Over the weekend, I was able to attend the Prop 8 rally here in DC. The march started in front of the Capitol and then moved onto Lafayette Square; and in spite of the intermitent pouring rain, there was an amazing turn out (organizers estimate around 5,000 participants, but I side with the more conservative estimates that say 1,000). It was great to be part of what some are calling Stonewall 2.0.
As soon as Monday rolled around, the media began reporting on the rallies and the so-called violent actions being taken against Prop 8 supporters. Specifically, there were a couple of reports of protesters entering churches and attacking individuals wearing religious iconography or carrying anti-LGBTQ signs.
Immediately, conservatives jumped at the chance to decry the homosexual agenda and scream religious intolerance. Chuck Norris, Elizabeth Hasselbeck, Sherri Shepherd, Tony Perkins, D.L. Hughley, and Bill O'Reilly have been screaming about the "radical pro-gay activists" who will stop at nothing to see the churches stamped out of existence (Chuck is even fearing for his life, apparently). Likewise, the Mormon church feels unduly singled out for their support of Prop 8 (when people of color, who also voted overwhelmingly for Prop 8, have not received the same retribution). Yet, despite the Mormons' insistence that they're not anti-gay, just pro-marriage, they've yet to support pro-gay bills in the Utah legislature as they promised to do pre-Prop 8's passing.
So, my thoughts on all of this?
First, I love the fact that Prop 8 has reawakened the inner-activist in so many people! The support against Prop 8 and for gay marriage has been amazing to witness and makes me hopeful when I see so many people unwilling to lie down and take it.
That being said, I feel like Arizona and Florida have gotten the shaft. Although amendments to ban gay marriage were also passed in those states this year, the focus has been entirely on California, which admittedly was more of a shock. However, if I lived in Florida or Arizona, I would be screaming, "Wait a minute, what about me?!"
I don't think the Mormons should be singled out as the root of the problem. Yes, the Church of Latter Day Saints raised the most money supporting the passage of Prop 8. And yes, Mormons have been historically hateful towards the LGBTQ community. But it is simply too easy to say, "Had it not been for the Mormons, we would still have marriage in California." Taking violent action or holding protests in front of the Church does indeed draw attention, but it also looks like intolerance. And calling for LDS to lose its tax exempt status is a ridiculous argument, as it will never happen. If we broadened our fight to say "No religious institution should be tax exempt," (which I believe) then we would have a more valid case. But we can't cherry-pick because that is discrimination.
Likewise, I keep hearing scattered voices from inside the Mormon church, mumbling "We aren't all hateful! We disagree with the actions taken in California against the LGBTQ community!" Indeed, Steve Young and his wife, both devout Mormons, did donate to the No on Prop 8 cause. However, if members of LDS are angry with their church's decision to support Prop 8, SPEAK UP! LOUDLY! Don't just grumble about it, show your support! Because by silently disagreeing, you are supporting a homophobic and hateful institution.
I hate how all of these conservative talking heads (like the ones I mentioned above) keep saying, "We aren't homophobic, we just believe in the traditional definition of marriage." If you voted for Prop 8 and don't support gay marriage, YOU ARE HATEFUL! You are homophobic! I don't care if you hide behind your religious doctrines, describing your personal struggle with the issue; if you disagree with gay marriage, you inherently think that your relationships are better than those of your LGBTQ friends and family members, and that makes you elitist and hateful. And I know that harks back to W.'s "if you aren't with us, you are against us" speech, but that is true here. You can't pick and choose on civil rights.
A word of caution to LGBTQ rights activists: although its amazing there has been such strong outpourings of support for gay marriage following prop 8's passage, let's not let California become our sole focus. Although Obama has made a whole bunch of promises to us, he will not carry them out unless we continue to push him. I'm not saying he is dishonest, but he currently has bigger fish to fry and we have to continue to speak up against other inequalities that exist in order to get his attention.
And to echo Obama's sentiments, we have to be continue to push for change everyday, just not one day of the year.