Kip Williams

Speaker Pelosi (and all your Democratic friends): I'm not waiting anymore.

Filed By Kip Williams | November 05, 2009 9:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: full equality, Maine question 1, Nancy Pelosi, Prop 8, speak for equality

Early November last year, I stayed up into the wee hours one morning obsessively refreshing my web browser. The incoming precinct results for Prop 8 confirmed that my rights were being stripped away from me. I should have been celebrating the election of Barack Obama that night, but I felt alone, brokenhearted, and demoralized.

Tuesday night was an echo of last November, as it became clear that our rights were being revoked in Maine as well. I headed out to an election night "celebration" with the League of Pissed Off Voters, who have been solid friends and allies to me as an organizer. While I was there, I realized something: we're in a different place now than we were a year ago.

Prop 8 unleashed an avalanche of new activism and leadership. We've spent much of this last year debating strategy and, more importantly, building capacity for grassroots organizing. And the National Equality March helped us assert our struggle definitively as a civil rights movement. We've faced personal and political growing pains this year, and on this anniversary, I'm excited to be back in action with new tactics and messages.

In the last year, I've spent more hours marching in the streets than I can count. In March, I joined One Struggle, One Fight in a six-day march from the Bay Area to Sacramento, and connected with communities along the way. I joined faith leaders, elected officials, and punk-ass kids in civil disobedience against the California Supreme Court's decision to uphold Prop 8 in May. That same weekend, I joined a grassroots swell from across California in a 15-mile march from Selma to Fresno with my dear buddy Robin McGehee. And last month, I joined 200,000 others in a march on Washington with one simple demand: full federal equality.

Just yesterday, I did something different. I marched right down to Nancy Pelosi's office unannounced with about 10 of my friends, and we demanded a meeting. We met with her aide Dan Bernal, and this is what we had to say:

"Twice in the last year, our rights have been stripped away at the ballot. We want to know what Speaker Pelosi is going to do to make sure this doesn't happen to our community again. We know she's in a fight over health care right now, and we support her to focus on progressive health care reform. But when health care reform is passed, we're coming back, and we expect real answers and real commitments."

Dan tried to pacify us, of course. He's openly gay, so he pointed out that he's on the same team. And he assured us that Speaker Pelosi supports us completely. But when I asked him what she's doing, he said, "She supports the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and the passage of a gender-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act."

One will notice that the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act is conspicuously missing from that list. Anyway, supporting legislation is not the same thing as making commitments and delivering on them.

I wonder how long Dan will let his boss - and the whole Democratic party - tell him to keep waiting, while we watch our rights get stripped away state by state, ballot by ballot. One thing is for certain: I'm not waiting anymore.

My friends and I will be heading back to Pelosi's office soon. And this time we want a plan, complete with achievable goals, benchmarks, and ways that we can help. We're not going away, and we need you to have our backs.

Join us in calling on Speaker Pelosi to Speak for Equality. We need the support not just of her constituents, but of people all across the country.

And wherever you are in the country, keep the pressure up on your electeds as well. We're entitled to full equal protection under the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution...but it won't happen unless we demand it. Being told to wait is no longer a viable answer.

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Good for you!!!! So very glad you will be posting here! You are an inspiring young man.
Keep on fighting!

GuestCommenter | November 5, 2009 1:10 PM

Simply stunning:

Just yesterday, I did something different. I marched right down to Nancy Pelosi's office unannounced with about 10 of my friends, and we demanded a meeting.

May you do more of that in the future.

Kip, this is excellent. If more people did this across the country, it will put our demands front and center. I am going to see if I can get some peeps together in San Diego and we will march on down to Dianne's and Barbara's and Susan Davis' office to demand them to start actually DOING SOMETHING rather than simply supporting of co-sponsoring a piece of legislation. Thanks for the inspiration.

David Mixner | November 5, 2009 2:53 PM

Kip: Way to go. Make sure she Co-Sponsors DOMA. She is not on the legislation. It just takes one call and she can add her name. Way to go.


Oh hi Mr Mixner, you left us hanging with your guest blog. We had to read your replies on your home blog. I actually loved a lot of what you wrote today... but haven't had the decency to back away from the whole blame the people of color thing re Maine... OK Back to Kip...

If you are ever planning on visiting her office again, and want more people to join you, feel free to let me know!

My friends and I will be heading back to Pelosi's office soon. And this time we want a plan, complete with achievable goals, benchmarks, and ways that we can help.

But a plan for what? I'd like to know what it is exactly that you're asking for. A timetable on ENDA? Immigration equality? Marriage equality? School bullying? DADT? What?

Because it's impossible to give benchmarks for when our entire agenda will be enacted. But if you ask specifically you'll probably get some better answers - and be able to hold her more accountable. ENDA, for example, could use a lot of help.

Right on, Bil. One way to proceed is to focus on immediate legislation - gender-inclusive ENDA, repeal of DADT and DOMA. In particular, I think we need to pressure her (and Reps all across the country) on DOMA.

But I don't want to get in the trap of the laundry list. They'll throw us a bone or two, and tell us to be quiet and wait again. Personally, I'd like to organize around an Omnibus bill, which would be comprehensive civil rights legislation for LGBT folk. But I don't know where that is in process right now, or what it would take to get someone to draft and introduce it.

So here's my real point: Of course we don't know exactly what to ask for from Pelosi yet. But we all need to be building relationships with our electeds, letting them know that we won't compromise and we're not going away.

As we start to build a relationship with Pelosi, what do you think we should be asking for? And what are other people demanding from their electeds?

I think UAFA is gettable quicker than DOMA. Stick that in the top 3 please!

