Sunday, November 16, 2008

"we must be doing something to be happy."--mahatma gandhi

So let me start with the diffusion of some cynicism regarding the scale of the Marriage Equality backlash. For those proponents who ask where the activists were before Proposition 8 passed, it doesn't matter. We're all here now. Good for us. For those folks who are grumbling about the irony of the black community or the Latino community or the newest immigrants in SF's Chinatown all voting predominantly against Marriage Equality, I'd suggest you shift your focus. The past has passed. There's work to be done and your energy would best be applied to something that will get results. Like showing up. Like speaking up. Like making friends with your neighbors in these communities.

I marched in San Francisco on Friday, October 7th. And then I drove a whole contingent up to Sacramento that Sunday. Both rallies were peaceful, moving events that did much to foment the effort to end discrimination against the gay community. Both had significance. But this weekend, the number of people who came out just blew those events into the dust. Hundreds of American cities saw demonstrations on the steps of their city halls, the likes of which our country has not seen since the '60s. It fills me with hope for our future.

Folks showed up in Honolulu at 8:30 in the morning on a Saturday to be a part of it. People gathered in Laramie, Mobile, and Montgomery, along with those who organized solidarity gatherings in the Netherlands, Canada, and a number of other countries. What's phenomenal is that this was a relatively spontaneous national event (international, actually) and it was not sponsored by organizations--this was grassroots organization on the part of committed and resourceful individuals. People are showing up in numbers that can't be ignored, and it's generally being lauded as the tipping point we've waited and worked for. The local showing was strong in San Francisco, especially considering we also had a noteworthy presence in Oakland, Berkeley, and plenty of other Bay Area cities. Word is that San Diego had upward of 20,000 folks. Nice. The estimates stream in here.

And as I stood at San Francisco City Hall in the blazing sun to hear the Marriage Equality gals speak again, along with Tom Ammiano, the Reverend Dr. Dorsey Blake, the compassionate representatives of Mormons for Marriage, the Reverend Penny Nixon, and several more, I took heart that the tone has already begun to change. Every march increases visibility, each speaker has a little more history on her side when she steps to the podium, and all this just brings us closer to the realization of gay rights.

My conclusions after the rally: I'm less useful attacking those who fear and discriminate against their fellow citizens. I'm not going to petition to revoke the tax-exempt status of the Mormon church. I'm not going to assault communities of color for the aggregate poll results. I forgive their mistakes and move forward to make it better.

It's time just to keep up the sometimes exhausting work of fighting for fundamental civil rights for the gay constituency, day in day out. And it's my role to keep this issue out in front of my comrades for whom the demands and distractions of daily life may make this matter easy to ignore. This is not just about gay rights. The minority is not being protected from the majority and that is a failure of representation on the part of our government.

When we bandy about the word "tradition," let's remember what it is we are talking about. The American tradition is one of citizens taking our inalienable rights into our own hands, of disparate communities like Glide Memorial or The Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples ministers, politicians, teachers, technicians, CS reps, dog trainers, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, everyone and anyone who is concerned with justice gathering peacefully and powerfully to protect what it is we believe in.

The turnout at these events, the way it is widening and deepening, the increase in sensitive and accurate coverage that it is receiving, and not the shaming but the exposure of hate for the remediable social malady that it is--these are all encouraging reasons that now more than ever we are responsible to keep up the campaign. I believe this burgeoning tone of optimism bodes well for our country's future; but we cannot rest and sit back, believing that after November 4th we have elected public officials to federal office who will make the right decisions on our behalf. Citizens do best when we act as watchdogs and representatives ourselves, working to uphold liberty and justice--meaning freedom, equal protection, and basic human rights--for all.

So please take note and remember that your role in this matters. You are either one more or one less. Next up is Day without a Gay (December 10th). Of course you don't have to be gay to participate; you just have to care abt civil rights.

You can read about it here: