January 12, 2012 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
‘Worldwide’ LGBT marches planned in April

A Facebook group of LGBT rights advocates that claims to have 20,000 members is organizing a series of simultaneous LGBT civil rights marches in the U.S. and abroad that are scheduled to take place April 21.

Oklahoma City gay activist Joe Knudson, who initiated what he hopes will be the world’s largest peaceful protest on behalf of LGBT equality, says organizers have so far lined up marches in 10 U.S. cities, including Washington, D.C; New York City; Chicago; Atlanta; and Hampton, Va.

He said the only location outside the U.S. confirmed for one of the marches so far is an as yet to be selected city in Pakistan. A number of participating cities in Europe are expected to be announced soon, he said.

“The Worldwide LGBT Civil Rights March in 2012 is already gathering sponsors and supporters by the thousands, as well as initial lead organizers from around the world,” organizers said in an October posting on Facebook.

“The march will be held worldwide at various locations at the same time, as well as an online news media event that will keep everyone posted on the events at all locations,” the Facebook posting says.

It adds, “This event has been created by the fastest growing LGBT Equality group, with members from around the world – Let’s Reach 1 Million People Campaign…It’s a start! LGBT Equality.”

Knudson, 56, said he started that group in the late spring or early summer of 2011 with the aim of building a grassroots LGBT advocacy campaign with an international reach. He said he and others involved with the group came up with the idea of the worldwide LGBT marches.

In his Facebook biography, Knudson says he began his career in the banking industry and came out as gay later in life, after being married to a woman and raising children. He has since founded a publishing company in Oklahoma City that he created to publish his recent book, “Living the Difference: An Enlightening Story Revealed for People of All Ages, Straight or Gay.”

Knudson said the book describes his struggles in reconciling himself as a gay man who has embraced his sexual orientation and now yearns to help others do the same and promote the cause of LGBT equality.

A Washington Blade spot survey this week of several of the nation’s largest LGBT national and state advocacy organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, found that all but one were unaware of the global marches.

Heather Cronk, a spokesperson for the national direct action group GetEqual, said GetEqual would play some role in the marches but she did not get back by press time with details about GetEqual’s involvement in the events.

Spokespersons for the other groups said no one had contacted them so far about the planned worldwide marches and they had not heard anything about the events until contacted this week by the Blade.

Among the groups unaware of the marches were HRC, Task Force, the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the Empire State Pride Agenda of New York, the New York City LGBT Community Center, and the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, D.C.’s largest LGBT political group. The National Black Justice Coalition, a Washington, D.C.-based LGBT group, did not respond by press time to an inquiry about whether it was aware of the marches.

Knudson said the New York City march was being coordinated by Christianne Bharath, a 16-year-old high school student on Long Island who says she serves as president of her school’s Gay-Straight Alliance group.

“It’s still in the early stages, Bharath told the Blade on Tuesday. “We’re getting the LGBT Center in with us and also the Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth Center,” of which she said she’s also involved.

Cyndi Creager, a spokesperson for the New York City LGBT Center, said no one from the march group had contacted the center as of this week. Creager said the center would consider whether to provide support for the New York march after learning more about it.

Veteran New York lesbian activist Roberta Sklar, who serves as communications director for the New York-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, said her group also had not been contacted by organizers of the marches.

IGLHRC has contacts with LGBT organizations and activists throughout the world, especially in Latin American countries.

Task Force spokesperson Inga Sorenson said no one from the Worldwide March organization has registered to participate in the Task Force’s annual Creating Change conference scheduled for later this month in Baltimore. The Creating Change conference is considered the preeminent annual gathering of the nation’s LGBT activist and movement leaders.

The designated organizer of the D.C. march, Curtis Sledge, said he lives in Richmond and doesn’t often come to D.C. He said he has changed his work hours as a manager of a McDonald’s restaurant in Richmond to enable him to come to D.C. to make arrangements for the march, including the filing of an application for parade permits with D.C. police and the National Park Service.

Sledge said organizers haven’t decided yet on the exact route of the D.C. march, but they are leaning toward having the march travel past the Lincoln Memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial located next to the National Mall.

He said organizers are planning for a rally with speakers to take place at the end of the march but haven’t decided yet where that would be held. Lesbian comedian Wanda Sykes is among those invited to speak and perform at the event, Sledge said.

“I’m just getting started,” he said. “I will be talking to people at HRC and I will contact D.C.-area universities to get them involved.”

March organizers said they have so far confirmed marches on April 21 in these cities: D.C.; New York City; Albany, N.Y.; Atlanta; Chicago; Oklahoma City; Hampton, Va.; Dayton, Ohio; Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky region; and Portland, Ore., with Pakistan set as the only country outside the U.S. so far.

Knudson and others involved in organizing the marches acknowledge that they don’t have longstanding ties with existing LGBT organizations but hope to build those ties during the final planning stages for the marches.

D.C. gay activist Phil Attey, who has used Facebook to organize LGBT-related endeavors, said Knudson contacted him last year to seek his help with the worldwide march project. Attey said he supports the project and thinks the decision by organizers to hold marches in many cities rather than just Washington was an “excellent idea.” Attey called on march organizers to focus their attention in the U.S. on electing LGBT supportive members of Congress in the November election.

