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Why a National Equality March? Transcribed Excerpt of Cleve Jones Interview

On October 11, thousands of Americans are heading to the National Equality March to “distract” President Barack Obama, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from their agenda of not enacting significant health care reform, not ending wars, not prosecuting torture and not doing anything to stop the expansion of the surveillance state. The distracting demand of National Equality Marchers: equality under the law for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and straight Americans. Equality under the law for everyone, just as the 14th Amendment promised a century and a half ago.

Why a National Equality March now, some are asking, why now when the Congress and White House are so busy not doing so much? In an interview with Bil Browning, march organizer Cleve Jones explains his personal shift from “not now” to “if not now, when?” A transcribed excerpt (interview with Bil Browningsee video for fuller remarks):

Back in October of 2008… we were talking about whether we should go to Nevada to campaign for Obama or stay in California to campaign against Proposition 8.

Now at that time, during the summer, we were told Proposition 8 was going down to defeat, so while I did do my best to raise money and support the campaign, during the summer months there was no sense of urgency. We thought we were going to win….

And we made the decision to go to Nevada. And you know, I think it was the right decision. I don’t regret it. I walked precincts, canvassed in Reno and Sparks. We won Nevada, so I felt good.

And then we came home…. I heard one of the robocalls from Yes on 8. It was: “Please listen to an important message from Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama,” and then there was Obama’s voice saying “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman.” And that felt like such a slap in the face. And then a few days later the election came down, and Obama won, and we lost.

And, you know, I was just really distraught over it. I felt really betrayed. And I wrote this essay that said, “You know, now is the time to push. We’ve got this window of opportunity. We helped to elect Obama, we’ve got a strong Democratic majority in both houses. If there was ever a time in the history of the United States when we might actually get something out of the federal government, now is the time.”

…. I had such high hopes for Obama and Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid and the Democratic majority, and I thought, “Now we can win. Let’s just sit tight and see. You know, maybe he’s going to deliver!”

And then Inauguration Day came. And Rick Warren gives the benediction. And I felt in the pit of my stomach, when I read that Rick Warren had been invited to give the benediction, “What?” And shortly after that, Speaker Pelosi gave an interview to the Bay Area Reporter, a gay newspaper in San Francisco, in which she said that repealing the Defense of Marriage Act was not a priority.

I’ve worked in politics for a long time, and I think that it’s pretty clear to me that if we don’t get anything out of Obama in the first two years, we probably won’t get it, because in the second two years they will be focused on re-election, and they won’t want to make waves. So I think that the time for decisive action is now.

In short, Obama and Pelosi, you’ve got no one to blame for this “distraction” but yourselves. When you take the money and votes of less-than-equal Americans, then swat them away like flies, why should you be surprised?

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