Local gay rights activist Tommy Simmons served as the lead organizer of the statewide delegation for the National Equality March in Washington, D.C. last Sunday. He took a few moments to tell the Flyer about his experience.
Flyer: What was your overall impression of the march?
Simmons: Immediate success of a march can be gauged, in part, by the shear number of people who attended the march. I thought the turnout (most estimates between 150,000 and 200,000) was very impressive considering the few weeks we had to plan the event. Between 100 and 125 from Tennessee marched together under a Tennessee banner and a giant State of Tennessee flag.
What was the highlight of the event for you?
For me, the highlight was witnessing the large number of students at the march. For example, over 20 students marched together from the University of Tennessee and around 15 from Rhodes College. The future of the LGBT movement is in good hands.
Do you feel like President Barack Obama really got the message the march was intended to send?
Based on comments and actions (or lack thereof) prior to and immediately after the march, I am concerned that, not only President Obama, but members of Congress (both gay and straight ally), do not realize the magnitude of many LGBT voter’s frustrations and anger.
Since the Stonewall riots in 1969, we have lost ground in our fight for equality. Most of the ground lost was during the Clinton administration when both the Defense of Marriage Act and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell were passed. The message the president and members of Congress need to get is this: We will no longer accept compromises and fractions of equality.
What’s next for the local delegation?
Equality Across America, the group that planned the National Equality March, is a grassroots network of organizers in all 435 Congressional Districts. The local delegation will coalesce into the new Equality Across America — Mid-South Congressional Districts Action Team. We will take actions, build coalitions, change hearts and minds, and demand equality from our local federal leadership (US House and Senate).
For more information on the local chapter of Equality Across America, check out their Facebook page.