Our Time Is Still Now
As I look toward the great promise of 2013, I can't help but reflect on 2008. Shortly after the passage of Prop 8, Cleve Jones and I wrote a manifesto we titled "New Birth Of Freedom - Now Is The Time." It was published online and printed in papers nationally, but was met with equal parts applause and criticism. Four years ago, so many within our own community chastised that perhaps it was not quite time for us to fight for our lives at the federal level. We disagreed. Now, as we look forward to a year poised to make LGBTQ civil rights history, a year that will demand renewed efforts from all equality-minded people, I find it worth reading again as a reminder, a guiding principle, and a call to action from our recent past:
A NEW BIRTH OF FREEDOM - NOW IS THE TIME
By Cleve Jones and Dustin Lance Black
On November 27, 1978, gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk was assassinated in San Francisco City Hall. Thirty years later, his struggle continues.
On November 4, 2008, millions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans of all races proudly cast their ballots for Barack Obama, helping to elect the first African-American President of the United States.
On that same day voters in Arizona, Arkansas, California and Florida approved initiatives denying basic civil rights to GLBT citizens.
Like other Americans who voted for Barack Obama, gay people of all backgrounds supported our President-elect because we share his vision of a united America and want to move forward to address the critical challenges facing our country and our planet.
We have always been willing to serve our country: in our armed forces, even as we were threatened with courts-martial and dishonor; as teachers, even as we were slandered and libeled; as parents and foster parents struggling to support our children; as doctors and nurses caring for patients in a broken health care system; as artists, writers and musicians; as workers in factories and hotels, on farms and in office buildings; we have always served and loved our country.
We have loved our country even as we have been subjected to discrimination, harassment and violence at the hands of our countrymen. We have loved God, even as we were rejected and abandoned by religious leaders, our churches, synagogues and mosques. We have loved democracy, even as we witnessed the ballot box used to deny us our rights.
Like Barack Obama, we never abandoned hope in the American dream of equality and freedom. We never stopped believing that the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights included us.
We have always kept faith with the American people, our neighbors, co-workers, friends and families. But today that faith is tested and we find ourselves at a crossroad in history.
Will we move forward together? Will we affirm that the American dream is alive and real? Will we finally guarantee full equality under the law for all Americans? Or will we surrender to the worst, most divisive appeals to bigotry, ignorance and fear?
It has been thirty years since Harvey Milk gave his life in our struggle for equality. We will not wait thirty years more. We demand that the Federal Government act immediately, decisively and unequivocally to ensure equal protection under law throughout the United States of America.
We can accept no compromise.
We call on President-Elect Barack Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to draft and submit to the Congress comprehensive legislation protecting the civil rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens in all areas including civil marriage, military service, adoption, social security, taxation, immigration, employment, housing and access to health care, social services and education.
We can wait no longer.
We call on President-Elect Obama, Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid to speak out against the escalating campaign of harassment, violence and murder directed against our communities and pass legislation extending hate-crime protections to GLBT citizens.
Now is the time.
We call on President-Elect Obama, Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid to take personal responsibility for involving our nation's religious leaders and the GLBT community in a national dialogue to encourage understanding and reconciliation.
We also call on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people to heed the call of Harvey Milk, when he spoke thirty years ago on the steps of San Francisco City Hall: "You must come out, my brothers and sisters, you must come out!"
We call on gay people everywhere to seize this moment, to understand that freedom will not come until we are willing to commit the full strength of our own voices, minds and bodies to the struggle. We must personally introduce ourselves to those who would discriminate against us. We must make ourselves visible.
We call on all supporters of equality to sustain and intensify the nationwide campaign of mass protests and non-violent civil disobedience, for seven weeks, starting on November 27, 2008, the thirtieth anniversary of the assassination of Harvey Milk, and to then gather together in mass, from all corners of our country, in Washington, DC on the morning of Tuesday, January 20, 2009, to honor the inauguration of our President, Barack Obama.
We call on all our people and all our allies to carry this message of hope and equality to every corner of our nation, to every place of worship, to every school and factory and shopping center, every city, suburb and farming town. We call on you to march together, demonstrate together, pray together and dream together of a future America where, finally, all are free.
There are rare moments in human history when, suddenly and unexpectedly, the opportunity for great change and progress becomes possible. Barack Obama has shown us the power of hope and the urgency of seizing that moment. Harvey Milk has shown us the power we possess when we make our voices heard.
We can accept no compromise.
We can wait no longer.
Now is the time.
We are equal.
Since this was written, we've made progress for which I am both grateful and proud, but 2013 holds the promise to fulfil much more of this manifesto's federal goals. To do so, we must renew its energy.
Politically, I still know that we cannot be satisfied with less than full federal equality and that we must never demand anything less. No one respects a people who would disrespect themselves by begging for crumbs. No one respects a people who are too afraid to fight for their own full freedom.
Personally, as a family of Americans, we cannot leave a single one of our brothers or sisters behind, not in Texas, not in Virginia, not in Arkansas, no matter where they live. Even when it feels politically more comfortable to do so. That is not the spirit of our LGBTQ movement.
In 2013, we must continue our hard work locally, but we must never forget that our ultimate freedom will be won at the Federal level. After years of work by so many, we have a date with that destiny come March at the U.S. Supreme Court.
So over the next week, please familiarize yourself with the cases before the Supreme Court (may I suggest 8 the Play), learn all you can about the plaintiffs and lawyers involved, share their stories and your own with your friends and neighbors, volunteer, and do all you can with your voices, words, and wallets to support these cases.
2013 is our new NOW- and NOW is still our time.
DUSTIN LANCE BLACK