October 4, 2010 at 2:40 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
LGBT activists join progressive rally challenging Tea Party

‘I am not either black or lesbian. I am both and much more,’ said Darlene Nipper at Saturday’s One Nation Working Together rally in D.C. (Photo courtesy of the Task Force)

A large contingent of LGBT leaders and activists joined tens of thousands of people who turned out for a rally at the Lincoln Memorial Saturday to mobilize voters backing liberal and progressive policies.

Organizers billed the event as a direct challenge to the Tea Party, whose leaders organized a “conservative” and Christian-oriented rally at the Lincoln Memorial site one month earlier hosted by Fox News commentator Glenn Beck.

The National Black Justice Coalition, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and the Human Rights Campaign were among more than 40 LGBT organizations that joined mainline civil rights, labor and immigrant rights groups in sponsoring the Saturday rally called One Nation Working Together.

“I stand here before you today as a proud openly lesbian African-American woman,” said Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, who spoke to the crowd from the Lincoln Memorial steps.

“I am not either black or lesbian. I am both and much more,” she said. “And like you, I seek justice for all of us. In America, justice means equal rights for everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, class, sex, gender expression, sexual orientation or ability.”

In her five-minute speech, Nipper joined most of the more than two dozen speakers in sounding a theme of unity among all progressive groups and constituencies.

“We can no longer work in silos, whether by campaign, issue or community,” said Gregory Cendana, a gay official with the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, who also addressed the rally from the memorial steps.

“There needs to be an understanding that the fight and struggle for economic justice and workers rights is the same fight and struggle for LGBT equality,” he said. “And for civil and human rights it’s the same as the fight for immigrant justice. And access to equality and education is the same fight for the environment and green jobs.”

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, appeared on the speakers’ platform with a group of labor, environmental and education advocates, who recited broad themes of unity for a progressive agenda.

“The whole point is we’re all in this together,” she told the Blade after the rally.

Many of the LGBT participants in the rally, like their straight counterparts, arrived by bus from cities and states along the East Coast, including New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. More than 200 LGBT activists held their own smaller rally at Freedom Plaza at 14th and Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., where they were joined by participants completing the D.C. AIDS Walk.

From Freedom Plaza, the LGBT contingent marched to the Lincoln Memorial carrying signs and banners promoting such causes as repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which calls for prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The National Black Justice Coalition, NGLTF, National Stonewall Democrats and Pride at Work, an LGBT labor group affiliated with the AFL-CIO, sponsored a forum the day before the rally on a national “LGBTQ inclusive social justice agenda” at Howard University School of Law.

Among those attending the Lincoln Memorial rally was former Army Lt. Dan Choi, a national advocate for repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Choi carried a sign calling for addressing LGBT teen suicide, saying ongoing discrimination was responsible for the recent rash of suicides among gay male teenagers.

Christine Quinn, the lesbian speaker of New York City Council, who also attended the rally, said she was among several thousand New Yorkers attending the event.

“I just wanted to make sure my voice was added to the others today calling for a national discussion that isn’t so divisive, isn’t so full of hate and nasty rhetoric but one that is instead about what we needed right now — jobs, improved public education, fuller civil rights and equal rights for everyone,” she said.

In her remarks at the rally, Nipper cited hate crimes as yet another problem that affects different groups and can be addressed by various groups working together.

“We are so proud that last year Congress passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act,” she said. “I hope we never forget those two men and the hundreds of others who died at the hands of hatred — Matthew Shepard, who was killed for his gayness, and James Byrd, who was killed for his blackness.

“Yes, our communities are tied and united together,” she said. “Our communities – people of color and those in the lesbian, gay and bisexual and transgender community stand united against hate crimes of any type against anyone.”

Two other prominent out lesbians spoke at the rally — Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

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

  • I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of emphasis on LGBT rights at the rally. A few of the speakers addressed our issues, but it was really more about issues. Considering how many LGBT organizations were participating, one might have hoped for a bit more coverage.

    • Tim – I am finding (and for a long time now) that other progressive groups will throw us under the bus whenever they can. We are quite expendable and very often aren’t included in their “list” of acceptable issues and groups.

  • TITLE: A “Former Gay Democrat; Now A Gay Tea Party Republican”

    I am Gay, and I have spent nearly half a century as a thoughtless “liberal” gay-clone, believing everything the gay ghetto and my labor union has told me. I have blamed the decimation of gay men dying of AIDS on Reagan, Bush, Cheney, Rove and Gingrich. I have dutifully voted Democratic in almost every election since John F. Kennedy. I have called for a “French Revolution” in America and preached the socialist gospel of European superiority to anybody who would listen. But I have changed!

    What brought about this change? In one word: Obama !!!

    His taxpayer bailouts of the incompetent rich contradicted his beautiful rhetoric of condemning the rich when he campaigned for President. His health-care reform is a farce and does not control costs for any age-group. His star has faded,. His luster is diminished, just as millions of people have lost their homes and their employment. He blames Bush, but unemployment used to be almost half of what it is in today’s Obama-world.

    He has left us so deeply in debt that China, our primary creditor, is almost certain to become the world’s most powerful economy. Even Europe is telling Obama he is going in the wrong direction.

