As President Obama signed the bill that repeals Don’t Ask Don’t Tell yesterday, leaders of activist organizations around the country were thinking and talking about what civil rights issues they will address next, and how. In a celebratory post-DADT repeal nation-wide phone conference Saturday evening, members of GetEqual and other civil rights activist groups acknowledged the repeal of DADT is just a baby step, and the battle for full equal rights for the LGBT community is far from over.
While issues such as the court case over Proposition 8 in California, and the Defense of Marriage Act repeal still lurk on the horizon, at the heart of resurrecting the activist struggle for many is the The American Equality Bill.
The bill is designed to do away with numerous piecemeal bills aimed at ending discrimination on various fronts that some say would take too long to pass, if they ever did pass. This bill, supporters say, will create a stronger force of coalition needed to pass legislation at the federal level. Others say such legislation is impossible to get passed in spite of having support of people such as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D – NY, who fought hard to keep DADT repeal on the table in Washington.
“Here we are with a President that is a direct product of the black Civil Rights struggle and the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which made it in the U.S. (illegal) to discriminate based on race,” writes J. Todd Fernandez, Campaign Facilitator for The AEB Project, on the Act on Principles website. “And yet, here we are with no federal civil rights protection for our community. No hope in sight of ever having an openly gay or lesbian or transgendered president. And no end game in play. Is that what we’ve worked all this time for? No.”
The AEB was created by eQualityGiving.org, an online donor community for LGBT equality, and written by Karen Doering, a former Senior Counsel for the National Center for Lesbian Rights. It puts sexual orientation (SO) and gender identity (GI) equally right along side “race, color, sex, national origin and religion” in all federal civil rights (non-discrimination) laws. The goal is to end discrimination against LGBT people everywhere, including in employment, housing, access to credit, all public places, all government buildings, and all federally funded programs.
In calling for activists, especially those with experience, to get involved now, Fernandez writes, “This is what we have prepared ourselves for our entire lives. This is the struggle for which we honed our politics and built our organizations. This is the civil rights struggle of the millennium.”
Fernandez said The AEB Project extends beyond legislative strategy, and is more of a movement strategy.
“I believe a broad demand for equality – and a comprehensive legislative goal – presents an opportunity to build coalitions and concentrate our power beyond its current limitations,” he said. “So this means that the next two years are not really about the (Republican-controlled) House. It’s about movement-building; getting the main players – HRC, Center for American Progress, ACLU, Task Force, NAACP, NOW etc. – to embrace the demand for full inclusion in the ‘64 CRA, developing a national working coalition such as the immigration reform movement has in RIFA, and making sure that our equal civil rights is a paramount issue in the 2012 campaign cycle.”
The goals for The AEB Project for the foreseeable future include introducing the AEB (or its equivalent) in the Legislature, getting televised public hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee, and getting a commitment from all presidential candidates to support equal civil rights.
The next steps toward achieving full equality for the AEB Project will be conducting a series of conference calls on the movement’s future; increasing education about the ‘64 CRA beginning with a Creating Change 2011 session in Minneapolis, MN. on Feb. 5, 2011 with Gregory Brooker, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Civil Division; putting together a team of lawyers from major civil rights organizations to review the AEB and produce a consensus document; and raising the profile on civil rights as a goal.
Fernandez said to reach its goals, The AEB Project needs more help from the LGBT blog/media world including such organizations as The Advocate, one of the largest and oldest sources for LGBT news in the country, which didn’t even cover the Homophobia Kills Die-In at Grand Central Station in October, as well as the HRC which he hopes will convene community forums to discuss movement strategy and take a lead in putting something like The AEB in play.
Fernandez said we need “our community to believe that equality is possible, if we all join in the same demand and work together toward a common inclusive goal.”
The movement prioritizes the formation of national coalitions ahead of electing Democrats, and demonstrates a willingness to push candidates during the election cycle to make firm commitments for action on full non-discrimination protections and marriage equality.
- The American Equality Bill (AEB) Project website
- The American Equality Bill (AEB) Project on Facebook
- The Act on Principles website
- The GetEqual website
- The eQualityGiving website
- Connecting Rainbows, Civil Rights Walks for America website