Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Is GetEqual Relevant In The New Political Environment?

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | November 11, 2010 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: direct action group, gay rights, GetEqual, LGBT rights, new political environment

GetEqual, the nonviolent direct action organization that seeks to empower the LGBT community and allies to take bold action to demand full legal and social equality, sprang up at a particular time in history: March 2010.McCain GetEqual 2.jpg

But the political environment has now shifted radically. We all had high hopes for legislative change in a Democratic Administration with a filibuster-proof majority. GetEqual gave voice to those who were not willing to see the promise of full equality given away by slippery politicians without speaking up about it.

GetEqual has spent most of its time and effort trying to hold the Democratic Party and politicians accountable. But that party had made promises about LGBT equality legislation.

Republicans have not made any promises about that, and, indeed, their platform is to vigorously oppose LGBT equality. For what can one hold them "accountable?"

Is GetEqual relevant in the new political environment?

Yes, it is deeply relevant. In fact, now more than ever.

Disclosure: The author is on the Board of Directors of GetEqual.

It is true that Republican politicians are largely against LGBT equality.

But that is not true of the majority of their constituents.

Two-thirds of Americans support marriage equality or civil unions.

Almost 80% favor repeal of DADT.

While there's not a lot of national polling on non-discrimination law, it seems that a majority support it, even in very conservative states, and even among Republicans.

While it's true that Republican politicians have made no promises about LGBT equality, their constituents support it. That disconnect needs to be pointed up, loudly and clearly and consistently.

A majority of Americans support LGBT equality, including Republicans, but Republican politicians aren't hearing that. They're hearing from the loud anti-gay forces who are hell-bent on religious domination.

They need to hear from others that prejudice and discrimination have no place in a country that promises equal protection of the laws. Americans need to realize that we aren't going to keep silent about anti-LGBT prejudice and discrimination.

Who's going to speak up and make the media and the politicians and the American people take notice?

It's not going to be HRC. I have great regard for HRC, but their business model is working for as much incremental change as they can get in whatever political environment exists. I'm glad they're doing what they're doing, but they have increasingly less breathing room.

The Task Force, NCLR, NCTE, Lambda Legal and other organizations are also doing good behind-the-scenes work. But their core missions are not about getting into the media with bold assertions of LGBT rights.

As the Republican politicians begin to assert more and more pressure, flexing their new muscles, and testing out their anti-gay rhetoric, we in the LGBT community are going to feel more and more squashed.

Will we begin to speak up about it? Or will we recede into the shadows, to wait for 2016?

Will we push back against the forces of intolerance? Or will we retreat to live in the echoes of our shadowy past of homophobia and transphobia?

Who will channel our anger? Who will channel our desire to breathe the air of a free people? Who will confront the anti-gay politicians and challenge them to accord us the respect due to human beings?

The fact is that GetEqual is more relevant now than ever. We need an organization that is dedicated to speaking up loudly about LGBTQ rights, confronting politicians, and alerting the media that we will not go quietly.

I know that some oppose this idea. But those who believe that playing nicely will get us everything we need have been shown to be sorely mistaken. Confronting injustice is not easy, and it always encourages backlash, and it's not clearly correlatable to specific gains. But it is a necessary precondition to freedom.

Power concedes nothing without a struggle. One deserving of rights must assert their rights; they will not be granted.

GetEqual is more relevant than ever in the new political environment.

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Definitely relevant, and VASTLY more relevant than the Human Rights Campaign who have shown themselves to be nothing but a political cover wing of the Democratic party.

Jillian, you're right, that somone needs to "channel our anger." But here's how you DON'T do it effectively:

In Indianapolis last month, the infamous "Cupcake Caper" resulted in a demonstration and much discussion.

At the demonstration, two young men who identified themselves as part of GE, were loud, over-bearing and rude to some fundamentalist Christians who came to counter-demonstrate.

Now, of course the young men had their right to their views. I get angry, too.

