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Local activists prepare for March on Washington

by Joseph Erbentraut
Contributor
Tuesday Sep 29, 2009
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With less than two weeks to go before the march on Washington, Florida activists are ready to make the trip north to rally with activists from around the nation for in support of federal legislation that would protect LGBT Americans.

For activists in the Southern part of the state, Anthony Farver, president of Stand-Up SWFL [Southwest Florida,] is leading the charge for action. Farver said he decided to lead the effort to transport busloads of Floridians to the nation’s capitol after attending a rally at the Utah Pride Festival this summer. He has since packed buses filled with more than 300 activists of all ages and backgrounds and became a member of the march’s national steering committee.

"It’s time that we got our rights back here in Florida, and show that we will no longer put up with being treated like second class citizens," Farver told EDGE, noting he had a waiting list for bus riders. "It’s time we get treated like everyone else."

The buses will leave Orlando, Miami, Naples and Fort Myers before they pick-up more march attendees in North Florida.

Edward Kring, coordinator for the Northwest Floridian contingent, noted response from riders has been strong. He added he feels Amendment 2’s passage last fall has motivated many to participate. Kring said he hopes the march would help energize Florida’s activists--particularly younger people who may not remember previous Washington marches.

"We have a lot of work to do and we’re trying to encourage young activists to join in and show that we have to lead the way here in Florida," Kring, who is a political science student at Florida State, said.

"It’s time that we got our rights back here in Florida, and show that we will no longer put up with being treated like second class citizens."

Kring added he feels the biggest challenge still ahead for him and other bus organizers in the state was funding. He is still at work in efforts to secure sponsorship of supplies for bus riders on the long trip. But he remains undeterred.

"I hope to give students the opportunity to feel that this is their democracy as well, and that they have a part in building our future at both the state and national level," Kring added. "It’s going to take all of us coming together and saying enough is enough with divisive politics and trivial matters. We want to get to together as one human family rather than dividing based on political ideologies and sexual orientations."

In addition to the grassroots efforts to pack buses with Washington-bound Floridians, the Sunshine State’s presence is also felt on the march’s national board with Equality Florida executive director Nadine Smith serving as co-chair.

"[A]fter years of political gridlock in DC, I believe this is a moment when new energy, new organizing tools and new ideas can infuse this movement and take us to our destination at accelerated speed," Smith said in an op-ed published in a South Florida LGBT newspaper. "I believe we must bring together the infrastructure, discipline and experience of seasoned organizers with the energy, impatience and breakthrough thinking of new activists."

More than 80 organizations in Florida have also signed on to endorse the march on Washington, through the efforts of Organizations United Together (OUT), a coalition of LGBT and allied organizations fighting for LGBT rights formed earlier this year.

Log onto www.fl2dc.org or www.standupswfl.com for more information.

Joseph covers news, arts and entertainment and lives in Chicago. He is the assistant Chicago editor for The Huffington Post. Log on to www.joe-erbentraut.com to read more of his work.

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