I am so very thankful for the community of people who came together to organize and attend the Oct. 22 March on Springfield for Marriage Equality. New bonds were created, old ones reinforced, and it was "all in" despite our community's internal differences.
For me, it was an opportunity to prove that our LGBT and allied communities would actually show up for our rights, because often the leadership of the community is very disconnected from its base. Sometimes it seems it is just about the money, and not the movement.
I am especially grateful to the 12 people who trusted in me to join as co-chairs of the March. Each did what they could to promote and work on this effort. We were then joined by hundreds of volunteers and donors who helped in many ways. We did have very little business support, especially from corporations, but in the end it actually made for a better marchless commercial than Pride has become, and more about the people.
So we showed up, stood in the cold and rain for hours, lobbied our reps in numbers never seen before from our community, and then marched around several blocks in a way that was heard and seen by everyone inside the Capitol dome. So, what is next?
Well, the legislature met just two days so far this fall veto session, and it next meets Nov. 5-7unless it cancels more days. The pressure is on, through multiple efforts, to press for a vote this fall veto session.
Some people are getting petitions to chief House sponsor of the bill, Rep. Greg Harris; others are lobbying their state reps across Illinois. But some people don't want to pressure for a vote if it won't pass.
Here's the reason pressure is needed. Harris and House leader Mike Madigan need to understand that the community does not want to wait based on some political calculus. That cold approach wants to wait until January or even after the March primaries, to save the seats of existing reps because of some threats by the right wing to target anyone voting for marriage equality. This tactic has not been successful in other states. In fact, by delaying, more people become disenchanted and stay away from the polls, or cast a protest vote. And when we have seen a failure in other states, it has motivated pro-LGBT forces to stand up and deliver support in terms of money and votes to get new people into office. No one knows exactly what would happen in Illinois, so fear of failure is causing delay.
While the vote may, in fact, not happen in the veto session, that does not mean we defer to elected officials without making our voices heard. If, in the end, we get marriage equality not now but in a few months, great. But delay tactics usually only help politicians, and not the people. So why is it OK to cover for them?
I will never understand political expediency at the expense of constituents. It's why I would make a pretty bad politician. I would rather lose with courage than win by selling out.
But I am also a practical person, which is why I understand people's fears in risking it all on a vote. Ultimately, the politicians must decide. But we should never stop pressing for victory, because when we sit down and shut up, when we allow one voice to dictate our strategy, what we get is only further delay.
They need to hear from us, in marches and protests, in letters, in phone calls. That is all part of the process. We have our insiders and our outsiders, our militants and our machine. All are part of the delicate balance that has slowly but surely lead to gains in equality.
I am shocked how far we have come since I started in the gay press in 1984. Marriage was on the agenda, but way down in the top 100 goals. Now it is here, and real, for so many LGBTs in this country. Soon, it will be here for us in Illinois. It may be Nov. 5, or it may be next year. By consistently pressuring, and showing up, we make it loud and clear that we are watching, and our patience is running out.