Radical reactions to defeats will not bring about the changes we need.
By Steve Charing
Believe it or not, I agreed with Bill O’Reilly’s recent assessment that the actions taken by a group of radical gay activists in a Lansing, Michigan church would hurt our cause. Of course, O’Reilly’s looking out for us warrants suspicion, but his point is well taken.
We have just experienced one of the most gut-wrenching defeats in our struggle for equality when the nefarious Proposition 8 that banned same-sex marriages in California was approved by voters by a relatively narrow margin on the same night we decisively elected Barack Obama president.
The consequences of Prop. 8 were stunning and tragic. A coalition of religious organizations and social conservatives managed to scare enough voters to restrict marriage to a man and a woman.
According to reports, about 30 gay activists in pink and black garb from the Lansing chapter began shouting during a service on November 9, throwing fliers at the congregation and making out with one another. They allegedly yelled, "It’s OK to be gay" and "Jesus was a homo" among other slogans.
From the Bash Back! website:
It received some media coverage, especially from a delighted FOX News, to heighten Bash Back!’s visibility—a stated goal on its website.
And with other Bash Back! chapters in such places as Chicago, Memphis, Milwaukee, Denver, Olympia, Philadelphia, Upstate New York and Washington, DC, we can expect similar outbursts around the country. This doesn’t help win friends and influence people, as the saying goes.Barring any surprise legal victory in the California Supreme Court, our defeat on Prop 8 will clearly delay the ultimate goal of full marriage equality for those who aren’t fortunate to live in Massachusetts and Connecticut. It’s back to the drawing board where our efforts must be directed towards educating the public as well as clergy of all denominations that gay people marrying will not infringe upon their religious beliefs nor will it destroy the institution of marriage.
We must continue to tell our stories to elected officials so that they can see the human side of discrimination. We must explain how continuing to be treated as second-class citizens hurts families.
We must also point out that in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage has been legal for over four years, the institution of marriage has not been undermined as the State’s divorce rate remains among the lowest in the nation.
This approach does work if the politician has an open mind.
One of the positive outcomes of the Prop 8 travesty was the nationwide mobilization of a movement called Join the Impact. In just a few short days of grass roots organizing and effective use of the Internet’s social networking sites, the campaign on November 15 mustered sign-waving crowds in the hundreds of thousands across the country from D.C. to Seattle to peacefully and resolutely demonstrate in support of our goal of marriage equality.
In Baltimore, for example, a thousand attended a rally outside City Hall last month to hear speakers tell their stories to a diverse crowd of gays and straights, old and young, blacks and whites.
"Our mission is to encourage our community to engage our opposition in a conversation about full equality and to do this with respect, dignity, and an attitude of outreach and education," says the JoinTheImpact mission statement on Facebook.
JoinTheImpact in Baltimore is quickly amassing hundred of supporters on Facebook, which validates its principles of educating the public and elected officials.
The tactics used by Bash Back!, on the other hand, will only serve to alienate moderate citizens and embolden right wing conservatives to continue their attacks on us as out of the mainstream and to generate fear of gays.
Our ultimate victory, whenever that will be, will be won at the ballot box and in the legislatures. Elected officials will vote according to the wishes of their constituents. We need to make our case and convince them respectfully. Allowing Bill O’Reilly and others to whip up anger against us because of radicalism will stop us cold.