Kip, you always use this phrase "laundry list" when people ask you for specifics. I'm not sure where laundry comes into it; it's just a list. Demanding "equality" is asking for an abstract noun. You have to articulate what you think equality means.

If you don't know what exactly you're asking for, maybe you should work that out before you storm people's offices?

If you want some more comprehensive bill, maybe you should try researching that beforehand?

additionally, if you really are asking for an omnibus bill instead of a piecemeal, one-issue-at-a-time approach, what you're really doing is asking LGBT folks to wait much much longer. It's much more difficult to get the votes for a comprehensive LGBT rights measure than it is for one piece at a time.

You're asking people to wait until we can fix EVERYTHING to try to and fix anything.

I would definitely advocate for ENDA over DOMA. ENDA will help more people than DOMA - and some of us desperately need those protections. You can see in the middle column that it's what we're currently organizing around here on the site - and a lot of it is the grunt work of contacting their legislators to ensure we have enough votes.

It may not be everything, but it's something -- and there's nothing wrong with tasting the dish while you cook it. Writing, introducing and building support for an omnibus bill would keep us from being protected earlier if we waited. It would be a lot longer that way - but you could be organizing to help us have employment protections within the next 6 months.

Oh I LOVE tastin the sauce while it simmers!

I don't believe we should wait for health care. They are now saying that health care may be postponed as long as 2010 and DADT is being put off indefinitely. We need to press hard and immediately. Health care is nothing more than an excuse to put us off. What happens when 2010 comes around and health care gets postponed again? How much of this runaround are we willing to take? It's been 40 years already!

You would like this video I made, then! Check it out:

You are so adorable in that video your facial expression say so much. Plus the video is an effective way to communicate with out allies. It may not get the attention of our own activist base but they aren't the audience...

Do me a favor: share it with anyone you think needs to see it!

But we know she's going to support ENDA, and that it's going to pass the House. We should push her further on DOMA, right?

No, Kip, hate crimes plus ENDA continues to humanize us in the eyes of others, plus it provides us protections from harms. DADT will be the next easiest.

DOMA passage will be nearly impossible in the next few months, even unlikely in 2010, we have no where near 60 votes. But if we get ENDA, DADT,and we already have Shepard-Byrd... then the ball is rolling and we have momentum in our favor.

So even if DOMA is your main goal... then "use" the other legislation to get there.

I totally get that! ENDA is much more important to me personally. I'm just saying that we've got Pelosi on the record in support of ENDA, so it doesn't make sense to pressure her about it.

Politics is tricky business... They may trade votes and try to sacrifice ENDA for some other legislation or get distracted. If we push them hard, without letting up, we can get ENDA passed FOR SURE sooner rather than later. Take your leadership momentum and let's get ENDA passed. We can coordinate actions here in LA as well...

UAFA already has wide support and lots of cosponsors. But because we never push it it never gets hearings. As a long long time half of a bi-national couple, it angers me sometime that we don't push harder for this easy win... Contact Jarrold Nadler's office for more information about getting it passed!

A few people have mentioned the ambiguity of your demand, but I'm hoping you can shine a light on this statement, Kip:

My friends and I will be heading back to Pelosi's office soon. And this time we want a plan, complete with achievable goals, benchmarks, and ways that we can help. We're not going away, and we need you to have our backs.

Have a plan the next time we visit, or else....

Or else what?

What does "we're not waiting anymore" mean? Does it involve a lot of storming into supportive reps' offices? Does it mean another march is in the works? Because I wouldn't describe the last 40 years of LGBT activism as "waiting."

About the omnibus bill, I agree w/ K. above - it really just means having to wait on everything else. DOMA repeal won't be happening for a long time, it will be a poison pill in any LGBT omnibus bill, and there are lots of useful laws that can be passed in the interim.

I think Alex, the issue has to do with what the role of anger & frustration is in movement politics.

On one hand, stirring up people's anger & frustration is a good way to inspire people who are disengaged to take action--to call up reps, to march, to make noise, etc.

On the other hand, stirring up people's anger & frustration doesn't necessarily lead to intelligent pragmatic discourse on how to achieve practical results. People's legitimate grievances with the slow pace of change should not be a reason to take up tactics that are more satisfying emotionally in the short term but less effective at creating change in the long term.

(this is not a criticism of direct action, but a criticism of direct action without a coherent comprehensive battle plan backing it up)

Thanks for this, k. I think this is a really good way to put it.

At the end of the day for me, the point is to not get paralyzed by not having all the answers. Clearly, no one participating in this conversation has the right answers. My heart tells me to act, my gut tells me to demand and make my Rep deal with me. My mind is figuring things out.

I really hope you all will help me figure things out. Thanks for continuing the conversation, and for asking tough questions.

Agreed with this 100%! None of us are going to know the right way to do it--if we did, it'd already be done! But I think we ALL feel this way! Our hearts are telling us to act--and the right action is to engage our lawmakers, to try to change hearts and minds in our communities, and to galvanize our friends. The specifics are up to you, but in the end, THIS will be how we DO find the right answers, the right combination, the right plan.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | November 6, 2009 2:22 PM

Thank you, Alex! Exactly the question I was wondering.

A hissy-fit of gigantic proportions?

Another state stripped away the rights of my brothers and sisters, so doing nothing is most certainly not an option.

Our community nationwide needs a PR facelift! We need to become involved with other organizations, networks, and movements in order to change those hearts and minds. Why was the opposition so successful in our blue territory? That's what we should find out and harness, because I'm sick and tired of losing!

My call to action takes shape in the form of my involvement with Speak Up Nevada (our statewide CDAT), my blog (, and my articles in QVegas magazine! I'm trying my best to get the activist spirit rekindled in my hometown, and we should all be doing the same.