GetEqual: Open Letter to Equality NC
Submission by Angel Chandler of GetEQUAL NC. Cross-posted with permission. View the original article here.
North Carolina State Organizer, GetEQUAL NC
June 7, 2011
Director, Equality NC
I was disappointed to see Equality NC attacking a small group of grassroots LGBT activists for our action on 6-2-11 in Raleigh. I was one of the three activists arrested for entering the House of Representatives floor and chanting “Liberty and Justice for all North Carolinians” along with my partner of 14 years, Mary Counce, and Jim Neal. Your statements regarding our action were divisive, demeaning, and damaged our organizations ability to work together for the goal of equality. It not only damaged a potential working relationship between our two organizations, it also created a riff in the LGBT community that was harmful and unnecessary.
At GetEQUAL NC, we believe in working with every organization towards the goal of equality, despite differences in beliefs regarding tactics. Working in a way that doesn’t insult other organizations is important to our community and helps to build a stronger coalition. Insults, blame, and shame will only have one result: division and conflict. Unity between organizations, regardless of differences in tactics and direction, will make our community stronger and the movement more efficient. Unfortunately, Equality NC did not choose a path that represented professionalism and unity.
I understand from your statements to the press that Equality NC disagrees with our action. I only wish that as a leader of a state-wide LGBT rights organization, you had reached out to me, also a leader of a state-wide organization, before the rally or at least before your damning statements.
The statement released by Equality NC spoke of the willingness to partner with other groups. I have reached out to Equality NC many times, but have never received the “partnership” that you mentioned. I have emailed and spoken to members of EQNC staff, asking to sit down and talk about how our organizations could work together for the good of equality in North Carolina, was promised meetings, but never saw a result. Maybe if we had been able to sit down and discuss the issues at hand, you would have a better understanding of our goals, mission, and tactics and vice-versa.
Unfortunately, instead of offering the partnership so passionately mentioned in your statement, Equality NC has impeded our efforts on multiple occasions, which not only serves to strengthen the opposition and weaken our community, it emboldens our legislators to codify our second-class status.
I want to give you a few examples of how, since beginning to organize with GetEQUAL in January of this year, I have reached out to Equality NC and was shown no partnership in return.
- I emailed Rebecca Mann on numerous occasions, asked to meet with staff at Equality NC to talk about working together and building a relationship between the two organizations, a meeting was never set up.
- I requested Equality NC participating at our State of Equality event in March of 2011. I requested you participate on the panel, joining other participants including Christine Sun of the ACLU, Constance McMillen, and Dan Fotou of GetEQUAL. I was told you were interested, filled out the speakers request form, then got no response either accepting or rejecting the offer.
- Several groups helped to sponsored the State of Equality event by donating $25 for a table to set up and hand out information on their organizations. Equality NC refused to pay the $25, Rebecca Mann stated that instead your organization would send out an email advertising the event in exchange for the table space. All other organizations, including ones who thrive on a budget less than 1% of yours, donated the $25 to help fund the event because they understood the need for community-wide, grassroots events across the state, and they sent out emails advertising the event. We gave you the table space, without the donation as an olive branch.
- I reached out to Equality NC again after the couple in Clayton, NC were victims of a hate crime. I asked your organization to join us and other organization in an effort to give a response to the rise in hate crimes against LGBT individuals in North Carolina. Dan Fotou of GetEQUAL also contacted Rebecca Mann to ask for participation from your organization. I asked a representative from your organization to get on a conference call with GetEQUAL NC and other organizations to discuss how we could respond. We were told that you didn’t have funding to do anything (although we weren’t doing anything that required funding, only messaging) and that your organization didn’t address hate crimes. Dan Fotou stated that Rebecca Mann did agree to get on a conference call, but she never responded to the invitation I sent.
- I spoke to an Equality NC board member and requested that your organization be a co-organizer for the rally on 6-2-11 and requested a speaker from Equality NC. I received a resounding “No” to co-organizing, speaking, and a decline to even advertise the event. Why would Equality NC not support a rally which gave members of the community an opportunity to hold lawmakers accountable and to make people feel more involved in the fight for equality beyond signing their name on a postcard?
