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Queer Talk: The Task Force, Creating Change for Forty Years Through Grassroots Advocacy [VIDEO]

In Atlanta, The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, founded forty years ago, is now meeting for the 25th National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change. I very much regret I’ve never been able to attend one of these conferences. At least there’s a Conference feed. Below is the introductory video for this year’s conference. Watch this one for some smiles.

The Task Force works with LGBT advocates from around the nation, as well as in DC. They are a national organization that, from my perspective, manages to keep “grassroots activism” clearly in focus.

NGLTF, or as it is most often called, The Task Force Foundation, was founded in 1973, in New York. The next year The National Gay Task Force, Inc., was founded. In the About section is a long though incomplete list of their activities in all the years since. A few examples: (emphasis added)

1975 – The Task Force lobbies for the successful ruling by the U.S. Civil Service Commission allowing gay people to serve in government employment. …

1976 – The Task Force launches national educational campaign in response to Anita Bryant’s anti-gay campaign to repeal gay rights ordinances across the country. …

1977 – Task Force Executive Director Jean O’Leary is appointed to President Carter’s International Women’s Year Commission and coordinated the passage of sexual preference resolutions at 30 state conferences and the national conference in Houston – a milestone in making equality for lesbians a key feature of mainstream feminist advocacy.

March 26, 1977 – The Task Force arranges with President Jimmy Carter’s assistant Midge Costanza for a historic first White House meeting with representatives of several gay and lesbian organizations. This is the first time in our nation’s history openly gay and lesbian are welcomed at the White House and the first official discussion of gay and lesbian rights in the White House.

In 2013, “President Barack Obama addresses nation’s largest gathering of LGBT rights advocates in special video message.” The embed link is iffy, but you can watch it via the Facebook page.

The Task Force works with LGBT advocates from around the nation, as well as in DC. They are a national organization that, from my perspective, manages to keep “grassroots activism” clearly in focus.

The conference … is the country’s largest gathering of LGBT rights advocates who are strategizing and organizing for the critical year ahead in the areas of politics, racial and economic justice, marriage equality, faith, family, and more.

Yesterday, Task Force Ex. Director Rea Carey presented the State of the Movement Address with “more than 3,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender … rights activists” in attendance. See the full text of Cary’s speech at the link. Excerpts (emphasis added):

This year, we have a record number seven ‘out’ members of Congress including … Senator Tammy Baldwin. And, a historic first out bisexual member of Congress, Representative Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. …

This year was the year when enough people stood together … and said enough.
Enough with being marginalized, enough with being ignored … .

This year, voters returned Barack Hussein Obama to the White House, who has not only demonstrated with actions that he is the most LGBT-supportive president in the history of our country, but with the inclusion of the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion in his inaugural speech, he squarely placed LGBT equality in the long lineage of movements that have had watershed moments from Seneca Falls to Selma. (And, we will work with him to say more than ‘gay.’)

As always, we did what we do best: working at the grassroots level, organizing and engaging voters, and this year we expanded that focus by mobilizing progressive people of faith – and guess what, it worked! …

And this year, after losing 31 times at the ballot box – yes, 31 times, but who’s counting – this year we won big on marriage.

We beat back marriage opponents in Minnesota and we won marriage equality in Maine, Maryland and Washington state! …

And what makes our movement’s success this last year even more powerful … is that it was not just the LGBT … people who worked for or celebrated these wins.

In fact, some of the first calls and e-mails I got when the president came out for marriage and when marriage equality won in state after state, were from leaders of civil rights, labor, women’s and other non-LGBT organizations. …

Forty years doesn’t seem so long today, now that there’s some wind at our back, the momentum of change growing and energizing our step, but we can never forget what it took to get us to this day – the struggles, the sacrifices, the loss we have been through as a movement. …

Some days I wake up astonished at the pace of our progress, but I also wake up angry about the lack of … protections for LGBT people.

So, yes, as marriage equality takes wider hold … our progress on marriage has made more apparent the dangers for those who could still be left behind by our movement and by our country. …

When we win federal marriage equality – and we will – we must not leave behind the 31 states that will still need to overturn their constitutional bans on marriage equality.

We must not leave behind those who will choose NOT to get married.

We must not leave behind those who still live in the 29 states that have virtually no protections for LGBT people.

We must not leave those behind, who just because they don’t live in a big, coastal city, can’t kiss their lover on the street. …

Carey highlights the Task Force’s new

… online grassroots Organizing Academy – the most sophisticated online training program in the LGBT movement, and frankly many other movements. We will train and support over 1,000 grassroots activists each year who are working for change in their community … .

At national conferences, in state and local organizations, as individuals and families and friends, in workplaces, schools, online, wherever people meet, the LGBT grassroots equality movement will keep creating and growing and working. Eventually, often reluctantly, at least some in DC and state capitals manage to catch up.

(Creating Change Montage Via Task Force Creating Change)

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