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politics

Mission Nearly Accomplished for California's Gay Rights Movement?

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Thu, Mar 29, 2012 at 9:02 AM
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Once full marriage equality is wrapped up in California, there's not much left for the gay rights movement to do in one of the most tolerant states in the nation, right?

Wrong.

"We're in a period of a different kind of activism," says Courage Campaign founder Rick Jacobs. "Things have advanced so radically and positively. We need to take a step back and see what we can do to finish the job."

Here are a few suggestions for front line activists, donors who support them, and everyday folks just trying to take care of themselves. More ideas are welcomed...

Jacobs points out that with so many gay rights laws on the books in the California, it's crucial for gay rights organizations largely based in big cities to watch out for our brothers and sisters in rural areas.

"They should make sure as best they can that [gay rights] laws are applied equally across the state," says Jacobs.

In 2008, we wrote a story for The Advocate in which gay and trans farm workers in California's Central Valley were dealing with on-the-job discrimination, but didn't initially know about the laws that protected them. They suffered all kinds of indignities as a result. A small outfit called Proyecto Poderoso, though, came in and helped the workers.

Jacobs also says gays and lesbians still need to tell their stories and educate the public about our gay experience.

We're not talking about telling folks why their homophobic views are wrong. Just simple storytelling about what it was like to be in the closet, what it was like to come out, and what's happening now.

When people get to know our personal stories, they often become our fiercest advocates.

Additionally, Jacobs notes that our social services network needs to be buttressed.

"We have to make sure people get better social services," says the activist.

Homeless gay youth, gay senior citizens, and unemployed gays and lesbians all need help during these difficult economic times, and with that assistance means people need to wisely donate to good organizations that actually do good work.

Jacobs didn't tell us this, but it's our firm belief that writing a check to any gay rights organization doesn't work. Donors, especially wealthy ones, need to do more homework before they fork over fifty bucks or ten grand. If a group isn't getting things done, they shouldn't get the cash. Instead, a more effective group should receive the largess.

For too long, gays haven't been holding groups accountable with their checkbooks. It's time to be more sophisticated.

There are numerous other suggestions, and we'd like to hear more if you have them. But the work is not done. Not by a long shot.

This new era of activism may also call for a shift in mind set -- from one of what we're against (homophobia of one kind or another), to what we are for (empowering and taking care of the gay community).

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

Follow McDonald on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/PRMcDonald and his Facebook page.

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