Prop. 8 protests sweep the country
Published Nov 19, 2008 5:47 PM
In just one week a major political struggle has rocked the U.S. from coast to
coast and even gone international. From Montreal to Puerto Rico and from
California to Maine to Europe, literally hundreds of cities in the U.S. and
elsewhere have mounted solidarity rallies and protest marches opposing
California’s backward Proposition 8, which passed on Nov. 4 and
disenfranchised the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans communities in that
state from the recently won right to marry.
Front of New York march, Nov. 13.
WW photo: Imani Henry
In North Carolina alone, seven cities mobilized communities angered by the
right-wing attacks: Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, Asheville, Greenville,
Wilmington and Boone. This kind of response was repeated all across the South
and elsewhere and is unprecedented in U.S. LGBT history.
In Bozeman, Mont., the Queer/Straight Alliance, the Bozeman Peace Seekers and
the Gallatin Task Force organized a spirited Prop. 8 protest. The Montana
cities of Billings, Helena and Missoula also held protests.
Among the assemblages in big U.S. cities, a number of reports cited the one in
San Diego as the largest, with estimates of over 25,000 participants. It was a
long march on an especially hot day. At an end-point rally one recently married
gay man urged the crowd: “Look around! This is just the start of what the
sleeping giant has awoken. We must carry this march on.”
WW photo: Liz Green
In fact, word is spreading of more nationally coordinated actions to come,
including a Dec. 10 “Day without a Gay” and a Jan. 10
coast-to-coast protest. And Black lesbian comedian Wanda Sykes, who addressed
the Las Vegas protest, told the crowd: “We shouldn’t have to settle
for less. Instead of having gay marriage in California, no! We’re going
to have gay marriage across the country.” (thestrippodcast)
In New York on Wednesday evening, previous to the national mobilizations on
Saturday, Nov. 15, a huge crowd, many with homemade signs, gathered near a
Mormon temple at 65th Street and Columbus. Later, as the crowd continued to
grow, thousands marched down Broadway. The militantly chanting marchers took up
the whole street, curb to curb, for five or six blocks. Then on Saturday more
than 10,000 focused on the metropolis’s City Hall area, as was the case
in most other cities.
The Los Angeles mobilization drew more than 10,000 despite the raging wildfires
that are devastating southern California. San Francisco, with no official
planning, also drew 10,000 to the City Hall area.
Not since the 1970s and the days when Anita Bryant and the Moral Majority
launched their reactionary attacks (see Lavender and Red series at
workers.org.) has the LGBT community reacted with such a visceral response,
tens of thousands mobilizing seemingly overnight via Facebook, YouTube, a
national Web page and other means.
California’s Prop. 8 passed 52 to 48 percent, carried to victory by a
multimillion-dollar campaign funded by the Mormon Church, Focus on the Family,
the Catholic Church and its affiliated Knights of Columbus, and other racist
and backward forces—today’s equivalents of the Moral Majority, the
Campus Crusade for Christ and the Liberty Lobby of the early 1970s. Falsely
casting their attack as a “moral” issue, these racist forces worked
hard to deprive millions of the economic class benefits that derive from civil
marriage in the areas of health insurance, partner benefits, tax relief and
other spousal benefits and rights.
Critical to the growth of this struggle is the overcoming of racial divisions
exploited by the right wing. An attempt by conservative pundits to blame
communities of color is being challenged. Rallies featured speakers from
oppressed African-American, [email protected] and Palestinian communities, especially in
San Francisco and Oakland, and in Raleigh, N.C., where Rev. Carl Kenney, former
pastor of Orange Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, spoke words of
encouragement to the hundreds gathered there.
R. Dooley, who organized the protest in Montreal, explained this challenge to
Workers World this way: “I do think this is part of a broader struggle. I
agree very strongly that this isn’t our only fight. Marriage rights
aren’t the only issue that our communities have to address at this
Ten thousand rallied at City Hall in Boston, where speakers included
African-American state Rep. Byron Rushing; Gary Daffin, director of the
Multicultural AIDS Coalition; and Mark Solmonese, director of Human Rights
Twenty-two-year-old Ryan MacNealy, a main organizer of the Boston rally,
acknowledged the challenges facing the equal-marriage rights movement in a
statement to Workers World: “Our advocacy groups are very exclusive, only
focusing on the matter at hand. We need to reach out to other struggles.”
MacNealy will be leading a relationship-building effort with African-American
church leaders in Boston in the coming weeks.
Others, like Curtis Morrison from Louisville, Ky., cited Rosa Parks as having
inspired their organizing efforts. Progressive LGBT blog sites like
www.queertoday.com are leading the way at refuting the false racist charges
raised by the right wing. One thing is certain: the potential for unity is
unlimited and the classwide power that could result for the benefit of all the
oppressed everywhere would be a welcome sight.
Reports from Imani Henry, John Lewis, Bob McCubbin and Dante Strobino
contributed to this article.
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