March 24, 2011 at 3:03 pm EDT | by Autumn Sandeen
The personal cost of getting equal

“… 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Nov. 13, 2010, were a group of LGBT military service veterans and activists who wanted to see “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repealed.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.

  • “The personal cost of getting equal”

    For gays and lesbians in Maryland there is no limit to the cost – so long as only trans people pay it.

  • sacrifice-what we haven’t sacrificed enough?

    Getting fired from jobs or denied a job or gay bashed on a job for 236 years is not enough sacrifice?

    Being denied the 1138 federal and state rights of marriage for 236 years is not sacrifice enough.

    Children being gay bashed to suicide & adults gay bashed to death is not sacrificing enough?

    Trans-national married couples being denied the right to live together for who knows how long is not sacrificing enough.

    Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans being denied the right to serve in the military and even with the repeal of Don’t Ask Just Kick Gay & Lesbian & Transgender American Heroes Out of the Military Replaced with Teabaggers, TheocRATs and Rapists transgender Americans will not be allowed to serve- they have not sacrificed enough?

    As long as the belief is that we have not done enough to have human rights and constitutional rights – we are standing in the way of our own equality -not because we have not sacrificed enough – but because we have sacrificed too much already.

    If you think the reason Don’t Ask Just Kick Gays Out of the Military was repealed was because 13 people chained themselves to a fence, you don’t know what really happened. What really happened was that the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender men and women who had been kicked out of the military swarmed the halls of Congress and lobbied for weeks to get that unconstitutional law repealed. They made the ultimate sacrifice on the battlefield in the illegal invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and after they were kicked out for who they were and who they love they made the ULTIMATE sacrifice once again and did the real work of change – they talked to members of Congress – face-to-face.

    We have sacrificed quite enough. Now it is time to DEMAND our rights face-to-face with the people who think we are not human beings entitled to human rights and not American citizens entitled to unalienable rights. The purpose of civil disobedience is to mobilize the base to further action and bring media attention to an issue, and then getting in the door of the halls of power to DEMAND rights. Martin Luther King stared with civil disobedience but that got him access to lawmakers. GetEqual never talked to lawmakers because they did not know that civil disobedience kicks down the door but then you have to make the ultimate sacrifice and walk through that kicked down door and talk to the decision makers. We have sacrificed enough.

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