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Chicago, IL –- Well over 3,000 people gathered in Chicago's Federal Plaza this afternoon to rally before taking to the streets of the city to protest the recent passage of Proposition 8 in California and similar anti-gay initiatives in Arizona, Arkansas and Florida. I haven't seen anything like it since the early 90's when we rallied against propositions in Oregon and Washington that would have codified the legalization of discrimination against sexual minorities in employment and housing.
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What do we want? someone shouts.
Equal Rights! The crowd responds.
When do we want 'em?
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How about fuckin' yesterday? Or, maybe it should have happen nearly four fucking decades ago after the Stonewall Riots of 1969? I'm telling you, California, of all places California, tipping to the side of inequality has really proven to be a contentious event for me.
Yesterday on the flight in, the gentleman sitting next to me asked what took me to Chicago, trying to make small talk.
"I'm in a staged reading of a play," I reply and inquire, "You?"
"A wedding," he says. "The last of my college buddies is finally tying the knot.
"How nice for you people," I say out loud, the thought escaping through my mouth with all the distain that formed it in my mind.
I apologized for sounding a little cross and a fairly calm conversation about Prop 8 ensues until the gentleman starts talking about the protests at the Mormon Temples that have occurred since the passage. He explains how he works with a lot of Mormons in Salt Lake City and adds, "You know, deep down they really are well intentioned."
To which I reply, "You know, that's a lot like explaining to a black man that deep down underneath their sheets, members of the KKK are really good, decent people, right?"
Okay, I'll admit, equating the Mormons with members of the Ku Klux Klan might seem a little harsh upon first consideration. But remember, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints still advocates corrective therapy for gay and lesbian members, encourages families to cast out gay, lesbian and transgendered children, and just spent millions of dollars campaigning (successfully I might add) to strip my brothers and sisters of their constitutional rights in California.
No, the Mormon Church is not as bad as the sectarians in Iran, whose government still sentence homosexuals to death, but it is an organization that continues to espouse the kind of dogma that fosters that same type of violence toward people like us. It is an outrage and I'm not willing to just sweep it under the rug for the sake of political salesmanship. The truth is the only respect this organization deserves is respect as a formidable enemy.
Now, before anyone jumps to conclusions, let me be clear. I am not suggesting that anyone lump every individual that voted for Proposition 8, identifies as a Mormon or Iranian as a target for distain. Every individual deserves to be judged by the quality of their character independently of any organizational associations. If however it becomes apparent that the individual's character is one that supports the continued oppression of my queer brethren, don't expect me to play the role of happy assimilationist, apologetically begging for acceptance while excusing every slight and transgression.
Side Bar: Deep breath. Count to ten. One, two, three... Okay.
Marching for several hours through the streets of Chicago, as our numbers grew to nearly five thousand, did much to help expend some build up frustration, but even the thought of a hundred thousand supporters, queer and otherwise, rallying throughout the country has not been enough to abate my passions. Perhaps I've become too militant to serve as an effective political activist, but then I know for a fact that silence does equal death.