But as anyone with half a brain could've predicted, the resulting news coverage focused heavily on a heated and very-in-your-face exchange between one of the young GE guys and one of the fundamentalists.

It was ugly.

And it accomplished not one damned thing. Except, showed some spectators that we fly off the handle when confronted with hate or intolerance.

It will not work long-term.

So the GE folks have to figure out how to channel anger more effectively. H Rap Brown they ain't.

The battle for ordinances, equal rights and tolerance, is being waged in city councils, legislatures and, by HRS and others, in corproate America. It moves forward (or backward) in fits and starts. Sometimes two steps forward, three steps back.

With GE, unless they learn a little more about effective protest, it'll be mostly backward steps.

Channel the anger indeed. Appropriately.

I'm a little disappointed that the author didn't offer full disclosure, as she is the chair GetEQUAL's provisional Board.

I fully support GetEQUAL and I agree with the author's assessment, but I would have appreciated full disclosure.

You're right, Ben, sorry about that. It's been a crazy day. I should have said (and will put it in as soon as I get two seconds to do so) that I am on the Board of GetEqual.

GetEQUAL and their strategy of "embarrassing, humiliating or irritating people into submission" has never been "relevant" or even helpful.

They didn't hold anyone "accountable" and were mostly laughed at for their "crazy shenanigans." Accountability is issued at election time. All 11 of the last year's circus-styled publicity stunts just made us look ignorant and stupid.

The real test is whether or not GetEQUAL has had any participation, and by their own admission they've never had more than a dozen people at one of their events - many of them flown in from other cites. They wasted $700,000 and have nothing to show for it - including any followers.

The flavor of GetEQUAL is being played out in an unknown hotel room in NYC as Alan Bounville (at the original GetEQUAL meetings) is engaged in a lunatic "hunger strike." It, too is stupid and thankfully it is being ignored. Threatening suicide-by-starvation is typical of this idea that we can pretend we live the dark ages or that people respond to these stunts - they do not.

Thankfully, GetEQUAL and their ill-conceived tactics are not being covered by the media and the LGBT community is not contributing. Our community is a lot smarter than childish, self-serving publicity stunts. It isn't just "some" that oppose their stunts, it is most of us and it is because we expect resources to be spent on organizations that can generate results, not just laughter.

Email today from GetEQUAL:

We are gearing up for one of our largest DADT actions so far. Will you commit to joining us in the last chance to repeal DADT for good?

We're planning a high-impact action in DC next week to ensure that key decision-makers get the message that selling out the LGBT community in order to placate ultra-conservative fears is unacceptable. These large-scale actions are not easy to put on and they require a lot of resources. We need to raise an additional $13,290 dollars before the end of the day Friday to make sure we can have the biggest impact possible.

Will you chip in $100, $50, $35 or whatever you can to make this one of our largest actions yet?

Every penny that you donate will go to this and other GetEQUAL actions that are pushing the envelope for LGBTQ rights. We'll be using these funds to make sure that we have a diverse array of activists involved with the action, and to cover legal fees if/when they're needed. Your donations will help ensure that those who are willing to take a risk for our collective equality are provided with everything they need to pull off a successful action, including legal assistance.


The salaries at GetEQUAL are only $20,000 per month. For $20,000 a month worth of "paid activists" the LGBT Community is treated to ONE "direct-action" per month in a US city. Nobody shows up to support these stunts, so they fly people in. Crazy. Just, plain crazy.

If GetEqual would use the Saul Alinsky model of organizing, they would be and stay relevant:

They are stuck on aggravate and need to move to agitate - agitate includes agitating LGBTQ Americans. They need to move to educate - which is educating everyone - including our allies, theocRATS and ourselves. Then they need to get to organize - I tried to help with that (trained as an ACORN organizer before they were infamous I know how to do that) but all I got back was well we are going to start a don't donate campaign instead of using Facebook & Twitter to involve everyone in direct action online.

