GetEQUAL, Other Groups Protest National Prayer Breakfast

by Michael K. Lavers

National News Editor

Thursday February 2, 2012

Roughly two dozen LGBT activists from GetEQUAL and other groups protested outside the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., earlier on Thursday.

The number of activists who protested against the annual event's organizer-The Fellowship, also known as The Family-this year was noticeably less than the dozens who gathered outside the Washington Hilton last February. President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were among those who attended the annual event.

GetEQUAL managing director Heather Cronk said that she and others from Occupy Washington and the American Civil Liberties Union wanted to draw attention to the secretive organization's global connections to homophobia and anti-LGBT violence.

"We're protesting the fact that The Family is holding a national prayer breakfast attended by senators, representatives, the president and the vice president - specifically because of The Family and The Fellowship's role in supporting anti-gay legislation across the world," said Cronk.

Cronk and other protesters pointed to the secretive organization's ties to Ugandan Parliamentarian David Bahati, sponsor of the so-called Anti-Homosexuality Bill that would impose the death penalty upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts. The State Department noted both Bahati's measure and an increase in anti-LGBT violence in Uganda in its 2010 Human Rights Report.

The protest took place slightly more than a year after Ugandan gay activist David Kato was murdered in his Kampala home.

"Everybody deserves equality and we shouldn't support people that don't feel that way," said Shannon Glatz of GetEQUAL Ohio as she and her girlfriend, Liberty Manos, held a large banner near the hotel's driveway.

Protesters were quick to applaud Clinton's landmark speech on LGBT human rights that she delivered in Geneva in December to commemorate Human Rights Day. She stressed in a separate address at the National Institutes of Health in November that repealing anti-gay laws is believed to be among the most effective ways to curb the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.

GetEQUAL's Michael Dixon said that the Obama administration can do even more to advance LGBT rights both internationally and in the United States.

"We'd love to have them stop coming to events that are sponsored by people who are trying to kill us," he said. "That would be an important statement if the president were to say 'I'm not coming to the National Prayer Breakfast next year and this is why.' That would be a huge step forward and it would set an example for heads of state from around the world who come to this event."

Jennifer Tidd, a mother of four from Reston, Va., held a sign that read "I'm pretty sure when Jesus said love everybody, he meant gays too," as she stood along Connecticut Avenue. She urged Obama to forcibly speak out against The Fellowship and other groups that perpetuate homophobia.

"The president needs to use his bully pulpit, he's the most powerful leader on earth," said Tidd. "He needs to say this is wrong. He needs to not attend breakfasts with people who are perpetuating this stuff."

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.