On the eve of the National Equality March of October 11, 2009, Mark Katzenberger of San Francisco stood outside the Human Rights Campaign’s gala featuring President Barack Obama with a sign reading, “How About the Audacity of Action, Mr. President?” I approached him with some questions:
Mark Katzenberger: Obama, Obama, Let
Mama Marry Mama!
Irregular Times: Excuse me, sir.
Mark Katzenberger: Yes.
IT: I wanted to ask you very quickly, what does that mean to say to you? “Obama, We’re Demanding, Not Asking!” What’s the difference?
Katzenberger: Ah. Asking says, “Well, it would be nice, you know, if you wouldn’t mind we’d like our rights.” Whereas demanding is saying, “No. That time is past.” I am due them. I am overdue them. The time for being nice and asking sweetly is over.
IT: What are you demanding today?
Katzenberger: What am I demanding? I am demanding an end to all discriminatory laws, specifically DOMA [Defense of Marriage Act] and gays in the military.
IT: If Barack Obama were joining those two gentlemen going inside right there, if he came out on the sidewalk and he started walking this line right now and he asked you, American citizen, what you wanted to see your president do, what’s the one thing you’d ask him to do? If you had five seconds.
Katzenberger: Take strong leadership, work with Congress to immediately repeal DOMA rather than waiting for Congress to take the initiative themselves.
Mark Katzenberger’s challenging emphasis stood in contrast to the gradualist and celebratory tone inside the HRC gala that night.