“We stand together today as equal members of the human family…. as consistent principled advocates for human rights for all people. We stand together today to uphold the principles of due process, of equal protection under the law, of fighting against discrimination against any and all people based on race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.Do not underestimate the power of this statement. For a major leader of today’s Civil Rights Movement to come out in support of LGBT rights is a significant development. Given our shaky relations with the African American community recently (some of which is fueled by myth), suffice it to say that this announcement could go a long way in helping to mend the rather large rift that has formed between our groups.
We stand with you today to support Marriage Equality, and to declare that Proposition 8 must be struck down as unconstitutional. Peoples’ right to self-expression, self-determination be respected and affirmed. It’s time to challenge ignorance, a time to break the silence and the chains of hatred, of divisive and discriminatory bigotry. Marriage is based on love and commitment – not on sexual orientation. I support the right for any person to marry the person of their choosing.
If Dr. King and our civil rights movement has taught us anything, it’s the fundamental principle of that all people deserve Equal protection under the law. LGBT people deserve equal rights – including marriage equality – and equal protection under the law. Discrimination against one group of people is discrimination against all of us. The State – and the Courts - should not sanction discrimination.”
Rev. Jackson’s bold statement presents us with an excellent opportunity to examine the importance of coalition-building. Coalition-building, in its simplest terms, is the process of reaching out to other communities to form a network of mutual advocacy much larger than our own group. It’s very quid pro quo, “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” So for instance, we would support the DREAM Act and Paycheck Fairness Act, and expect in return support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act from immigrant and women’s rights groups.
Why build coalitions with other minority groups? There are several reasons. First, it’s just smart politics, and given the fact that LGBT rights issues are always considered controversial (even when 69% of the country favors “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal), it’s sort of necessary. The LGBT community makes up less than 10% of the US population. There is no question that we are a minority. But when we team up with other minorities, we start to move from being a small minority to a significant one – and once we form an extremely diverse coalition and even start to get those who are not members of a minority group on our side, we become a majority. And it is when we become a majority that we will achieve our goals: no one will be able to stop us then.
Not only is coalition-building smart politically, but it is also just the right thing to do. As members of the LGBT community, we know what it’s like to be discriminated against, to be treated unequally. We see the Paycheck Fairness Act fail in Congress, and we relate to and sympathize with that defeat. We see young immigrants being arrested for speaking out, and we are reminded of arrests within our own community. We see African Americans getting arrested and prosecuted at a higher rate than any other racial group, and we are acutely aware of a time when we would be arrested just for being gay. Minority groups share in a common experience: tyranny of the majority, and inequality under the law. By standing united with one another, we can show the world the power of our solidarity and our determination to achieve full federal equality.
I am reminded of when I went to the Big Commit down in DC, a rally held last August to demonstrate intra-LGBT community solidarity. I was surprised, pleasantly, to see several people carrying signs with the National Organization for Women insignia. But this shouldn’t surprise me – it shouldn’t surprise me that members of one minority group (and I almost say that ironically, since women are actually 52% of the US population, but are disgustingly still treated as a minority) would come and support the campaigns of another. Frankly, we should have gone and looked up when the next NOW rally was and shown up there, just like members of GetEQUAL stood in solidarity at the DREAM Activists’ court hearing that same summer.
If we want to see equality become a reality, we must band together. No longer can we fight for just gay rights, or just transgender rights, or just women’s rights, or just immigrants’ rights; we must fight for equal rights all. Equality is for everyone – and we must welcome everyone into our movement and be welcomed into theirs.
And don’t just let this be another idealistic, rhetoric-heavy post that you read and say “hmm, good point” and move on from. Make it happen. Do a little research: go to different websites such as NOW.org, NAACP.org, DREAMActivist.org, etc, etc. Find out if they’re hosting rallies near you: go to those rallies wearing your LGBT pride garb. Make a presence, reach out to them, let them know you support their causes. Let’s all start working to build the coalitions we will need to tackle the challenges of the next decade. We have what it takes: let’s bridge the gaps, mend the fences, and do everything we can to make sure we have the strength in numbers necessary for attaining full equality for all.