By Gerry Scoppettuolo
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.
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. Over 1,400 gathered in Raleigh. 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, Latin@ 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 time.”
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 Campaign.
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 http://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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