“… And so this social revolution taking place can be summarized in three little words. They are not big words. One does not need an extensive vocabulary to understand them. They are the words ‘all,’ ‘here,’ and ‘now.’ We want all of our rights, we want them here, and we want them now.
“Now the other thing that we must see about this struggle is that by and large it has been a nonviolent struggle. Let nobody make you feel that those who are engaged or who are engaging in the demonstrations in communities all across the South are resorting to violence; these are few in number.
“ … You see, this method has a way of disarming the opponent. It exposes his moral defenses. It weakens his morale, and at the same time it works on his conscience, and he just doesn’t know what to do. If he doesn’t beat you, wonderful. If he beats you, you develop the quiet courage of accepting blows without retaliating. If he doesn’t put you in jail, wonderful. Nobody with any sense likes to go to jail.
“But if he puts you in jail, you go in that jail and transform it from a dungeon of shame to a haven of freedom and human dignity. And even if he tries to kill you, you’ll develop the inner conviction that there are some things so dear, some things so precious, some things so eternally true, that they are worth dying for. And I submit to you that if a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.” (Martin Luther King Jr., Speech at the Great March on Detroit, June 23,1963)
On March 18, 12 of the 13 activists who came together for a direct action on the White House fence met for a court date in Washington. The 13 of us who handcuffed ourselves to the White House fence on Nov. 13, 2010, were a group of LGBT military service veterans and activists who wanted to see “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repealed.
The 12 of us who were at the courthouse (one was ill and couldn’t make it) and our two attorneys agreed, before going into court, to go to trial over our arrest. We, as a group, perceive that the U.S. District Attorney representing the federal government is too aggressively prosecuting this case. There is a free speech issue at play here and the zealous prosecution by the federal government appears to us to be one of message censorship.
The facts of our case aren’t in dispute. The 13 of us handcuffed ourselves to the White House fence, chanting “I am somebody” to send the message that the president and Congress needed to act to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and allow lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members to serve openly.
The bottom line for the 13 of us was that in unanimity we were ready to go to trial but that decision has been postponed until May because we still aren’t sure what the final charge against us will be. If there is a trial — or even if we end up pleading to lesser charges that have us ending up with no federal record — the next court date set for either of those two outcomes will be Sept. 19.
The 13 of us who went to jail spent time in what has become to us and others “a haven of freedom and human dignity.” I believe our efforts helped move the LGBT community closer to ordinary equality. Do we in the LGBT community believe “some things are so dear, some things so precious, some things so eternally true, that they are worth dying for?”
Ordinary equality for members of the LGBT community is going to take sacrifice. We should all already know that it’s going to take more effort than just lobbying alone to see the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act pass into law. The question has really become how much we, as a community, as well as individual community members, are willing to sacrifice for ordinary equality.