So I started my own way to agitate, educate & organize online - I call it Umbrella-Q which networks all LGBGTQ people & groups & blogs (including Jillian's) on Facebook. I just started this week so it is a work in progress. You can join the Umbrella-Q groups on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=150276011676505&v=info

You can start with telling key senators on Facebook, Twitter, email, phone & fax to repeal DADT http://site.umbrella-q.net/issues.html

to see the main web page just click on home or go to http://site.umbrella-q.net

GetEqual along with everything else will work if we all work it. My organizing philosophy is simple - do what works and if what you are doing does not work yet tweak it until it does.

Good for you. I bet this didn't cost $700,000.

Thanks just joined UMBRELLA Q... but also sent all $ I could to GETEQUAL... they are the ones taking their bodies out there for us.

A lot of people will get arrested for money. There is nothing sincere or authentic about GetEQUAL's paid activism.

Is get equal relevant in the new political environment?

I can think of a better question: is Get Equal RESPONSIBLE for the new political environment?

Answer seems to be yes. Their campaign did nothing but suppress democratic turnout and help us lose the house.

You're right, ke, GetEqual has wielded quite a bit of power for an organization its size. Let this be a lesson to anti-gay politicians and those who are soft on LGBT equality. (And to you, Andrew W.)

Get used to it Jillian, most people understand that GetEQUAL's stunts didn't help us. Because your little group of kids have a strategy of irritating people, all they have done is make people want to avoid us, not help us.

When you took the position of Temporary Chairman on the Temporary Board you promised to work towards providing evidence (or rationale) that these canrivalesque stunts are helpful. Since the kids are now soliciting donations it might be a good idea to produce that evidence. Something. Anything.

Didn't you hear, Andrew? GetEqual was responsible for voting the Democrats out of the majority, according to Ke's comment above. Or don't you believe Ke?

What has been said repeatedly Jillian is that Republicans should thank GetEQUAL because they helped them, not the LGBT community. That evidence confirms that GetEQUAL is counterproductive, or working against us.

If you believe they have even the slightest accomplishment, please share it.

GetEQUAL is over.

So you argue simultaneously that GetEqual had the power to help the Republicans, but that GetEqual is powerless and ignored by everyone? This is illogical, because the organization can't be both powerless and powerful at the same time.

I expect better reasoning from my antagonists.

First, I'm not an antagonist. Like others here, we have just expressed the obvious: GetEQUAL is NOT relevant and never was relevant.

I said their stunts "didn't help the LGBT Community" and if anything they could only have helped the Republicans.

It's not "powerful" to "piss on our friends" or "make us look stupid," it's just childish.

Like lawyers, we need to seek out those with the most capital for a win. That now belongs to republicans.

Like salesmen, we need to find common ground, overcome objectives and sell to them in their language.

Like it or not, that's what works. Civil disobedience works. It worked many times before. To say it doesn't get attention is folly. As the media says, "all publicity is ultimately good publicity" and if it gets people thinking, it can't be that bad. The tactics can be too tasteless and should be psychologically useful. We are fighting a psychological battle. We need to understand how to persuade our enemies and ally with them.

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Now we don't need to really consider any particular party member an enemy but we can't keep preaching to the choir if we're going to win because the choir has left for the buffet line and the remaining audience is the curious onlooking who is confused and trying to figure out what we were singing.

You suggest that civil disobedience is good because it "gets attention." 98% of adults in America are fully aware of our struggle, so what's this needed "attention" for - to remind them? Or to irritate them? Civil disobedience used to be effective because it increased awareness - today people are very aware.

It's 2010 and especially here in America the majority of people see civil disobedience and protest as juvenile. Look at what is happening to one of GetEQUAL's founding members Alan Bounville in NYC - he is being ignored by the media and many in the community are trying to get him professional help because of his childish hunger strike aimed at one of our friends Senator Gillibrand.

