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Robin McGehee on "8, The Play": It was fun (but we shouldn't have to be doing this)

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Note from Joe: Robin McGehee is a great friend of AMERICAblog's. We're big fans. She's the amazing activist who helped organized the National Equality March on Washington back in 2009, then founded GetEQUAL. Last night, she was in the audience for AFER's production of "8, The Play." Robin's activism started with Prop. 8, so she sent us her take on last night's event (along with some photos.)

If you missed the live broadcast, watch it here. It's worth it -- and remember, the haters don't want people to know what happened at the trial. The play begins at 29:51.

From Robin:

If you would have asked me a week ago if I was going to the American Federal for Equal Right's showing of "8" in Los Angeles - I would have replied, "I wish!" I am a full-time mom and professor at the College of the Sequoias in a small town called, Visalia, California. Although I am deeply devoted and in love with what AFER has done for the marriage equality fight in California, and globally for that matter, there is no way I could afford to get in.

For those who don't know what "8" is, here's the description on their Facebook page:

“8,” a new play chronicling the historic trial in the federal legal challenge to California’s Proposition 8, written by American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) Founding Board Member and Academy-Award winning writer Dustin Lance Black and directed by Tony Award-winning actor and director Joe Mantello, will have its world premiere on Broadway in an exclusive, one night only fundraiser to benefit AFER at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre on Monday, September 19, 2011.

The production is an unprecedented account of the Federal District Court trial of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the case filed by AFER to overturn Prop. 8, which eliminated the right to marry for gay and lesbian couples in California.
But, somehow, I was presented with a ticket. Yes, I got there. To be honest, I was as honored to be in the room with LGBT movers and shakers as I was to be in the same room with the Hollywood elite. Don't forget, I am a lesbian that grew up in Jackson, Mississippi - reading the stories of these activist turned board members who were now standing with me as we all stood in awe of the fact that we were in the same room with George Clooney.

The first couple I was able to meet was Kris Perry and; Sandy Stier, in my humble opinion, rock star plaintiffs from the Prop 8 trails. We discussed the conservative, religious bigotry hotbed of the Central Valley that we both have called home and I shared how honored I felt to say "thank you" to the both of them for sharing the story of two mothers who just wanted a better life for not only themselves, but also for their sons. I deeply believe these women will go down in the history books, with their joint plaintiffs -- Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami -- as famously as Mildred Loving and Richard Perry Loving from the Loving vs. VA case of 1967. Because of what they have offered and sacrificed for our movement, I feel honored to have been able to have thanked at least two of them.

Robin, Kris Perry, Sandy Stier
and Robin's partner Stacey (l to r)
Prop. 8 has defined my life for the past four years. It spurred my activism. After we lost, I helped organize the statewide reaction to Prop 8, with Meet in the Middle for Equality in Fresno, CA (an area of the state that voted most against us), to helping organize the National Equality March -- bringing over 250,000 people to DC with a demand of nothing less than full federal equality and finally, as a GetEQUAL street activist with a whirlwind year of actions and events to help push for the repeal of Don't Ask; Don't Tell with Lt. Dan Choi and hundreds of others. For me, this night felt nothing less than surreal.

Yes, there was a red carpet, but I was not meant to walk that strip of fabric - I was meant to experience the night as the activist. I was able to bring some of the streets of activism in to the suites of power. Although, I felt like a girl who got the Willy Wonka "golden ticket."

Robin and Chad Griffin (r to l)
As I stood and surveyed the crowd, I was able to catch a glimpse of Chad Griffin, the new head of the Human Rights Campaign. Chad and I have had multiple interactions before tonight, but since hearing of his new position, I was hesitant to simply offer the "customary" congratulations. My words to him were brief, but heartfelt and serious: We *must* push for nothing less than full federal equality and we have to create an effective insider/outsider strategy. He said that he is in the current stages of preparing for his job and he expects nothing less than for GetEQUAL and the people who also feel our urgency to continue applying pressure, allowing HRC to leverage their lobbying power to gain the equality and dignity we deserve.

I feel strongly that while watching Chad, I felt like I was watching a true leader. He has chartered new ground, pushed us to ask "why not" and a person who has stood up to the organizations that were and are branded to represent us, pushing them to go in directions they did not feel possible. And, honestly, tonight I felt like I might be as cautious, yet hopeful, as the HRC board members who chose offer him this position.

I am so very hopeful that our movement is headed towards the full federal equality we deserve and were born to have, because I do not only want the right to marry! I want safe schools, full repeal and open service for all of the LGB & T, equal protection and access for our community in jobs, marriage, immigration reform and accommodations. Hell, I'll be honest, I want it all and at this moment, I don't think Chad Griffin or the new life that is going to be breathed in to HRC is going to be afraid to go for it -- at least I hope not!

The night was everything you'd expect a Hollywood, Dustin Lance Black evening to be - from the straight Hollywood elite who came out to show their support against the discrimination we face as a community to the long time civil rights veteran, Cleve Jones.

On the way to our seats, I was able to thank Ken Mehlman for his recent apology to our community for his strategy of using the LGBT community as a scapegoat to getting George W. Bush elected. But, I challenged him to understand that GetEQUAL style actions could and should be happening to pressure the GOP to stop their bigoted behavior against our communities and families. Ken may have taken the long road to the dance, but I'm glad he finally got here. Now, as a board member of AFER, I hope he will use his power to our advantage.

Barbra Streisand and Robin (l to r, duh)
Okay, besides the gay political types, there were stars, not only on stage, but in the audience. I mean, hell, I sat 2 rows away from Barbara Streisand.

Robin and Cleve Jones
But, the highlight of my evening was reconnecting with Cleve Jones. The former intern of Harvey Milk, conceiver of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, UNITE HERE worker's right activist, National Equality March organizer and all around great LGBT movement strategy thinker who was in the same room with people who felt called to stand up for our community - people like George Clooney, Martin Sheen, Kevin Bacon, Christine Lahti, Jamie Lee Curtis and countless others - oh yea, even Brad Pitt.

Last night was fun and energizing and inspiring. Listening to the testimony of both Perry and Stier's sons talk about the fact that they did not appreciate being seen as a mistake and were angry with the implication that their moms were causing them great harm, immediately brought me back to why I got involved. I was in tears thinking of my two children. Since our protest started after Prop 8, as we were marching on Washington or as our handcuffs coldly wrapped around our wrist as we were arrested in efforts to repeal DADT - this activism, celebrity spotlight and politicking might be fun, but, as I have said so many times, we should not have to be doing this.

Lawyers Olson and Boies, and
Elliott and Spencer (the sons of Kris and Sandy)
We deserve, just like the characters playing Sandy, Kris and their boys stated so eloquently stated tonight, to be able to take our kids to soccer practice, the park or just go out to dinner with love ones or our friends. We should not have to spend time trying to sell society, government or our world on the fact that we deserve nothing less than full federal equal in all matters governed by civil law, period!

Since the sad reality is that we have to be doing this, I thank Dance Lance Black, Rob Reiner, the board and staff of the American Federal for Equality Rights, the Prop 8 plaintiffs and those who starred in Los Angeles' production of "8" - THANK YOU. The world is changing before our eyes and last night, I think it moved a little faster in our direction.

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