â€œNonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to so dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.â€? -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr
In 2010, we redefined LGBT activism.
In less than one year and with a budget under $500,000, GetEQUAL surfaced as one of the frontline champions for LGBT equality and has greatly influenced the narrative around full LGBT equality. Our mission is to empower the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) communities and our allies to take action to demand full legal and social equality and to hold accountable those who stand in the way. To achieve our mission we are creating mechanisms through which anyone across the country is
empowered to take action locally. Our successes in 2010 were a direct result of the calculated strategy GetEQUAL undertook to reshape a narrative of urgency and impatience around grassroots actions, while equipping activists with the tools and training they needed to be successful.
GetEQUAL grew out of a need within the LGBT community to act with a deeper sense of urgency to gain full legal and social equality. We started GetEQUAL because we’re tired of waiting for our equality.
side in ways that interrupt the status quo and force change. Sometimes activists must create so much pressure that the only option left for our elected representatives is to do the right thing— instead of passing the buck, making excuses or stalling for time. And that pressure isn’t only apFor decades, our community was continuously plied to those who are dead-set against us--it promised equality by politicians eager to take our must be applied to those in power and to those money and votes, yet were nowhere to be found who call themselves our friends. when it came to showing real leadership. Instead, we were told to wait.
For decades, our community was continuously promised equality by politicians eager to take our money and votes, yet were nowhere to be found when it came to showing real leadership. So, we watched as a 1970s-era strategy of passing piecemeal legislation has failed to provide tangible results. In the meantime, we watched legislation that restricted our rights, including “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act, pass in record time.
GetEQUAL has achieved success by learning from and applying the best lessons from social change movements and political campaigns. These successes are evident in the unparalleled number of actions all over the country, initiated by GetEQUAL, that pushed a unique brand of urgent and iconic LGBT equality coverage to the forefront of national media like CNN, Fox, and NPR—unlike any group had, or would have, been able to do.
We refuse to accept that it takes only days to pass We aren’t looking to replace other organizations. anti-gay legislation, but decades to pass equality Our greatest hope is that we will speed up our legislation. full equality and put ourselves out of business quickly. But until that happens, you can count on History shows that change does not happen on us as an “insurance policy” to engage relentlessly its own. In every successful civil rights move- on the community’s behalf to provide tangible ment, activists must exert pressure from the out- returns on investment.
Equality Insurance Card
History shows that change does not happen on its own. In every successful civil rights movement, activists must exert pressure from the outside in ways that interrupt the status quo and force change.
WHERE WE ARE MOST
CAPTURING THE ATTENTION OF THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA o
We changed the “face” of the movement by highlighting and involving people from across the LGBT movement—not just those who were screened by media consultants or who would stay “on message” in interviews.
We forced LGBT equality into the mainstream media conscience by creating urgency and impatience around our issues.
We offered an alternative community viewpoint that was candid, unapologetic and showed that the community was not monolithic or represented by one organization or entity.
We helped make DADT repeal a progressive issue, not just an LGBT issue, where it then became a benchmark of progressive success for President Obama that could not be ignored.
We changed the mainstream imagery of DADT from a rainbow flag and dogtags to handcuffed servicemembers arrested at the White House fence—an image that was used by the media more than any other over the last year.
CREATING A MUCH-NEEDED ACCOUNTABILITY NARRATIVE o
We created consequences for lip service, unnecessary compromise, and failed leadership by being unafraid to call out elected officials and organizational leaders when promises to the community were broken.
We became truth-tellers in a “backroom dealing” world., highlighting when our equality was being compromised away by DC power players.
We finally instituted a true “good cop/bad cop” (or “insider/outsider”) strategy by refusing to believe, as we have in the past, that the same person or organization can play both roles.
ACTING BOLDLY AND INSPIRING OTHERS o
We inspired others to put an unrelenting urgency back into our fight for civil rights and created a national network of activists who would accept nothing otherless than full equality.
We developed a list of about 130,000 people across multiple channels into an action network that has regularly takes meaningful action, both online and offline.
