Across the country
Thousands in streets defend same-sex rights
Right-wing churches bankrolled Prop. 8 in Calif.
Published Nov 14, 2008 2:26 PM
The election victory of Barack Obama will go down in history as a triumphant
step forward in the struggle against racism and national oppression in the U.S.
Unfortunately, it was also an election where more than 10 million voters in
Florida, Arizona and California supported right-wing ballot initiatives to deny
marriage rights to lesbian, gay, bi and trans people.
Thirty states now have constitutional bans on same-sex marriage. A proposal in
Arkansas was also passed to stop gay men and lesbians from adopting
The struggle around California’s Proposition 8, which amends the
California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry,
garnered national attention. Prop. 8 was the highest-funded campaign in any
state and exceeded every other electoral campaign in spending except for the
Prop. 8 was launched by ProtectMarriage.com to counter the California Supreme
Court’s May 15 ruling which deemed unconstitutional a 2000 ban on
same-sex marriage. “Vote Yes on Prop. 8” forces raised $35.8
million. The ban won 52 to 48 percent.
The coalition of right-wing organizations that supported Prop. 8 included the
Roman Catholic Church, Knights of Columbus, Union of Orthodox Jewish
Congregations of America, American Family Association, Focus on the Family and
the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon).
The Utah-centered Mormon Church actively organized support for Prop. 8 and
raised significant funds in both that state and California. Every congregation
was read a letter in support of the bigoted ballot measure and urged to donate
and raise funds. About 45 percent of donations to ProtectMarriage.com from
outside California came from Utah, much more than any other state. (Mercury
News, Oct. 24)
Prop. 8 marriage ban ignites protests
On Nov. 4 across the country, LGBT people of all nationalities gathered to
watch and then celebrate Obama’s victory. But on Nov. 5—with the
announcement of the passing of Prop. 8—a new firestorm of protest was
ignited. LGBT political and legal organizations immediately started an appeal
An estimated 10,000 people rallied, marched, sat down in the streets and/or
shut down traffic in Los Angeles and San Francisco. On Nov. 6, the protests
spread to more cities, including San Diego and Westwood, Calif. More than 3,000
people protested on Nov. 7 in downtown Salt Lake City at the Mormon temple and
Actions took place throughout California on Nov. 8, including a march of 13,000
in Los Angeles and 10,000 in San Diego. On Nov. 9, the California Highway
Patrol was forced to close two state highway traffic ramps for 13 hours, as 350
people protested outside the largest Mormon temple in Oakland.
Saturday, Nov. 15, has been called as a national day of action against Prop. 8.
In California, protesters are planning massive rallies at city halls all across
the state. Legal and economic campaigns have been launched throughout the
country to strip the Mormon Church of its tax-exempt status. An economic
boycott is being discussed.
According to the Associated Press: “Utah’s growing tourism industry
and the star-studded Sundance Film Festival are being targeted for a boycott by
bloggers, gay rights activists and others seeking to punish the Mormon church
for its aggressive promotion of California’s ban on gay marriage. It
could be a heavy price to pay. Tourism brings in $6 billion a year to
Utah.” (Nov. 6)
Don’t blame Prop. 8 win on Black community
In a despicable effort—played heavily in the media—to deflect
attention from the rich and powerful religious right, California’s Black
communities have been blamed for Prop. 8’s passage. The media falsely
concluded that the high voter turnout of Black people resulted in the
The LGBT movement has been erroneously depicted as entirely white and middle
class, and Black communities as politically conservative, highly religious and
But LGBT communities and movements in the U.S. are overwhelmingly multinational
and working class in character, and neither Prop. 8 nor the oppression of LGBT
people originates from the African-American community. The millions in
donations raised by the anti-LGBT forces did not come from the pockets of Black
A new study released by the University of California, Los Angeles-based
Williams Institute indicates that more than 7,400 Black men and women in
California are in same-sex relationships. Fifty-five percent of Black women and
11 percent of Black men are raising children within these couples, the study
found. It also found economic disparities among Black same-sex couples and
their heterosexual counterparts.
Christopher Ramos, the study’s co-author, noted: “These analyses
break stereotypes about gay, lesbian, and bisexual people, like the idea that
they are all wealthy. We find that gay and bisexual [African-American] men in
California have household incomes that are 44 percent lower than their
heterosexual counterparts.” (L.A. Reporter, Oct. 23)
In a statement, Kathryn Kolbert, a reproductive rights attorney and president
of the pro-LGBT People for the American Way, countered the divisive news
coverage: “[We have looked] at the basic numbers and concluded that it is
simply false to suggest that Prop. 8 would have been defeated if African
Americans had been more supportive.
“The amendment seems to have passed by more than half a million votes,
and the number of black voters, even with turnout boosted by the presidential
race, couldn’t have made up that difference. ... Republicans and white
churchgoers, among many other groups, voted for Prop. 8 at higher rates than
African Americans. ...Who’s really to blame? The religious right.”
The right-wing campaign of lies and deception during the campaign included
“robocalls” directed at Black households that falsely portrayed
Obama as a Prop. 8 supporter. In fact, it was Black communities and religious
leaders who mobilized to counter much of the right-wing efforts.
The California NAACP sent mailers opposing Prop. 8 to 140,000 Black households.
In October the campaign in the Black community against Prop. 8 ranged from an
evening of preaching against Prop. 8 at a predominantly Black church in San
Francisco to a press conference held on the steps of Oakland’s city hall
by prominent African-American leaders.
While John McCain was a supporter of Prop. 8 and Obama publicly opposed it,
both candidates voiced opposition to gay marriage. Obama is only for the right
of civil unions for LGBT persons, which do not confer the same rights and
benefits as marriage does.
According to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force: “The 1,138 federal
benefits and protections of marriage are only available to couples that are
allowed to legally marry. These include Social Security survivor and spousal
benefits, the ability to file a joint tax return, immigration rights, and
coverage under the Family and Medical Leave Act. To date, civil unions are not
‘portable,’ meaning that when a couple moves to another state, none
of the benefits, rights or responsibilities coming from civil unions move with
At the heart of the Prop. 8 and marriage equality struggle is the right to
health care and employment benefits that all workers of every nationality,
gender and sexuality should have. LGBT marriage is essentially about
workers’ rights. This is why organized labor has fought the bosses to
have domestic partner benefits in their contracts. Prop. 8 is a setback to the
entire progressive movement for social and economic justice.
It is not surprising during this capitalist economic crisis that the right wing
poured millions of dollars into a campaign to deny benefits to LGBT workers. At
the heart of their efforts is an attempt by the entire ruling class to pit
workers and oppressed communities against each other in the hope we won’t
unite to fight back against them.
The struggle to overturn Prop. 8 will continue. A multinational, multisexuality
movement will be a powerful force to turn back all the economic attacks coming
down on the working class in this period.
Articles copyright 1995-2012 Workers World.
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