly six months after marching on Washington, we launched GetEQUAL, believing that we needed to inject a new sense of urgency into the movement, urgency to ensure that we are empowering LGBTQ folks and our allies to take bold action for full equality, and to ensure that we are holding accountable those who stand in the way.
We've been enormously busy over the past three years. We've seen the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT), President Obama's "evolution" in his personal views on marriage equality, and the emergence of two Supreme Court cases that will determine the next steps in the battle for marriage equality. But now isn't the time to just wait on our equality to come to us. Now is the time to seize it!
We're on the brink of seeing the first comprehensive immigration reform bill in a generation, and if we don't organize right now, we risk getting yet another watered-down bill that puts LGBTQ immigrants at greater risk than before. We must push for a clear and direct pathway to citizenship, a humane asylum policy, provisions for binational same-sex couples and an end to harsh enforcement policies that lead to massive deportations and the cruel separation of families.
We also must insist -- without rest -- that the president show leadership on ending employment discrimination by signing an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against LGBTQ Americans, and that Congress finally pass a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). For decades, ENDA has languished in Congress. Now is the time to get a vote in the Senate and then push like hell to get it through the House.
Finally, this March and again later in the summer, all eyes will be on the Supreme Court as the justices examine both the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Proposition 8. That hate-filled effort to take rights away from our families, from our children, will be back in the nation's consciousness, and we will be organizing for our lives. The highest court in the land will tackle the question of marriage equality, and we're going to make sure that our lives, our stories and our futures are front and center for that debate.
Are you willing to organize? Are you willing to take this "movement moment" and inject into it the urgency we need to get equal? We need you. My children need you, our friends and family need you, and the next generation of LGBTQ Americans needs you. We're lighting the way to justice with a massive national organizing effort to hold events in every state across the country in March, to highlight the Supreme Court hearings, but also to connect that "movement moment" to our full equality, to immigration equality and employment equality and so many other ways in which inequality shows up on our doorsteps like it showed up on mine.
I missed my children's Valentine's Day parties to stand up for equality, but knowing that you might follow the link below and join us in this call to action made missing that time with my children worth it. In the end, if we can seize this moment now, the lessons they'll learn about their family's right to life, liberty and justice will be invaluable.
Join us in lighting the way to justice. Head to www.lighttojustice.org to organize locally in your community and to ensure that not one more "movement moment" goes by without us rising up in national response to seize it!
If you need inspiration, check out this fantastic video from our equality song and video guru, Sean Chapin.
Get out! Get active! GetEQUAL!
Follow Robin McGehee on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@GetEQUAL