    He implores us to vote for Democrats; and if we don’t, there will be no funding for AIDS. Yet Bush spent hundreds of millions on AIDS, as did Reagan and Gingrich. I no longer believe Gay propaganda and Gay editorial writers.

    I am tired of being expected blindly to follow a Democratic Party that usurps my Gayness to raise millions, only to raise my taxes and to promote bogus fear of Republicans to extort even more money from my friends and me.

    During this campaign season, I have attended numerous GOP and “Gay” GOP events. None of the Republican candidates or GOP activists treated me like an alien. All of them welcomed my patriotism and my gayness. Now I realize how much “so-called progressive gay activists” lie and exaggerate about right-wing homophobia.

    I am fed-up with being told that because I am Gay, I must vote Democratic! Otherwise, I will hate myself. I am tired of Gay left-wing demagoguery in the Gay blogs and publications.

    In 2008, over one out of three Gay voters voted for John McCain in an otherwise dismal year for the GOP. They must have been on to something. I can only hope, for my country and for my unemployed friends and family, that even more Gays will vote Republican in November.

    South Florida

    • And your so The first Black President made you realize who the hell you really were!
      George Bush bailed banks out also. Why didn’t that change your mind then????

      Now go to hell with the rest of the KKK Gays and The Tea Party!

      • You seem to have this knee-jerk reaction regarding black issues and read into any post an attack against blacks. You might want to examine it, because you come across a bit crazy in your posts. Also criticism of Obama as president is not criticism of him as black. Just a thought . . .

    • My biggest question is how did you ever get some much space to post your reply?

      • Not form what I heard. And I’m told – I was out knocking on doors for progressive candidates, that the press ignored tens of thousands who came to protest Glen Beck – the morman asshole of the asshole church of Prop Hate.

        Some people, like Beck will do anything for the multimillion $$ pay they get. For poisoning the well of American Politics. Hey, if America falls apart they’ll have tens of millions invested in gold. And can buy their own jet plane (entry costs about 10 mil+1 mill per year to run and maintain (I’m a commercially licensed pilot).

        To go live in Monaco or whereever else big money will buy them comfort and security.

  • The reporter neglected to mention that, despite being organized by more than 400 union/liberal groups, the rally was a relative bust in terms of turnout.

  • Yeh – and I am your monkey’s uncle. I’ve played your kind of game on some republcian web sites.

    If bush had his way, and if you realize who was behind him, it was the christo-facists of the bible belt in the south. The same people whose culture gave us sslavery, the still active KKK, and segtregation. And would turn gay people in the near “Jews of germany”, and you know where that led. In fact they don’t have to turn you into the new Jews, because germany’s gays joined the Jews in hitlers ovens.

    And if there is a shred of truth to what you claim to be, the bailout was an absoltuely necessary thing. There was an article in some magazine last year, and I’ve seen confirmation of the story recently. On a friday, the govt called together the key banking people, and the key fed reserve people.

    And the situation was simple – if we don’t do anything, the financial markets will NOT open on monday.

    And that would have totally destroyed the economy. It would have been 1929 all over again. I remember my parents telling me stories about it Dad graduated college in 1929. His only job in his chemical engineering field lasted 4 months. I also know how his family almost lost their home (a 3 decker) for want of a $10 or $20 mortgage payment. And how his car was up on blocks for 6 months because he didn’thave $10 for the required insurance in MA.

    And I think the only way that my parents survived the depression was an uncle who was a very capable CPA, and catered to the moneyed people. He supported most of the family – 5 familes – on my mothers side.

    And he said he got a little better, then collapsed again in 1937. Only the upcoming war – a lousy scene – began to bring the economy up. And I was the first child, Conceived in spring of 1939. My parents having waited 6 years to have a child due to economics.

    Whetehr you like the democrats or not, they are the only realistic to the republicans. And I’ve studies the republicans and I’ve studied nazi germany. Adn so much of the republican mantra comes right out of the nazis

    eg If you tell a lie often enough and outrageous enough, it will be seen as the truth. (Goebbels who got hitler elected.)

    all the way to the BS about calling democrats elites – that is also what hitler did to the Jews and others he hated.

    The list goes on. I only wish I could take most of the republcian party – especially the leadership, and send them str8 to an Islamic hell.

    but since we cant do that, Its a susre bet that we shouldn’t support what has as its ultimate goal turning America into a state run by big corporations and the religious extremists. Greed and theocracy.

    And where did theocracy come in re the nazis – well , Hitler was born and baptised CAtholic, and he leveraged the churches hatred of the Jews (the “christ killers) to get elected.

    And like bush and his gang, and huckabee etc, he often talked about moral values – his speeches are preserved in a great library in a book in this country.

    And every german soldiers belt buckle said on it “Gott mit Uns” close enougn to the english that we should all be able to translate it, especially if you drop one letter in the last word.

  • BTW – the catholic church has yet to EXcommunicate hitler, because that would be admitting their guilt.

    And the RATZI Pope in 2009 Unexcommunicated a Bishop Williamson, a a holocaust denier.

    Reminds me of the old line by the right wing churches – “give me a child by the age of 7 and I’ll make him a “good” christian for life.

    Of course – the kid doesnt have the experience or guts to say “Bullshit”

    And you can replace “Christian” with Nazi. Especailly seeing that Pope RATZInger was born in 1928 and grew up in Nazi germany.

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