“I will be putting my energy into re-electing the president and electing members of Congress who support our civil rights,” he said. ”I think that’s what they should be doing.”

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

13 Comments
  • Hi I am on the committee of The Equality Project and we would love to be part of the New York parade. Please E-mail back.

  • I am so happyvthis event is takibg place. It is perfect timing , during the primary season anbnd 2012 election. The LGBT community of America and the world deserves to be treated EQUALLY. Our having EQUALITY and Marriage in no way diminishes heterosexual marriage. If anything, it enhances it. Our being able to marry shows that we value the institution of marriage..

    ‘Worldwide’ LGBT marches planned in April
    http://www.washingtonblade.com
    Facebook organizers not connected to established LGBT organizations

  • http://www.washingtonblade.com/2012/01/12/worldwide-lgbt-marches-planned-in-april/

    “Correspondence was sent to every LGBT equality organization in the article prior to the official launching of the event. It is the same old thing, when someone else has the idea and takes the action, they are reluctant to respond back or get involved; now that Marriage Equality USA and GetEQUAL have officially signed on to the event I am sure the response will change when they receive follow ups.

    It’s time more groups take charge and actually do something that will benefit the advancement of LGBT rights rather than just talking about it and do it in a way that will help our cause rather than just a large social party for the movers and shakers; this event is doing that. Maybe after being contacted by the media they will be more prone to answer the requests for assistance. One has to remember, the marches are still over 3 months out and some of the smaller groups already involved many times do not even begin their local preparations until around the 2-3 month prior time period to the event. This is not a national one location march as the main LGBT equality organizations usually support and become involved in, these are more of a Town Hall type structure at the community level and as mentioned in the disclosure, this event was structured around a new grassroots movement with many new, young, and up and coming activists involved.

    Many of the organizations mentioned in the article are of the old school and like the Occupy Movement emergence, the LGBT is also emerging with a NEW MOVEMENT, one that hopefully can accomplish as much or more than the older ones have. The new movement has learned a great deal from the mistakes of the past.”

  • We are grateful for this event. It will prove to the rest of the world how important gay rights should be respected. We are ready to move on with this historical event. God bless every Gay personality in this world

  • Walking the walk to overcome the irrational, immoral, unethical & unChristlike myth of heterosexual-supremacy that dominates Planet Heterosexual-Supremacy.

  • As one of the Worldwide March committee members, I am so proud that this is taking place. We on the committee believe that this is the right time to organize these worldwide marches due to the recent actions at the UN spearheaded by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama. It is our sincerest wish that through these worldwide marches our cause of EQUALITY will be realized once and for all.

  • What is the point of this? I’m an actual LGBT organizer, and I don’t understand why we would put scarce resources into duplicating the June Pride Marches. Was there real outreach to other LGBT groups? How involved are people of color? Trans/GNC folks? Other activists? What is the focus, other than this vague idea of “general equality”? Why this date? So many questions, so few well-thought-out answers.

    This seems like the brainchild of one well meaning but inexperienced crackpot who doesn’t have a clearly articulated strategy for achieving the goals he’s stating, and who is committing many classic errors that exclude broad swaths of the LGBT communities. Is this REALLY a productive use of our scarce resources?

    There are also a lot of red flags that this is a top-down “movement without a movement,” basically the work of a small group of people speaking on behalf of many people (it might even just be one person’s project, Joe Knudson I think his name is).

    If organizers can reasonably justify or explain the purpose of this so-called worldwide LGBT Civil Rights March, I would be extremely interested in hearing that. For now, I’m EXTREMELY skeptical.

    • As a committee member for this event and Oversight Director, it is quite obvious that this individual using the name of Suzie is using this forum strictly to boost her own ego. If she would have read the disclosure document she would have all the answers to the questions she posed and this event is being termed the event of the decade for LGBT Rights by many an activist, as well as various LGBT Organizations who have come on board since this article printed.

      It appears this Suzie has no concept whatsoever of what it takes to organize an event of this magnitude and the window of opportunity that is upon the LGBT to do it now. The person she mentions has donated and done more for the LGBT community than she obviously realizes or bothered to check out and to use her words, the only “crackpot” involved in her comment appears to be herself.

      These marches have in the past few days garnered the support of main stream activists once they saw the articulated disclosure document that Suzie never bothered to read!

      -Jonathan Wolfman

    • Hi Suzie,
      I agree with your comments questioning this effort, [URL REMOVED]

      Instead of answering my questions, the core organizers have basically just attacked me personally, insisting that all answers are in their “disclosure document”. They say that this document is on their website, but it actually is not. They’ve also insisted that there is no correlation between the march and the lead organizer’s book he is promoting. But when you click on the disclosure document link found on their documentation page, it takes you out of their march website and over to the lead organizer’s blog, where there is info on his book, just above the document. So much for “no connection”!

      Even reading that document, I still have questions, yet unanswered. I really think they’ve bitten off more than they can chew. Unfortunately, though, if you question this group, they just go for the jugular instead of respectful discourse…

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