AND A Letter from a Get Equal Lead, C.D. Kirven to the First Lady Explaining the Actions of Ellen Sturtz.
The lesbian community was drawn into a controversy this week as Ellen Sturtz, a leader from the group Get Equal, attended a D.C. fundraiser and interrupted the First Lady’s speech calling attention to the fact that the President has yet to sign an Executive Order that would provide protections for LGBT workers. Many, including those from the LGBT community, criticized Sturtz for her outburst and others pondered the First Lady’s “in her face” response.
Before the election, I really enjoyed seeing my lesbian friends sitting around the White House dinner table with the First Lady, schmoozing, boasting about the grand dollars raised for the President’s election. We were all valued and useful in that moment. Those sitting that close to the First Lady flashed their photo opportunity all over Facebook and social media and we all thought – at last! But they were clearly an elite few.
Those at the table have great businesses, big jobs, family trusts, Silicon valley type payouts, – yes, by whatever means, big enough money to have paid the $10K or facilitated the bundles that placed them in those prime seats. But their voices and purpose seems to have ended with that last mouthful of dessert. Few of those around that table have done anything – certainly noticeable- to further the advocacy or activism for the actual issues that impact the lesbian and LGBT community.
Now post election, those fund raising friends are still enjoying the glory seats, but I do not see or hear those lesbians on the important issues – have they written the President or reminded the First Lady that we are fighting for basic campaign promises? Instead it seems that they are now gearing up to raise money for the next big election, while providing momentary rah-rahs for the next marriage equality centric moment. They are silent on the issues that effect the “lesser” and more vulnerable amongst us. The elite fund raisers, so close, have not used their voice to insist. And that is where Get Equal, street activists and the grass root community will not be silent.
And so when one lesbian spoke out, spontaneously, and interrupted FLOTUS, she seized her one second close moment and expressed the frustration of so many who do not ever get a ‘pound seat’ dinner and recurring ear. Perhaps FLOTUS could have been more understanding.
We have been waiting for job protections for decades and now the President has the opportunity to honor one campaign promise and sign that imperative Federal Executive Order. A promise that one lone lesbian reminded the First Lady about when she spoke at yet another fund raising event hosted by a lesbian couple.
C.D. Kirven, the Texas lead for Get Equal, who when speaking in front of SCOTUS in March described herself as a “street activist,” faxed a letter of explanation today to the First Lady after this incident in D.C.:
C.D. Kirven’s Fax Letter to the First Lady.
The First Lady
Mrs. Michelle Obama
The White House
Permit me, as an African-American member of the LGBT rights group Get Equal, to request a few moments of your very precious time. First, I want to stress in no way did my organization or the LGBT community mean to disrespect you in our recent action. I place before you an issue of great concern to my community and hopefully to our great country. Desperation breeds discontent and the LGBT community has hit a critical cross road in our struggle to become equal citizens. I trust that equality and justice is a subject of great interest to you as the mother of our great Republic. The LGBT community’s watershed moment has arrived and you are now a gatekeeper if there is any hope of releasing inequality’s powerful grip on our constitutional rights. Our battle is currently steeped in a moral tug of war.
As Supreme Court JusticeRuth Bader Ginsberg openly debates the morality of sweeping legislation, the recent increase in LGBT hate crimes in New York City and our hugely disappointing marriage equality loss in Illinois, we find ourselves at an intersection in our civil rights struggle. Unfortunately, we may soon find ourselves faced with obstacles to great to overcome but one such obstacle currently obstructing freedom’s door is within the president’s ability to strike down with the stroke of his pen. The president could release over 22% of the workforce from the shackles of discrimination by signing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) Executive Order (EO). The President of the United States, would be the best and the surest, to set this legal precedence. Before the Supreme Court releases their decisions on Prop 8 and Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), if he so chooses the president by signing the ENDA EO would send a very strong message to the Supreme Court as well as the country.
Our appeal to you though somewhat unconventional did introduce ENDA and its importance back to the American public. My regret is the avenue we enlisted to grab your attention but my pride lies in the knowledge that our plight is now known by thousands of Americans unaware we have no workplace protections. This letter is not an apology but is acknowledging my awareness that our method of direct action has offended many who find themselves in a position of defending your honor. My first lady, I assure you that was never our intent to offend you or the president of this great nation. But, our action was a request for your office and the office of the president to make good on promises made but not yet kept. A scream by thousands of LGBT people fired and unable to care for their children because they have no workplace protections. If you can find in your heart, please know your help is not only wanted but needed in our quest to reclaim rights stripped by bigotry’s greedy hands.
Please excuse the liberty I have taken and with profound respect.
Board Member and Texas Lead Organizer
After receiving much criticism, including that of members from the LGBT community itself, Ms. Sturtz wrote a must read response to the incident in a Washington Post article. It should be noted that although Get Equal was at the event to engage about this issue, it was not the original plan for Ms. Sturtz to be the one to interrupt as she did, however as Sturtz explained she responded spontaneously to the First Lady’s words:
“As a gray-haired, 56-year-old lesbian, I don’t have time to wait another generation for equality — it’s been almost 40 years since similar legislation to ENDA was first introduced in Congress. And being polite hasn’t gotten us any closer to it becoming a reality.
When I attended a Democratic National Committee (DNC) fundraiser a few days ago, I brought this sense of urgency. When I blurted out my comments during the first lady’s speech, it was a spontaneous reaction to her saying, “Right now, today, we have an obligation to stand up for those kids.” I needed to speak up for LGBT youth, who make up 40 percent of homeless youth — kicked out onto the street because parents and workplaces won’t accept them for who they are — and for LGBT parents, whose lack of workplace protections imperils their children’s futures.”
My own thoughts on the action:
Eighteen hours ago I posted this on my Facebook page:
You will notice that I did not do a story about Ellen Sturtz and the FLOTUS interruption on my BLOG. That was because so many people did. It seemed like no news because it was everywhere. I saw Ellen took a lot of flak for her interruption of FLOTUS. Let me say this to all those who criticized her for what she did. If you have yet to be personally impacted by INEQUALITY – I mean REALLY impacted then you have no right to comment on the means and methods employed by those who have been, continue to be or those who truly take to heart the rights of those severely impacted by injustice.
As long as no one gets physically hurt I say WELL DONE to all radical methods employed to draw attention to the gravest of injustices. Maybe I believe this because I have experienced the hurt and pain of my inequality where it has impacted me and my kids dramatically- and maybe I can say this because I have lived through the dramatic change from apartheid to a free South Africa and saw what it takes to truly effect change.
It takes the gentle diplomat and the hard core radical and it all works in tandem.
YOU have to be willing to go to the greatest lengths if you want your equality and your freedom. To this end I say to HELL with courtesy To HELL with decorum and WELL DONE ELLEN you have my 100% support! FLOTUS has a good life…. she can handle it….. Those Impacted by inequality are suffering! They cant wait! And they have – for too long…. AND then look what Ellen did: – The press who did not give a damn finally talking about the issue she raised. I never saw them interested much in even mentioning that executive order before this. A true activist for freedom is the one who is willing to go to such great lengths that they even become unpopular amongst their own! Well done and thank you Ellen!
READ Ellen Sturtz’s account – http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/michelle-obamas-heckler-why-i-confronted-the-first-lady/2013/06/07/5dc68c1c-cf98-11e2-8845-d970ccb04497_story.html
By Melanie Nathan