Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878

Right Side of History kicks off ‘Give Friends Equality Platform’

Since coming to the Washington University campus in October 2009, the Right Side of History (RSOH) equal rights movement has become a powerful force for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community, both locally and nationally. Recently, the movement launched a new online platform that allows LGBT activists to design their own campaigns and invite their friends to support them.

The group seeks to use the youth voice to fight for the equal rights of the LGBT community.

According to senior David Dresner, one of the co-founders of the group, the Right Side of History’s movement at the University has learned a great deal since its inception.

“Our time at Wash. U. has really been a due diligence period, and we really used it as a learning experience,” Dresner said. “Our strategy is to drop the rainbow and create this online tool to test the powers of Facebook looking to establish the largest list of LGBT supporters in the country and activate it in critical times.”

Dresner said that the movement is now moving in full force, having raised $40,000 since its inception. Two new presidents of the Washington University chapter, senior Ryan Courson and freshman Ethan Susseles, have taken office since October.

The group now plans to expand nationally, going to other college campuses whose LGBT communities want to get involved with the Right Side of History.

“Our business plan was designed using a netroots and grassroots strategy and was designed to engage the youth populous,” Dresner said.

Other multimedia strategies, such as YouTube videos and marketing clips have since been utilized as a part of this effort. The University has been designated as the hub of the movement, and Dresner says that the movement plans to have at least 15 schools join in the next six months. Larger organizations, including Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) have agreed to incubate the project and have donated offices in New York City to help the effort.

When confronted by the controversial issue of gay marriage, Dresner believes wholeheartedly that the issue cannot be decided along party lines.

“We think this is a bipartisan issue,” Dresner said. “It’s a human rights issue, we should have the right to work and live safely in each of our own apartments without the fear of being evicted. By broadening the issue as an American issue and rebranding equality it becomes very difficult for an American to argue against us.”

RSOH plans to make equality the next “in” thing, borrowing ideas from several other successful historical movements, from the Freedom Summer of 1964 to Project (RED). RSOH has an aggressive launch schedule and has formed official partnerships with policy the organizations GLAAD and Landor Associates. The organization’s Advisory Board includes the co-founder of Facebook, the COO of Bain & Co., the Treasurer of the DNC and senior executives from Google, Target and Levi Strauss.

The organization originally set out with the goal of passing an omnibus bill in Congress for LGBT rights,

“I was naïve at first in the idea of an omnibus bill passing, but I don’t regret that because I think it just shows how passionate I am about the issue,” Dresner said.

Support from heterosexual individuals has been an obstacle for the gay rights movement historically.

“It’s hard for a guy to stand up for a gay cause, but supporting LGBT equality doesn’t mean you have those preferences and that’s one of the messages we’re trying to portray,” Dresner said.

Sam Sussman, a freshman at Binghamton University who is heterosexual, has been responsible for leading the movement on his campus.

“I think that whenever you have an oppressed group, that group needs people in the dominant group to stand up for their rights and to help them in their fight for equality,” he said. “You can’t expect the group to find a way to get equal rights unless people who are not in that group stand up for them.”

While causes abound for young people to get involved, Dresner says that the Right Side of History is the most pressing issue of the time.

“Younger governments, democracies, they get it,” he said. “And to me this is a no-brainer issue, there is a bona fide minority and we need to protect them equally under the law.”

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Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878