- Shortly before the event I received a call from Jen Jones, Equality NC Communications Director, stating that they would like to talk about how your organization could show “support” for the event. I emailed her, informing her I was confused by the offer since I had been told you would not be involved in any way, shape or form. She stated that she sent out an email to Equality NC’s email list to inform folks about the event. I am on the Equality NC email list, curiously I did not receive any emails advertising our rally. Maybe the email was only targeted to people in the Raleigh area, even though it was an event representing LGBT individuals from across the state.
- After denying to be a part of the Rally in Raleigh on 6-2-11, your staffers showed up, handing out postcards during the entire rally, and disrupting the event. People contacted me and complained that people weren’t able to hear speakers due to Equality NC staffers attempting to get postcards filled out.
- After the rally you chose to condemn us, still declining to even try reaching out to me or anyone else in our organization for a simple discussion about equality
These are a few examples of how we have reached out to partner with your organization, and how we have been rejected, ignored, and disrespected. If Equality NC truly wants to work together, your actions have not shown it.
GetEQUAL has one mission: equality. Our mission is not to spend many years building relationships with legislators at a cost of millions of dollars. Our mission is very similar to civil rights movements of the past. We very much believe in the necessity of civil disobedience and nonviolent direct action to affect change. There have been no oppressed groups in the history of our country that gained equality through a petition or postcard campaign. Petitions and postcards are an effective tool, but they cannot be successful alone. Dr. King stated it best when he stated, “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to so dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored”. Until we see full equality in North Carolina, GetEQUAL NC will work to create that tension, that crisis, that state of emergency that will force our elected representatives to confront the issue.
In your statement you give Equality NC total credit for keeping the anti-marriage equality amendment off the books until now. However, this is quite incorrect and self-aggrandizing. As we well know, the General Assembly of North Carolina has not been controlled by Republicans since the 1800′s. As soon as both the House and Senate were taken over by the GOP, we saw them attack LGBT constituents. If it is merely your work that kept Democrats from passing this legislation in years past, I for one would like the names of all the Senators and Representatives who have a “D” after their name that you worked tirelessly to keep from sponsoring and pushing an anti-LGBT amendment. Please, name names. We need to know who is on our side and who is not. What Democratic elected officials have taken a stand against not only a constitutional amendment but for equality for LGBT citizens? Who are our allies? Which elected officials are undecided? Who do we, not the leaders of LGBT rights groups but we North Carolina citizens, need to be meeting with? What is Equality NC doing that gets people involved on a grassroots, community-based level beyond handing out and signing postcards and asking for donations? We need more transparency from Equality NC on exactly what you have done, what you are doing, and how you are doing it when it comes to working for LGBT equality in North Carolina.
Many of us, including myself, in North Carolina have not expected legislators to pass marriage equality, or for that matter much other pro-equality legislation. However, we also didn’t expect to be attacked in the way that we have. If Equality NC had been successful in keeping the anti-marriage amendment at bay we may not have had the need for direct action in North Carolina, instead choosing to focus on a federal level. For whatever reason you were unsuccessful in keeping the amendment from being brought to committee, it created an environment where our rights are now under attack in a way we have not seen in North Carolina. For this reason, we can no longer rely on your organization to represent us, lobby, set up petitions, make friends in Raleigh, etc. We have to do more now that you have failed to prevent the measure from coming to committee. Unfortunately, all those years you spent building relationships, in the end, did not work. How I wish it had. It is time for more than the masses only relying on staff and lobbyists working for an organization with huge overhead; it is time for all North Carolinians to own our own equality. You tried it your way. Many years and millions of dollars later, we are facing a crisis that threatens the livelihood, safety, and basic rights of LGBT citizens of this state. In this state of emergency, we must act. We can act together, in unison for the same goal, or we can diverge down our own paths being at odds. Your choice. But if you choose to continue alienating us, and in doing so many others in North Carolina, you choose a path that splits the community, and is harmful for equality.
I hope you reconsider your position and the tactics you are using against another LGBT rights organization, for the good of all North Carolinians.
Mary Counce, GetEQUAL NC
Heather Cronk, Managing Director, GetEQUAL
Dan Fotou, Regional Director, GetEQUAL
Dan Gurley, Board Chair, Equality NC
Rod Goins, Board Chair, Equality NC
First time here? See what we're all about... Get involved... Send us a tip!...