Marriage protest in Illinois, June 2013 (photo by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times)
After the non-vote in May on the state's marriage-equality bill, Illinois activists, leaders and politicians had a myriad of responses to what happened and why. I wrote an editorial calling for accountability of our elected political leadership, and soon after, I called for a March on Springfield for Marriage Equality.
One reason for doing so was that there were so few visible protests and actions last spring. Yes, there was lobbying and fundraising, but time and again, when it came time to protest, there were very few who actually showed up to show support for a pro-equality politician or counter the anti-gay crowd. Gay Liberation Network is a stalwart when it comes to showing up, but few of the hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ Illinois citizens "showed up" for their rights in public. Perhaps we need a better strategy.
There has never been an LGBT March on Springfield for our rights. There have been lobby days, for sure, going back to the 1970s. There are pride events in Springfield, which has a wonderful LGBT and allied community. But there has never been a statewide march on the legislature to push for our rights. It is about time that we show up and show our unity across all our differences, including with our partners in equality from labor unions, racial and gender justice groups, businesses, nonprofits, culture groups and more.
Our March on Springfield team is small and mighty: Thirteen of us are volunteer co-chairs, and our entire budget is under $40,000. It's almost all for promotional posters and other materials, and then expenses associated with the actual march (non-sexy things such as stage, sound, permits, insurance, signs and security). But how amazing it has been working with activists across the state, and even into neighboring states, who are excited about being in Springfield Tuesday, Oct. 22, for the first scheduled day of the fall veto session!
This march is not about the politicians, although they are welcome to attend. It is about the people. It is to demonstrate that we will show up for our rights, and that we will hold elected officials accountable. It is to show LGBT people and allies across the state that we know that their work is critical to this movement, that it is not always about Chicago. And it is to show how diverse our community is, different in background, race, gender, age, class, religion (or non-religion), and taste in music and clothes. We are truly a motley rainbow crew, but at times like this we can work together to build a stronger community.
I have been to six marches on Washington -- four for LGBT rights, one for women's rights, and the recent 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Justice. Each of them impacted me in its own way, no matter what the actual issues of the day may have been.
What these marches do is re-energize us for the battles ahead -- because marriage is not the final stop for our movement. Far from it. Yes, it is an important economic justice issue, one that affects those who are poor and working-class perhaps more than those who can protect their assets through legal maneuvers. Marriage is one more step on the ladder, one that will have dramatic effects on other issues and change the way that many families see their LGBT children.
But it is just one step up, and we have much further to go. LGBT youth and seniors still need resources and support. People with HIV and AIDS are still without a cure. Health care disparities affect millions of LGBT persons. Homelessness and joblessness are very real for everyday LGBT persons. Internalized and familial homophobia still are still pervasive, no matter how many openly LGBT faces we see on TV every day.
Illinois is a strange state. Our politicians have created an economic disaster through bad investments. They are trying to burn labor unions and hurt retirees. We have a mess of a school system, and some portions of Chicago have murder statistics rivaling a war zone. So it is understandable that marriage is far from a top priority for many of our state's citizens. I understand that. It is not one of my top social justice priorities either. But I am working hard for this March on Springfield because I see this event as part of a much larger picture, one that can unite us with other communities, beyond just one issue that brings us together for that one day.
If this coalition proves successful and we do ultimately achieve marriage equality, we will owe a huge debt of gratitude to many other communities. It will be our chance to more fully engage with diverse allies in the struggle for equality and perhaps create a much stronger overall movement for justice.
Why do we march? We march to be together, to laugh and to cry, to show our face for equality. We show up to demand a vote so that we know who is with us and who is against us. Please, won't you join us -- by train, plane, automobile, motorcycle, bicycle or bus -- for one day? Show up, one day, for the rest of your life.
The March on Springfield for Marriage Equality takes place Tuesday, Oct. 22, at the Illinois State Capitol, located at 401 S. 2nd Street in Springfield, Ill.Schedule:
- 12-1 p.m.: Entertainment
- 1-2:30 p.m.: Rally
- 2:30-3:30 p.m.: March around the Capitol
- Steve Grand
- Sami Grisafe
- CC Carter
- Marcus Terell
- Stephen Leonard
- Sandra Antongiogi
Members of area LGBT choruses are also being confirmed for performances.
Deaf Communication by Innovation is providing interpreters for the hard of hearing.
For more details, visit MarchOnSpringfield.org, Twitter.com/IllinoisMarches, and Facebook.com/MarchOnSpringfieldForMarriageEquality.
Tracy Baim is the founder and co-chair of the March on Springfield for Marriage Equality and is the publisher of Windy City Times.