Over the Rainbow (and Beyond)
By Dan Siminoski, Ph.D.
Stonewall Features Syndicate
Of all my memories ofthe 1979 Gay Rights
National March on Washington, the
image I recall most clearly came shortly
before the end ofthe rally at the steps of
the Lincoln Memorial.
It had been a glorious fall day, with blue
skies, white clouds and a light breeze that
snapped the flags all around the Washington Monument. One hundred fifty thousand people had come to make themselves
visible to our government and demand
equality under the law.
I was standing at the side ofthe stage as
Holly Near began to sing the Judy Garland standard from The Wizard of Oz,
"Over the Rainbow." Holly's singing was
electric, sparked by the magic of the
moment and the power of our mingled voices. I cannot speak for everyone's feelings,
but mine included tears, pride, satisfaction and faith in the continued growth of
our struggle to be free.
In The Wizard ofOz, the rainbow represented both escape and arrival—escape
from a world of loneliness and frustration,
arrival in a place of technicolor hopes and
imitless potential. Like Dorothy, many of
is have felt isolated and unloved, and
lave dreamed of some time or place where
-ve might know security and affection. For
is, as Dorothy discovers, witches have
seen all too real, and powerful wizards
with empty promises all too plentiful
(especially in election years). And, as
Dorothy discovers at the end of her odys-
sey, the place to struggle for change is
right here at home, in the real world of
ordinary people and routines.
When we sang with Holly Near those
familiar lines of yearning for something
better and freer, we were in part reminding
ourselves of our goals and purposes,
affirming to one another that we would
make it to the Promised Land, to that pot
of gold at the end of our quest. But while it
is important for us to consider long-term
goals, it seems to me that too much emphasis on our dreams may leave us just as
unsatisfied as Dorothy was in the Land of
Oz. What we need is an image of ourselves
that is less concerned with dreaming and
more occupied with doing. What we need is
a political program.
Neither I nor any writer or activist I
know of is prepared to present a fully-
developed manual for accomplishing the
goals to the gay or human rights movement. But some important steps are being
taken by the architects of one strategy,
which I believe may be the most powerful
idea of the 1984 elections: "The Rainbow
Coalition." Though the image belongs to
Gay Community Newspaper
many, it is most associated with Jesse
Jackson, the black activist and Democratic presidential candidate. It was incorporated as the theme of the recent March
on Washington for Jobs, Peace and Freedom, at which blacks, Hispanics, women,
gays and others united to strive for individual goals through collective action.
The "melting pot" was once the common
image of a society in which ethnic differences would be minimized as all individuals became "Americans." Though
pleasing in history, this image is patently
absurd in application. .Americans are far
from equal with one another, and differences among us are based more on race and
class than on any other factors. The
"Rainbow" concept offers an image of
groups working together, each still as distinct as the bands of color in the rainbow
The proponents of the Rainbow Coalition urge minorities to ignore their differences and to emphasize common goals by
uniting on voter registration projects and
by agreeing on candidates to support in
1984. The program begs three questions,
each of potential interest to the gay community:
(1) Is such a coalition feasible, or might
it tend to weaken incumbent progressives,
laj-gely in the Democratic Party?
(2) If a coalition candidate (probably
Jackson) were to enter the presidential
primaries, most observers agree there
would be little actual chance of winning
the nomination. Therefore, could a coalition candidacy justify itself through
increased voter registration, deeper attention to coalition issues in the campaign,
and election of candidates to lesser offices?
(3) Is there a place for gay issues and
candidates in the coalition, and would
support for Jackson offer lesbians and
gays a better political strategy than more
established (but supportive) figures such
as Alan Cranston or Walter Mondale?
These are large questions that gays and
others will be debating for months, per
haps years in the future.
However we feel about particular candidates or strategies, one thing is certain.
Gay political muscle was evident in every
■ace in which the Human Rights Campaign Fund made an endorsement in 1982.
That success was made possible by sizeable contributions of time and money, and
by some fine work by our national and
local organizations. But we haven't uncovered more than the tip of the iceberg of
potential gay power. As will all minorities,
our communities are under-registered, our
candidates underfinanced, and on election day, far too many of us do not vote. We
can and must turn each of these tendencies around.
We have a real chance to return control
of the Senate to the Democrats, a party
historically friendly to the needs of minor-
DEC. 23, 1983/THE STAR 9
ities. .And we have the best opportunity in
our history to elect and reelect supporters
of the Gay Rights .Amendment, and then
push for serious committee hearings on
These are not dreams to be realized at
some indistinct point in the future. They
are specific opportunities that we must
commit ourselves to realizing in the
months to come. If we do, and if we maintain that commitment, I believe that passage of the Gay Rights Amendment to the
Civil Rights Act of 1964 will be possible
before the end ofthe decade.
Dr. Siminoski is a political scientist and
has been active in the gay rights movement for about a decade. He may be written at 1221 Redondo Blvd., Los Angeles,
CA 90G19. &1983 Stonewall Features Syn,