Friday, February 8, 2013

Civil Disobedience in the LGBT Movement

Today we hear from Jamie Henkel, Coordinator for Equality & Diversity Partnerships.

Jamie Henkel

Last month, we reflected on the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., how he has impacted us and the work that we do. Civil disobedience has become a big part of the fight for LGBT equality and we have a variety of examples that show some of the ways that that Dr. King’s vision remain alive and well in our struggle.

One of the most inspirational projects that I have seen in recent years has been the Campaign for Southern Equality WE DO Campaign.   Since 2011 approximately 70 couples have gone to request marriage licenses, knowing that they will be denied, in communities throughout the South.  These coordinated efforts help to raise awareness about LGBT issues and to stand up against unjust laws in their states.  This campaign has inspired action in towns with less than 500 residents and in large metropolitan areas. With the help of CSE, most requests are filmed and then posted to YouTube and other social media outlets. To date these videos have more than 1 million views. 

If you haven’t had the chance to see them you can find examples here. The WE DO Campaign has also received media coverage from local, national, and international news outlets. The couples involved are young and old. They represent diverse ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds. Some were born and raised in the south and some have only lived there for a few years. The one thing they have in common is that their relationships are not and can not be legally recognized by their state government.

Another project that comes to mind is the SoulForce Equality Ride. Since 2006, the Equality Ride has taken students on a cross country trip that takes them to universities, cultural institutions, and places of worship where they talk to leadership about LGBT issues. Inspired by the Freedom Rides of the 1960’s SoulForce has organized rides in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2012. All participants are trained in non-violence and political organizing & activism. Each participant selects a city and is then responsible for organizing the group’s time in that city. 

Most visits include meetings with local universities, a community service project, social events for students and/or LGBT organizations, and more. Each year has been unique and action-packed. In 2012 they clashed with the “Rick Bus” (a group of conservative women campaigning for Rick Santorum during the Republican primaries) in Atlanta. They were arrested trying to enter the campus of Colorado Christian University to participate in a Bible study group.  Just a few days later they caused controversy when they visited Focus on the Family headquarters in Colorado. They made big news when they met with LDS officials. You can read about this and all of their other adventures in the 2012 Equality Ride Report here.

By standing up to unjust laws, policies, and practices these activists bring attention to issues like marriage inequality, workplace discrimination, and anti-LGBT bullying & harassment. Additionally, they make the people around them think about the many other challenges faced by our families, friends, coworkers, and classmates every day. Their actions are brave. I am honored to be a part of the movement to which they have dedicated their time, passion, and hearts.