Great news if you are struggling to stay healthy while HIV-positive and thought you had a friend in Cleve Jones: He’s dropped any plans to have your back in October at the National Equality March. (UPDATED. See below.) Also worth mentioning: There will be no direct demands for the the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, marriage equality legislation, or killing the Defense of Marriage Act.
Jones, whose rise to activism fame rode squarely on the shoulders of the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, scrapped a planned AIDS vigil that was going to go down Oct. 10 in front of the Lincoln Memorial. How come? Because, says co-organizer (and there are a lot!) Kip Williams, they couldn’t get their act together. Officially, according to Williams (pictured, below): “There were a number of organizations considering taking the lead. In the end, no one had the resources or capacity to step up.” (You’ll recall that Jones previously turned his back on AIDS-y things, including the AIDS Quilt.)
Uh huh. So what will take place in the vigil’s place on Saturday? Training sessions with HRC and NGLTF. Same diff!
Critics might suggest this is what you get for not giving yourselves enough time to plan a national march on Washington. Oh, those critics!
But here’s the real rub: Lest you thought you were traveling to D.C. to demand marriage equality, an end to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, or the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, well, YOU ARE WRONG.
That’s because as as a subsidiary of a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization (currently WhiteKnot.org, but “eventually” the Tides Foundation) that accepts tax-deductible donations, NEM’s parent organization Equality Across America cannot legally “influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities,” the Bay Area Reporter reminds us.
Except, uh, that’s exactly what Equality Across America’s website is doing! EAA’s site says its “One Single Demand” is “equal protection in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states. … Equal Protection encompasses many issues, including: Repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) so that every marriage in every state has the same federal rights. Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell so that LGBT persons may serve in the military openly and with the same rights as their straight counterparts. An end to workplace discrimination for everyone with an Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that protects everyone.”
That, uh, sort of sounds like a direct call for legislative decisions to us.
But to clear up any confusions, Williams says attendees will be “marching for full federal equality in all matters governed by civil law,” and not for stupid things like marriage equality or ending DADT or passing ENDA. Of course, he has to say those things, or Equality Across America and Tides would be violating federal tax code. And Jones doesn’t want to repeat history.
But wait a second: Isn’t this sort of thing exactly what we’re accusing groups like the National Organization for Marriage of doing? Fronting tax-exempt money (from the Mormon Church) to influence legislation?
Now, if you still plan on attending, what can you expect to see? Aside from lots of portable toilets? Well, President Obama has been invited, but there’s no word on whether he’s coming or, you know, not. Meanwhile, with a month to go before the march, Williams says he hasn’t yet even spoken to legislators like Reps. Barney Frank and Jared Polis about attending. But he’ll do that. Soon. Ish.
UPDATE: The AIDS group Housing Works, along with Campaign to End AIDS, says it will stage a HIV/AIDS vigil on Oct. 10 at the Ellipse.