On Friday around 10:00 p.m., a charter bus will load a group of University students and deposit them in Washington, D.C., for a weekend of grassroots education and activism focused on one thing: full and equal rights under the law for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. These Wolverines will join thousands of other LGBTQ people and their Allies at the National Equality March.

The National Equality March comes at a time where LGBTQ people are on the cusp of gaining rights denied to them in a number of areas: the right to serve openly in the armed forces, the right to work without the fear of unjust dismissal and the right to have their social contracts recognized by the federal government, to name a few. Never before have Congress and the president been more active in discussing the lives of the LGBTQ community, but discussion is not action. The National Equality March is an opportunity to give that extra push — a way for LGBTQ people and their allies to state clearly, “the time is now.” Surely, eyes and ears will be on Washington Saturday night, where President Barack Obama will be speaking at the Human Rights Campaign Annual Dinner. It’s unclear what statement he will make, but many hope for more than an excuse for inaction and another plea for patience.

The National Equality March moves forward with the weight of history at its back. The actual day of the March — Sunday, Oct. 11 — falls on the thirtieth anniversary of the first March on Washington in 1979. This march birthed National Coming Out Day, celebrated every year on Oct. 11. The premise of National Coming Out Day is both simple and infinitely complex — celebrate and embrace your authentic identities and be OUT. National Coming Out Day is a strong vehicle in combating the gads of misinformation about the lives of LGBTQ people. In being OUT in our identities, we boldly state that LGBTQ people are all around — leading healthy and fulfilling lives as your colleagues, neighbors, professors and friends.

When we return from the National Equality March, there will be work to do. Organizers of the march expect people to return to their communities and enact change in congressional districts statewide. Even in our own residence halls and classrooms, we need to actively and proactively stand against homophobia, hate and discrimination. If you cannot join us in Washington, then join us when we get back. You can be an important partner in the work for LGBTQ equality through your involvement in programs like the LGBTQ Ally Training Program or the National Coming Out Week rally. For more information, visit SpectrumCenter.umich.edu.

Gabe Javier
The letter-writer is assistant director of the Spectrum Center.

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