In December, I wrote about a new organization that was being started by Media Matters for America. It was exciting to see this great organization move into the realm of LGBT affairs. Since the launch of Equality Matters a little more than two months ago, it seems to be an organization still looking for a purpose and trying to define itself.
The New York Times wrote about Equality Matters prior to its launch that it would be great to have a “communications war room” for the LGBT community. Others felt that since Media Matters was so successful at responding to the lies and distortions of public policy in the media that Equality Matters would play a similar role.
But over the past couple of months it appears that Equality Matters may have been launched too soon and before its organizers had a real strategy and mission for what they would do. There are some intelligent and creative people working there, including Richard Socarides, Kerry Eleveld and Trevor Thomas. They all have solid credentials and expertise in communications and LGBT affairs. What I don’t think they have figured out yet is what they should be doing that will complement the efforts of the existing LGBT organizations.
I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Robin McGehee of GetEqual and shared some thoughts as she told me they are strategizing the future of that organization. GetEqual is an activist group that has become something of a de facto ACT-UP of the modern LGBT movement. It has promoted protest actions, like Lt. Dan Choi chaining himself to the White House gate to push for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and a series of marriage actions on Valentine’s Day to promote marriage equality.
They are filling a void that other LGBT organizations don’t cover. They have a mission and a purpose. They have already proven that they can accomplish something with their role in the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Although GetEqual is far from alone in deserving credit — HRC, SLDN and many others have worked hard on this issue for years —GetEqual helped bring it to the front pages of our newspapers and to our TV screens in a way that helped Congress and President Obama move it to passage.
While GetEqual has a purpose and mission and is looking at how to continue to fund its operations, it appears that Equality Matters has funding and no real purpose or mission. Why can’t they get together?
A recent update from Equality Matters on marriage equality focused on statements by Socarides and an old interview and column by Eleveld. Yet clearly there are so many others who have spoken out on this who deserve credit for the forward movement of the administration. Thus far, Equality Matters doesn’t seem like a “communications war room” but rather a self-congratulatory effort. That may not be an entirely fair characterization, but many hope there will be more from Equality Matters when it gets organized. That is why there could be a genuine symbiotic relationship possible if they would join forces with GetEqual.
If we are to move the nation toward marriage equality and full civil and human rights for LGBT people, then the focus has to be on the states. We need to find and cultivate leaders in each state and city and find recognizable and respected allies and help them to pen op-eds and make statements on our behalf and get the media to focus on those. We need to build a cadre of young people, such as elected student body presidents at universities across the nation, who support LGBT rights and are willing to speak out in their schools and states. These are actions that could be a great part of the mission of Equality Matters with the folks at GetEqual doing the legwork and the organizing.
GetEqual reportedly needs about $500,000 a year to operate. Equality Matters could help them raise those funds and then capitalize on the work they do by using the media savvy of Equality Matters.
We need to grow our presence in the states and we need to find new leaders to speak out for the next generation of the LGBT community. Both of these organizations could play a pivotal role in accomplishing this by working together.