Monday, September 13, 2010

Irrational NOMbers (reflections on my first gay rights demonstration)

I recently went to my first gay rights demonstration. It was a positive, mostly silent counter-protest to a NOM "rally" (can it really be called a rally when your audience consists of maybe a dozen people?).

I've been to demonstrations for other causes, mostly in high school and college, and I'd forgotten the feeling of solidarity you get from them, the hope that stems from knowing that others care enough to stand out in the sweaty heat for hours.

I live in the South, in a state with no laws protecting against discrimination in housing or employment, no hate-crimes legislation, and a constitutional amendment banning recognition of any sort of same-sex relationship. So I was pleasantly surprised to see that we counter-protesters outnumbered the NOMbers by a significant margin (at least 20:1).

I might have chalked this up to the fact that the NOMbers already have everything they want, and people often don't go out and demonstrate to protect the status quo, except that the vast majority of people whom we passed on the street or who passed us in their cars indicated their support for us, not NOM. Also, many of the people I talked to at the counter-protest told me they were straight. This gives me hope that things really are rapidly changing in this country.

Since this was a counter-protest, we first had a rally a few blocks away, where couples, their parents, and their children talked about the impact of being allowed to marry -- and of not being allowed. It was beautiful and amazing; I'm so inspired by these couples that have been together for decades with very little support and people on all sides trying to tear them apart. True love is truly powerful, and I can only hope to find it one day.

We then assembled across from the NOM "rally." We lined the sidewalk, 6 deep, and the police were there to make sure we weren't infringing the right of way, but one female officer went out of her way to say, "I agree with you and applaud you for what you're doing, but we just have to make sure we keep the sidewalk clear." Yeah, she's one of us. So the police were cool.

Our point in the counter-protest was to show that we just want equal rights, so we were urged to respect NOM's right to demonstrate by not trying to shout them down, just to show them we disagree through our signs and our numbers. Keeping my mouth shut proved difficult once the NOMbers showed how irrational they were, so I resorted to talking quietly to the people around me.

The NOMbers started off by claiming that pro-gay marriage groups were shouting them down and giving them death threats at other stops on their national tour, and so obviously we didn't respect their "civil rights." I don't know if that's true or not; I just know we were certainly respecting their right to spew whatever nonsense they wanted, and I didn't hear a single threat.

"Civil rights" was the theme of the day -- their civil rights, which would be infringed upon if gay marriage passed. Because they have the right to define marriage, and our "redefining" of marriage would take that right away from them. And they have the right to keep their kids from learning that homosexuality exists; apparently their kid being told that their classmate has two mothers or two fathers is infringing on their civil liberties to pretend a biological fact just isn't so.

Yada yada yada, Bible, yada, Christian nation, yada yada, we love you but we want you to be miserable, yada yada, we'll be remembered in history as the preservers of civil rights, yada yada yada, better act now or it will be too late, yada yada, humans are at risk of extinction if the gays have their way, yada yada, erroneous, alarming statistics about crime committed by "children without a mom and a dad," yada blahblah, give us money, yada yada yawn. They were so hypocritical that I almost laughed in a couple of places, except that sadly, they're blind to their hypocrisy, and they do still have the majority in too many places in this country.

Towards the end, a Gospel singer sang a song called "Unity," which really was perfect... for gay marriage supporters. Not quite sure how it fit with their "us vs. them" mentality, but we started cheering and rocking to it, especially when she sang, "A house divided can never stand; come on and take my hand. We've got to build one another up, not tear one another down... We've got to show love to one another." The singer was getting agitated by the end, seeing us so energized by her song and her crowdlet just standing there.

All in all, it was a great day. I left feeling energized and hopeful about the prospects for gay marriage in this country. I was hoping to get to know some new friends a little better, which I did, though I somehow didn't manage to come out to them (which I explain in a later post). And I didn't really meet any single ladies around my age (though that wasn't the primary reason I went, of course). At any rate, I'd definitely attend another demonstration.

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