Rising Up From the Punch of Prop 8
December 5, 2008
by John Long
For many in the LGBT community, November has presented anything but traditional holiday fare. After the seemingly endless presidential campaign, we received the gift of probably the most LGBT-supportive president and vice president in history while being dealt the reminder through the passage of California’s Prop 8, outlawing same-gender marriage, that “America, the land of the free and the brave” may be for some voters “America, the land of the free and the lucky.”
How lucky that you can be heterosexual and arrange a quickie marriage or divorce – no problem. Many Americans are trying their best to hold marriage as an exclusive benefit of heterosexuality and deny same-gender couples their happiness.
When Prop 8 passed, many were outraged and determined to fight. Immediately, protests began in California, and a national protest on Nov. 15 ignited fervor among people who may have previously felt that this was only an issue in states like Massachusetts or California.
Kansas City participated in this day of protest. Nettie Alford of the Lesbian and Gay Community Center of Kansas City and Sarah Gillooly of the Kansas City PROMO office took the lead in getting the word out and organizing the event. The protest featured energizing speakers such as Alford, Gillooly, the Rev. Diane Nunnelee (Trinity United Methodist Church), Dan Winters (ACLU), Mikey Gonzalez (GLSEN), Kansas City Councilwoman Beth Gottstein, Missouri State Sen. Jolie Justus, Airick Leonard West (Kansas City, Mo., school board) and Jim MacDonald (Four Freedoms Democratic Club) [see the transcript of MacDonald’s speech on page eight and protest rally photos on page 13">. The Rev. Kurt Krieger from the Spirit of Hope Metropolitan Community Church patiently held the rainbow flag behind those who spoke during the entire event. Others took turns holding up the portable sound system. The Heartland Men’s Chorus lent their support in song, and representatives from the Human Rights Campaign and other social/political organizations were there with protest signs, showing their support.
The extremely cold weather did not stop people from showing up for the noontime rally and staying energized even though the sound system was not allowing many to hear all of the speakers. Members of the crowd were brought to tears by the emotion of seeing so many in the LGBT and allied communities united to protest treating same-sex couples like second-class citizens.
After the speakers were done, the crowd did not disperse. Instead, participants lined both sides of 47th Street with their protest signs proudly displayed to passing cars, and motorists honked their horns in support. Religious protesters tried to shout over the rally speakers or stand along 47th Street but they were no match for the sheer number of supporters in this peaceful protest.
What impressed me was that this rally had more than the familiar faces we see at so many political events in Kansas City. Many age groups were represented. This may have been the first protest of injustice they had attended, created picket signs for, or felt angry enough about to come out and let their voices be heard.
Jamie Rich and Mark Manning of The Tenth Voice radio magazine (KKFI, 90.1 FM) did onsite interviews at the protest rally and played excerpts during their Nov. 29 discussion show. It was interesting to hear the people who participated in the rally, including heterosexual married couples outraged about the unfairness of Prop 8. On that show, the radio panel and callers expressed concern about how they could keep the momentum of activism going beyond this one protest.
This month, Milk, the movie about the great gay San Francisco ’70s activist Harvey Milk, will open in Kansas City and theaters across the country. Milk was tragically murdered, along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, by an anti-gay zealot, Dan White. Especially for those who did not witness that era, the movie will be a poignant story of the struggle for LGBT equality.
Prop 8 was a startling reminder to many that when it comes to marriage equality for same-gender couples, most voters still feel otherwise. As we enter the holiday season, let’s hope people remember the true message of the holidays. We know one thing: It’s not about exclusion.