I think the LGBT community is the only group to use "civil disobedience" this year. We laughed at Dan Choi's 5-day hunger strike and Robin McGehee's "bringing Markers to a Committee Hearing because the Chairman couldn't afford any." Or her request that we "send gum to Nancy Pelosi so she learns she can talk and chew gum at the same time."

These aren't direct actions to accomplish anything - they're childish stunts to try to embarrass people. Turns out we're the ones that got embarrassed.

We don't educate or enlighten when we simply try to irritate or inconvenience people.

AND the gay community has to get over the false hope that they can simply wait out an election cycle or two for the Democrats to come back into power and "save" it.

The reality is that Republicans are going to control the vast portion of redistricting of congressional seats. Most of the states that are picking up seats are heavily Republican, those that will lose seats are Democratic. That tilts the House in the direction of Republicans for the next decade.

The community has to figure out a way to work with Republicans. HRC doesn't have a clue on how to do that.

Did they get their $13,296 so that they can make their next "big impact?"

I'm sorry but if you think 98% of Americans are "aware" of GetQEQUAL or the GLBT movement, you're out of touch. I don't believe there is ENOUGH Civil Disobedience. It catches attention. If you think it is embarrassing, then you're too damn content in your hole of a cave. Blacks did not get rights because of contentment. And WE won't either. We need to educate and agitate and learn how to funnel our anger in a respectful, mature manner. I don't agree blowing up at religious fundy's is the proper way to do things, but believe me I know the frustration from my own family. They are never going to change their minds on the issue. But we can try to educate, and continue to fight.

I agree with Paul. There is no way 98% of Americans are aware of the GLBT issues or movement. I live in the Deep South, and I work within my own community for equality. I have yet to meet a straight person here who realizes that GLBT folk in this state or 28 others are not protected from negative employment actions due to their sexual orientation or identity. They have all assumed the opposite. Not one person - not even highly educated, "gay friendly" folk. So, there is so much to do.

Is GetEqual contributing to that? I know so. Every positive action the President took last year towards DADT repeal came directly after an action by GetEqual. Look back. It's there. The repeal of DADT affects the fight locally because I can now stand before my mid-size city council and advocate for a nondiscrimination ordinance (which has failed twice already) with the knowledge and argument that the largest employer in the United States is on its way to eliminating employment discrimination. I will credit Aubrey Sarvis, and Servicemen United, and OutServe, and everyone who called their Senators and representatives, and Lt. Col. Fehrenbach, and Major Witt, and god help me Log Cabin Republicans and their law suit, and Autumn Sandeen, and god love him Rep. Barney Frank, and Rep. Patrick Murphy, and 6 Republican Senators, and President Obama, and Margarethe Cammemeyer, and Staff Sergeant Eric Alva, and Michaelangelo Signorile, and Pam Spalding, and Joe Jervis, and Joe Sudbay, and Kerry Eleveld, and service members who enlisted under the draconian policy and served with the dignity our country allowed them, and countless others. But among these I do count and give a special place of honor to GetEqual and Lt. Dan Choi and Robin McGehee. Those two names will be listed among the civil rights heros of our time. They've made a difference.

Now if our friends needed prodding to keep promises, our enemies need unending public and private pressure just to see that they too can make a difference. I am not a fan of GoProud generally due to money given to Ann Coulter and violating the boycott in San Diego, but even GOProud is contributing to the movement by getting the hate groups out of CPAC. It's not about popularity or approval or glory, it's about getting equal.

So, I believe strongly that GetEqual contributes. My belief was vindicated when Robin McGehee and Dan Choi were invited to the signing ceremony. Civil disobedience? Is there a place for it? You could have asked Rosa Parks. Plus, the Letter from the Birmingham Jail wasn't written in an office. The Vietnam War did not end because the white male priveleged population grew tired of it. So, I say GetEqual, GoProud, write emails, call legislators, talk to friends, live out and proud lives, vote your conscience, shame enemies, donate, educate yourselves first, educate others, raise your children well, act locally, boycott, support friendly businesses and corporations, love each other, and do good.

Amen and Amen.