We created relentless, unapologetic public pressure for LGBT equality like no other national organization, while also working with all players behind the scenes. to ensure that we were operating with the best information from a variety of sources.
We initiated 16 national actions and 75 local/state actions involving over 1,000 equality activists—all on a budget of less than $500,000.
We empowered and trained hundreds of activists to execute field actions both proactively and reactively – especially in Southern and Midwestern states that have, for too long, been ignored by other national organizations.
We were also able to inspire a donor to fully fund our pilot first year and come back this year with a matching challenge grant of $150,000 to inspire other donors, both large and small, to support our work.
WHERE WE ARE MOST
EXPANDING OUR ACTIVIST NETWORK o
For too long, LGBT Americans have been lulled into a false sense of security—assuming that others will do the hard work of fighting for equality. Though GetEQUAL has developed a substantial network in the course of the past year, there are still many more LGBT folks to be mobilized.
While GetEQUAL’s network is already fairly diverse, we have a lot of work left to do in mobilizing faith communities, straight allies, people of color, young people, and the transgender community. We have concrete plans to do that work in 2011, and are excited to bring these constituencies into an already vibrant online and offline community.
In 2010, we focused more attention on federal politics, we now need to spend more time creating state-based networks that can be proactive and reactive locally while also being tied to a national narrative of impatience.
BROADENING OUR DONOR NETWORK o
We spent the first 10 months of our existence focused on doing everything possible to repeal DADT and pass an inclusive ENDA. We made an intentional decision to focus on organizing; believing that fundraising could wait since we had a rare federal window of opportunity, but our equality could not.
We were lucky that we were fully funded by one donor as a year-long pilot campaign—and we have only in the last couple of months started fundraising. We now have over 500 individual donors and have begun our first real fundraising campaign. We also have a $150,000 dollar-for-dollar match that makes every donation worth twice its value.
Our focus is on a sustainable, low-dollar funding base, but that takes time—the upside is that we have a reasonable budget that could be fully funded by low-dollar donations in the future.
DEMYSTIFYING DIRECT ACTION STRATEGY o
During our first year, it became clear that the LGBT community, and the overall progressive community and media, don’t understand direct action tactics or strategy. We will need to do a better job of explaining our strategies and the intelligence from the streets and the suites that help to inform those strategies—even if it means doing so after actions take place in order to protect participants’ safety.
We need to highlight successful direct actions across movements, time, and issues—including the civil rights movement, to be sure, but also including labor, women’s suffrage, etc.
We need to highlight contemporary examples of direct action by well-known actors like former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Representative Tammy Baldwin, Representative Luis Gutierrez, Rachel Maddow, and many others.
WHERE WE ARE
HEADING GetEQUAL has spent our first year focused on holding our allies accountable to promises made repeatedly over the years— during their campaigns and in fundraising pitches. After our launch in March 2010, our focus was the unprecedented opportunity for positive change at the federal level. We saw Democratic majorities in the both the House and Senate that we had not seen in almost 40 years (and may not see again within the next 40 years). We understood that the midterms would be a wildcard so, with this short window open, we focused all of our strategy and resources on forcing a DADT repeal vote and an inclusive-ENDA vote in the House and Senate. When we launched GetEQUAL, our goal wasn’t to focus solely on the federal level, but circumstances dictated differently. Even though we saw the passage of DADT repeal in the House and Senate, we were saddened that a Democratic majority in the House (since 2006) and Senate was unable even to get a committee vote on a fully-inclusive ENDA. We definitely still have our work cut out for us on the federal level but, after the midterms, we are faced with a completely different political landscape. This new reality warrants a new organizing strategy, and GetEQUAL is excited to be shifting to local and state organizing in order to build a groundswell of power that can counter the narrative coming out of Washington that no positive change for LGBT Americans can happen in the next two years. Make no mistake, we will still be working at the federal level—especially on policies that the Obama Administration can implement on their own outside of Congress—but we need to expand our fight to the states and create an army of equality warriors ready to fight locally and nationally. We’re excited to form a national LGBT action team dedicated to the fight for full equality!
