Tipper Gore, wife of former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, was among about 100 people who turned out Sunday night for a first year anniversary celebration and fundraiser in D.C. for the LGBT direct action group GetEqual.
The group attracted national headlines last year when it organized non-violent “civil disobedience” protests against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in which participants got arrested for handcuffing themselves to the White House fence.
“I’m honored that people were willing to show up and happy to talk about our full equality agenda,” said Robin McGehee, co-founder and executive director of GetEqual.
The event took place at the Mitchell Gold-Bob Williams furniture store showroom on 14th Street, N.W., where co-owner Mitchell Gold, a GetEqual supporter, served as host.
McGehee has said GetEqual was formed to organize the type of non-violent civil disobedience demonstrations used by the African-American civil rights movement in the 1960s, where lunch counter sit-ins and other actions drew attention to segregation laws and other forms of racial discrimination.
She told the gathering Sunday night that similar to the 1960s-era civil rights movement groups, GetEqual believes it’s necessary to stage protests against political leaders supportive of LGBT rights, such as President Obama and former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, whom the group felt were not doing enough to advance equality for LGBT people.
The group staged sit-in demonstrations at Pelosi’s offices in Washington and San Francisco last year.
She said the group hopes to work in harmony with other national and state LGBT organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign, Service Members Legal Defense Network, and National Gay & Lesbian Task Force.
Gore did not speak at the event. GetEqual public relations representative Brad Luna said she made a $100 contribution to the group. Luna said her friend, gay activist Philip DuFour, a former aide to the Gores during the Clinton administration, was among the organizers of the GetEqual event.
“GetEqual is not going to survive if we don’t have the community investing in helping it survive,” McGehee said. “So we’re hoping that people will emerge that are willing to help support the organization, to host house parties or fundraisers.”
The group this year is launching a new program called Organizing for Equality to “highlight state based actions to eliminate the injustice of discrimination and compliment it with national actions,” she said. “So for example, on Valentine’s Day we had 37 actions in 13 different states.”
Another round of actions and protests across the country are planned for “tax day” on April 15, McGehee said, to highlight how LGBT people are taxed but continue to face discrimination and are not protected by non-discrimination laws in most states.
Among those attending Sunday’s event in D.C. were participants who were arrested for handcuffing themselves to the White House fence in a GetEqual protest last November, including former U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Miriam Ben-Shalom, former Marine Corps Sgt. Justin Elzie, and former ROTC Cadet Mara Boyd. The three were discharged from the military in years prior to the White House protests because of their sexual orientation.
Also speaking were veteran D.C. gay activist Frank Kameny and Jon Reinish, special assistant to U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who said Gillibrand is strongly committed to LGBT civil rights.