Jul 20 2009

There is a new chapter within the LGBT civil rights movement that can only be described as the "Oh Lord, Not Now!" movement.

Flag These well meaning, hard-working and intelligent folks want a very neat time-lined, totally safe and predictable movement. One where, as a community, we do not publicly move until we are assured of victory. They don't want us to venture from a proscribed game plan that mostly originates out of a Washington-based political strategy to gain our freedom. They live in fear that we will move too quickly, make someone uncomfortable and put our political friends in a tough spot. Afraid to risk defeat, they believe we have to make everyone like us and be on our side. Most amazingly they seek the approval of others instead of insisting that others have to liberate themselves from their own long held myths in order to receive this marvelous gift that our community brings.

The cabal of powerful decision makers wants everything to be safe, clean and perfect before moving. Don't upset anyone, don't jump ahead of ourselves and most of all don't deviate from a well-laid plan that hopefully will eventually lead to victory. Every one of our allies has to be comfortable, the polls have to show us way ahead, and proof of victory has to be assured before trying anything new. The unpredictable grassroots could be destructive and create instability.

Sounds pretty good doesn't it? Except that it doesn't fit any model of success that I have seen in my near 50 years of organizing. In fact, my journey has proven to me that the unpredictable often is just the stimulus that movements need; victory often comes from an unplanned event that organizers could not have pulled off if they had worked years to do it. Most candidates would never be elected to office if they waited for their turn, had hard proof of victory and listened to the political pros. Our own current president is a perfect example of this fact.

Most historic movements are filled with grassroots moments that propel that movement to new heights. It could be a Rosa Parks who was just tired and didn't want to surrender her seat or the automobile workers who occupied their factories in the 1930's to the dismay of traditional labor leaders or a simple unplanned walk to the sea to get salt that appalled more traditional Indian liberation leaders.

The LGBT community has just experienced such a moment. All of the major national organizations initially condemned the current Boies and Olsen lawsuit by the American Foundation for Equal Rights. Now the community has embraced it as a bold and brilliant move. Today all over the web proud members of the LGBT community were sharing David Boies incredible Op Ed in the "Wall Street Journal". My guess is that this case will become one of the great historic moments in the legal history of this community.

Along the way, we are allowing even our allies to abuse language in order to slow down our fight for full equality and freedom. We get nervous when we call the system currently being put in place Apartheid although that is exactly our current situation. Yes, I know we didn't suffer like Nelson Mandela or the people of South Africa but that still doesn't make the word invalid for our movement. We are slowly but surely being separated from other Americans. We have allowed them to avoid the word marriage out of fear we are being unreasonable by insisting on full rights through the civic institution. Our allies accommodatingly play with words like civil unions, domestic partnerships, significant others, same-sex alliance, etc in order to avoid that one word, that one institution that will get us closer to freedom than any other word....marriage. It is marriage that we want and marriage we should seek. Anything less plays into the system of Apartheid they are attempting to build. We are even afraid to use the word 'freedom' as if we are not deserving enough to own that word.

Over the next week, in four parts, I will write more on my view of this powerfully exciting civil rights movement. I hope you will join me for this journey. Tomorrow, I will explore the history of previous struggles for freedom and how they might apply to us.