In the 30th anniversary year of the Stonewall rebellion - the birth of the modern gay rights movement - thousands of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people will launch an unprecedented national week of action for equality. Equality Begins at Home, slated for the week of March 21 - 27, is a major initiative to push state lawmakers to support a platform of equality. Planning for these by local activists is well under way.
From Montana to Maine, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people will come out and speak up in simultaneous events nationwide, most of which will take place at state capitols. These actions will, among other things, build support for laws that counter hate violence, ban employment discrimination, provide for safe schools for all students, ensure the right to adopt and become foster parents, and address health issues including HIV/AIDS.
Equality Begins at Home is coordinated by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and organized by the Federation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Statewide Political Organizations. As part of its coordinating efforts, the Task Force provided Federation member groups $5,000 each to support their Equality Begins at Home organizing efforts and hired a national coordinator for the event. Dozens of national organizations have signed on in support of this week of action.
"Equality Begins at Home is not an end point but a beginning point. We are going to make our statewide organizations stronger, mobilize more people, register more voters, and demand greater accountability from our state legislators and policy makers," stated Kerry Lobel, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force executive director. "It is this organizing at the state level that will ultimately counter the hostility and gridlock we have come to know from our nation's capital," she added.
Never before in the history of the gay rights movement has there been a coordinated political campaign of actions in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Equality Begins at Home represents a new phase of the movement - a focus on state organizing and legislatures. The vast majority of debates and decisions about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender equality occur in state legislatures. Equality Begins at Home will bolster the infrastructure of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender movement within the states - where the heart of the struggle for equality lies - and lead to greater success in the overall struggle for equality.
Each state organization will develop events to highlight priority issues:
"The battleground for equality has moved to the states, and so have we," said Paula Ettelbrick, Equality Begins at Home national coordinator. "We are throwing down the gauntlet and demanding that state officials resist the right wing's efforts to deny us our basic rights as citizens," Ettelbrick added.
Equality Begins at Home is part of a campaign to counter the growing muscle of the right wing and its anti-gay attacks. In the last few years, the right has passed dozens of anti-gay laws in dozens of states. In addition, 1998 was one of the most vicious years in recent memory. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott likened homosexuality to kleptomania and sex addiction. Congress introduced a number of mean-spirited anti-gay measures. Right-wing groups launched a major advertising campaign attacking gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. In addition, voters approved anti-gay ballot measures in Alaska; Hawaii; Fayetteville, Arkansas; Fort Collins, Colorado; and Ogunquit, Maine. "Our demands are simple and in line with basic American values: the right to be safe, to have a family, to hold a job, and to participate fully as citizens. It's exactly what every American wants and deserves," said Gina Reiss, co-chair of the Federation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Statewide Political Organizations and executive director of New Jersey Lesbian and Gay Coalition.
For more information, please view our web site at http://www.equalitybeginsathome.org