March 21, 2011 at 11:05 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Tipper Gore attends GetEqual event

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.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • AndrewW

    GetEqual is simply trying to drag this out and get as much attention as they can. They use these stunts to raise money, that’s all. None of their “crazy shenanigans” change any minds or votes – they are just about trying to raise money.

    Thankfully, the LGBT community understands that these stunts are self-serving ($100,000 salaries) and they have NOT donated to GetEqual. This is clear evidence that we do not support childish confrontation and understand that changing minds and votes requires some real work: conversation.

    We need to educate, enlighten and enroll support for our full equality. Publicity stunts don’t do that – conversation does.

  • Jason

    Dumb. Just dumb.

  • Supporter

    Last article I read said McGehee was now only working part-time for GetEQUAL, so no one is earning any $100,000 salary. They only have 5 employees. Quit trying to mislead people SpamdrewW.

    And you continually talk about “conversations” the community needs to have with the general public. So – what – do you think these activists only get arrested, and NEVER have conversations with people? I’m sure they can walk and chew gum at the same time and these conversations happen just as much as you’d like them to.

    I think we’re all over your manic need to cut and paste your same post on any GetEQUAL article SpamdrewW.

  • mary

    And Tipper Gore gong to this is important because?

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