This new strategy involves the following components: o Increase the role of GetEQUAL as the voice of disenfranchised members of the LGBT community by organizing grassroots actions, and be leveraging both traditional and non-traditional media. o Connect the fight for equality locally to a national narrative of lived inequality for LGBT Americans—creating real urgency for full equality now. o Create a trained army of grassroots activists and citizen lobbyists who are fully equipped to identify organizing opportunities, push back on hate speech from those in power locally (from school board members to Members of Congress), and create meaningful change on the local, state, and federal level.
o Instigate grassroots pressure to force action by the Obama Administration on policies not requiring federal or state legislative bodies. o Hold the Democratic Party and its elected officials accountable to promises made in their party platform. o Hold the Republican Party accountable for hate speech and discriminatory/divisive tactics and legislation. o Reach out authentically to people of faith, young people, and straight allies who can change the game by taking ownership of LGBT equality in new and creative ways. o Help hold our national LGBT organizations accountable to their missions with internal and external pressure.
WHAT KEEPS US
In August of 2011, GetEQUAL convened 92 activists in Memphis, Tennessee, for a weekend of relationship-building, training, strategizing, and brainstorming. Led by a facilitation team made up of activists from GetEQUAL and United We DREAM (activists pushing relentlessly for the DREAM Act), the weekend started with a tour of the National Civil Rights Museum and consisted of training in crafting a public narrative, action-planning, building coalitions, and team-bulding. Activists from 25 states and DC worked hard each day to assess the state of equality in their home states, strategize about next steps, and think deeply about how to build inclusive, diverse, and meaningful state-based strategies moving forward. The Memphis training also featured a training in nonviolent civil disobedience, rooted in the traditions of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and ActUP, ensuring that everyone at the training left with a deep understanding of the theory and methodology behind strategic and safe civil disobedience. The energy from Memphis was palpable -- and allowed us to get a crystal clear idea of what things look like on the ground across the country, as well as what kind of energy folks have for bold action as we move forward. Since Memphis, we have simply tried to keep up -- watching the incredible passion of these 92 activists direct our strategy and our work. As we move forward in 2011 and into the 2012 general election, we take this energy and these stories with us -- we’re creating campaigns that reflect that energy, and resources that support organizers in ways that will extend and embolden their work. Below are a few of the really exciting things happening out in the states right now: o Arizona: Partnering with an existing bold LGBT organization called Human and Equal Rights Organizers (H.E.R.O.), Arizonans are boldly fighting back against oppressive Republican laws by building coalitions with immigration and labor organizers in the state.
o Ohio: GetEQUAL Ohio is on fire, having divided the state into regions, organized an arrestable action at Speaker Boehner’s district office, and planned multiple state-wide calls. They’re excited to take the fight for equality right to the Speaker’s front door!
o California: In a post-Prop 8 world, GetEQUAL organizers are mobilizing now to push for full equality, helping to generate support for the FAIR Education Act, the Gender Nondiscrimination Act, and marriage equality.
o Pennsylvania: We’re thrilled that a former ActUP organizer and MCC pastor in Philadelphia has been inspired by what he saw in Memphis, and is starting to host community meetings in Philly -- and we look forward to seeing a new ActUP-type generation rise up in the City of Brotherly Love.
o Florida: A brand new organizer in Miami has quickly built alliances across issue and identity areas, and is passionately committed to using strategic action to highlight the need for LGBT equality, through the lens of an intersectional analysis. o Georgia: Partnering with an existing bold LGBT organization called Queer Justice League, Georgians are taking the state by storm, and are connecting with others in the state -- like DREAM activists and women’s rights activists -- who are committed to progressive change.
o Texas: There is a revolution happening in Texas! GetEQUAL Texas has repeatedly stunned us with their commitment, skilled organizing, and passionate outreach. They are organizing around marriage equality, gender non-discrimination, and safe schools -- refusing to believe conventional thinking that progress can’t be made in the South. If the road to full equality goes anywhere, it is going straight through the heart of Texas!
Putting the fight back into the fight for our equality. www.GetEQUAL.org