Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Jones invites Obama to march


Cleve Jones. Photo: Rick Gerharter
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Cleve Jones, who this spring issued the call for a national march on Washington, D.C., has sent a letter to President Barack Obama inviting him to speak at the October 11 event, although that's the same weekend that the president could be in San Francisco.

Obama, as first reported by the Bay Area Reporter last month, has been invited to San Francisco for the PGA Presidents Cup golf tournament, which takes place at Harding Park Golf Course October 6-11. The event features 20 of the world's top golfers, including Tiger Woods.

The National Equality March takes place October 11, which is National Coming Out Day. Speakers will include longtime gay activist David Mixner, who also called for a march; Judy Shepard, mother of slain college student Matthew Shepard; and Christine Quinn, the out lesbian speaker of the New York City Council. The cast of the Broadway musical Hair is also slated to attend. A number of national LGBT groups are also planning trainings for activists on Saturday, October 10.

In his letter, Jones, who announced the march in May at the Meet in the Middle rally in Fresno and is serving as co-chair, compared the equality march with the civil rights march on Washington of 1963, when the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. made his famous "I have a dream" speech.

"We have a dream too," wrote Jones.

In his letter, he said organizers' goal is to achieve "full and equal protection for LGBT people in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states."

"Equal rights are not a 'gay' issue," wrote Jones. "They are about our shared human rights: safety in our schools and jobs, equitable health care and housing, and protection for our families, to name a few."

"We do not expect to achieve our goal overnight," Jones added. He said in the letter that Obama has "given us hope that civil rights remain on this nation's agenda."

"We urge you to remind the world that we are welcome members of this nation," wrote Jones. "We invite you to stand with us in pride."

Jones's letter, which is dated September 22, comes about a month after he told the B.A.R. in an e-mail that march organizers were inviting the president.

March organizer Kip Williams explained this week that Jones had been talking to Brian Bond, the openly gay deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, about the march and that Bond had said to send the letter.

In an interview earlier this month, Shin Inouye, Obama's director of specialty media, would neither confirm nor deny the presidential visit to San Francisco.

"His schedule for October is still not set," Inouye said at the time. He did not respond to a request for comment by press time this week.

Williams said that he doesn't think Obama will speak, but he hopes the president will issue a message to marchers. Williams said that he didn't know of a president ever speaking at a march before.

In mid-September, when asked about the possibility of Obama being in San Francisco at the same time marchers were going to Washington, Williams said in an interview that he wanted to make sure "there's some genuine activism that's happening locally" if Obama does come to the city.

"I want to be clear that I don't believe we should protest Obama, certainly, but show up to speak up for our rights and hold him accountable," Williams said at the time.

This week, Williams said that most of the members of One Struggle, One Fight – another group that he's an organizer with – are "actively engaged" in the march and that they're not planning anything around a possible Obama visit to San Francisco.

Marriage supporters organized by Marriage Equality USA plan to march the span of the Golden Gate Bridge on October 11, the day of the national march.

MEUSA has walked the span of the bridge in previous years. However, banners and signs are not allowed to be carried on the bridge, making it a less visible event. People attending the bridge march will be wearing T-shirts supporting marriage equality, MEUSA spokeswoman Molly McKay said last month.

If Obama does go to the golf tournament, McKay said that there are plans for after the bridge march. She said they'll head to the golf course area with signs that say things like "Fore equality" and "Equality is par for the course."

McKay said this week that her group's plans haven't changed.

In addition to Obama, former Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush have been invited to the golf tournament.

Jim Appleby, an aide to Bush, said in an e-mail this week that the former president's schedule isn't finalized.

Staff at Clinton's foundation did not respond to requests for comment on the possible San Francisco trip by press time.

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