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The direct action group GetEqual has gained attention as a result of its bold action, including civil disobedience, on behalf of the struggle for equal rights.

The organization was founded on March 11, 2010 by young activists Robin McGehee and Kip Williams. It was established to continue the message of anger and frustration presented at the National Equality March of October 11, 2009.

Sponsor Message.

The National Equality March was born out of frustration with the loss of referenda on same-sex marriage and other rights; frustration with the alleged co-opting of the gay rights movement by the Democratic Party; and frustration with the failure of President Obama to fulfill the promises he made in his 2008 campaign for the presidency.

The march was called by veteran activists Cleve Jones and David Mixner, but those who responded to the call were primarily young people who had been stirred into action by the passage of Proposition 8 in California, which they attributed to a failure of strategy and vision on the part of the established gay political organizations, especially Equality California and the Human Rights Campaign.

Their disappointment with the loss of the campaign against Proposition 8 was compounded by their disillusionment with the Obama administration, which seemed to distance itself from the promises that had been made in the presidential election of 2008, especially its failure to end the Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) policy that precluded the service of openly gay men and lesbians in the military, to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), and to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

The march was hastily organized by McGehee, a communications teacher and mother of two from Fresno, California who became an activist by joining the struggle against Proposition 8, and Williams, then an online campaign strategist for Radical Designs, a San Francisco-based firm that builds websites for advocacy groups.

It was largely ignored by the established gay rights organizations, and promoted primarily through the Internet. Nevertheless, it attracted some 250,000 participants and featured speeches by such new activists as Academy Award-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, actress Cynthia Nixon, DADT protester Lt. Dan Choi, and pop singer Lady Gaga, as well as Jones, Mixner, and civil rights icon Julian Bond.

The message of the National Equality March was that the glbtq grassroots had grown thoroughly disillusioned with President Obama and the pace of change accomplished by his administration.

Even more significant, many participants in the march believed that the Human Rights Campaign and other established organizations had become less intent on advocating for glbtq rights than on apologizing for the inaction of the Democratic Party. Hence, they felt a need for a new organization, one that would be more representative of grassroots aspirations, less interested in currying favor with the powerful, and more assertive in demanding equal rights.

GetEqual was founded in order to fulfill this need. Its mission is to empower the glbtq community and its allies "to take bold action to demand full legal and social equality, and to hold accountable those who stand in the way."

In furtherance of this goal, GetEqual uses the tactics of nonviolent civil disobedience of the 1960s civil rights and anti-war movements and those utilized by ACT-UP in the 1980s: sit-ins, pickets, disruptions, and a great deal of political theater.

With the support of philanthropist Jonathan D. Lewis and his political advisor Paul Yandura, GetEqual was born as a result of a retreat that McGehee and Williams held with 45 other activists at the Highlander Research and Education Center in New Market, Tennessee, where Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. had studied in the 1950s. The 5-day retreat in January 2010 concentrated on trust-building exercises and lessons learned from the civil rights movement.

As Andrew Harmon and Kelly Eleveld pointed out in 2010, GetEqual "is an amalgamation of grassroots passion, Beltway savvy, and well-heeled support. Conceived out of a desire to revive the legacy of civil disobedience as exemplified by the civil rights movement and the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), the group has both directed and inspired a spate of protests by activists nationwide."

The organization has sponsored actions that range from sit-ins in former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi's office, disrupting traffic in Las Vegas and New York City, picketing the Ugandan embassy in Washington, D. C., heckling President Obama at fundraisers, to "glittering" politicians such as Republican Presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Michelle Bachmann and, most dramatically, to chaining protesters to the fence in front of the White House.

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