The march's stated intent is rather opaque: its "single demand" is
"equal protection in all matters governed by civil law in all 50
states." Try singing that on a cross-country bus to Washington. But
march co-organizer Kip Williams insists that this broad message is
bolder than the "piecemeal" state-by-state strategy that marriage
advocates have been focused on.
"This isn't another giant affair that is just listing off a laundry
list of items that we want to get through, and that ultimately may or
may not have any direct impact on the way things are done in Congress,"
he says. "We want full federal protection ... and since there's not one
piece of legislation that would mandate that, we can do all our work as
This is a frustrating spin for local marriage-equality advocates like Michael Crawford, co-chair of the group D.C. for Marriage.
"One would think that marriage would be part of that general request
for equality," he says. "They are organizing an event in D.C., and we
just happen to be the people who live here."
Until recently, critics of the march included leading voices in the
LGBT community, including The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force,
commentator Michelangelo Signorile and power bloggers Pam Spaulding and Bilerco's Bil Browning. However, as Oct. 11 approaches, many have added their names to a list of 140 supporters who endorse the march, offering some much-needed credibility.
March organizers point out that a number of clergy have signed on and
that NAACP board chairman Julian Bond has also made a personal
endorsement, lending the effort its most visible African-American
representation. But some say the main reason behind such increasing
support is the simple need to avoid an embarrassing public PR failure
just as legal recognition of gay unions are finding a margin of public support.
Williams calls the march "an opportunity to take the movement to the
next level." But to advocates like Crawford, the next level is getting
a marriage bill safely through the D.C. city council and the required
congressional review while avoiding the Prop 8-style referendum local
conservative church leaders and national opponents have vowed to bring
in coming months. While straw polls
around the recognition bill this summer and a recent survey by the
Human Rights Campaign indicated that a public vote on same-sex marriage
could pass, many are reluctant to risk a Prop 8 redux without a careful
outreach strategy in the majority African-American city.
Meanwhile, Crawford's group has organized its own marriage-rights
outreach event the weekend of the march, and has scheduled convocation
this week with black gay-rights and faith leaders featuring Rev. Eric
Lee of the California chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership
Conference, an organization instrumental in the early civil rights
movement and the 1963 march on Washington.
"People only think of D.C. as the city where Congress and the president
happen to be," says Crawford. "They don't think of D.C. as having a
local LGBT community that's done a lot of work and is on the cusp of
winning marriage equality, or how this might impact our efforts here.
And we are close."