This year, National Coming Out Day promises to hold even more significance for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans than it normally does.
October 11 has been observed as “National Coming Out Day” since 1988, a day when LGBT individuals are encouraged to be forthright about their sexuality. The day also commemorates the 30th anniversary of the first March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.
In 2009, advocates of equality intend to pour into Washington, DC, for the National Equality March, scheduled October 10 and 11.
“We’re marching this October to demand action from the federal government to protect our rights in all 50 states,” said Kip Williams, one of the march’s organizers in an August statement to the press. “Real equality can only come from the president, the Congress and the Supreme Court.”
Major national LGBT organizations including the Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches have endorsed the march.
On August 12, Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which sponsored national marches in 1993 and 2000, released a statement supporting the march.
“The Human Rights Campaign considers October 11 in Washington, DC, to be a starting point—not a destination,” stated Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese. “Those who join us in the nation’s capital have more work ahead of them after the crowds clear. They need to become citizen lobbyists, ready and able to tell their senators and members of Congress what this community needs to see: an ENDA that protects every single one of us. Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Repeal of DOMA. Protections for our families.”
HRC said it will train march participants to initiate and carry out successful in-district lobby visits, whether they come to DC in person or take their activism on line.
“HRC’s work with the October 11 event will focus on mobilizing face-to-face meetings between community members and their lawmakers,” Solmonese continued. “With thousands of LGBT people and allies coming to Washington to make a difference, it’s our mission to help them become the citizen lobbyists that they want and need to be.”
Bryan Hlavinka, one of the organizers of a burgeoning local march delegation, hopes to bring Houstonian marchers together at the Equality March under the banner of the Texas flag with other Texas delegations “so we can be out and proud Texans.”
Hlavinka is no stranger to civil action on the nation’s capital.
“I went to the 1993 March on Washington, and it pretty much changed my life, to be there with all the masses of gays,” he said. “I think now is the time. Another march is needed, especially with the progress that we’ve made, but also with the progress that’s yet to come. Especially with the Obama administration—there have been a lot of promises made, but not a lot of follow through. Now is the time to go and say, ‘What’s up?’”
Hlavinka further hopes LGBT Texans take the opportunity to be part of the country coming together at the march. “Even though we’re from a ‘red state,’ we can make our presence known that we’re here and we want equality as well, although it’s not in the cards for us yet.”
According to domawatch.org, Texas is one of 30 states that has adopted a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples.
“As states begin to adopt equality policies, eventually Texas will follow suit, I think as well,” Hlavinka concluded. “The more people we get [to join the march], the stronger our presence will be.
Hlavinka said the best way to stay informed about local involvement in the event is to join the “Equality March Houston” Facebook page. —Nancy Ford