Tuesday, October 6, 2009

New Englanders prepare to march on Washington

by Peter Cassels
Tuesday Oct 6, 2009

New Englanders who plan to march on Washington this weekend remain engaged in efforts to block a Maine referendum that would overturn the state’s law that extended marriage to gays and lesbiansIf New Englanders attending the National Equality March in Washington over Columbus Day weekend are indicative of other participants, they don’t believe they are taking away vital resources from the fight against the anti-marriage referendum on the November ballot in Maine. And in fact, many of them also are engaged in that effort.

Hundreds of the region’s LGBT activists and their allies, most of them of young people, will board buses to travel to the Oct. 11 event. Most will leave the night of Oct. 10 or early the following morning and return after the march to avoid the expense of an overnight stay.

National Equality March organizers say they are not lobbying for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act or repeal of the ban against gays in the military and the Defense of Marriage Act or other legislation. Rather, they and participants will pressure Congress and the White House to enact all encompassing legislation to protect LGBTs. They envision a set of laws similar to those of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that protect African Americans and other minorities from discrimination.

In a question-and-answer section on its Web site, march organizers address concerns the event will drain resources and funds from California, Washington and Maine.

"Our intent is to grow the movement, to increase the number of dollars available and the number of volunteers," one statement reads.

Organizers added they have contacted Equality Maine, the group leading the battle against the anti-marriage referendum in the Pine Tree State, about how they can help. March participants will be encouraged to join the battle by volunteering in the state or staffing voter phone banks after the event.

That spirit is reflected in comments by the trip organizers EDGE contacted.

Join The Impact MA, a Bay State organization mobilizing LGBTs to work with existing groups to maximize their effectiveness locally and nationwide, is one of several that are getting together people to travel to Washington. Others include Project 10 East, which supports LGBT school students, GLSEN Massachusetts and the Boston branch of the International Socialist Organization.

Ann Coleman, spokesperson for the Massachusetts organizers, said 270 people will travel to Washington in five buses. Those aboard three of the buses will go for just the day and the other two will spend the entire weekend, attending events on Oct. 10 as well. Organizers have reserved a block of hotel rooms.

One bus has been set aside for area high school students. Students from area colleges will fill at least one more.

"The sentiment in Boston is that we need a new strategy to achieve LGBT equality and we can’t wait any longer," Coleman said. "We see the local struggles, like standing up to the attack on marriage equality in Maine, as equally important as challenging the federal barriers that make any local campaign that much more difficult to win."

She reported her organization is encouraging everyone traveling to Washington to campaign against the Maine referendum and has helped in canvassing during the summer.

"One objective is getting people on the buses to go up to Maine during the last few weeks after the march," Coleman explained.

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