Simply put, the major forces behind the No on 8 campaign ignored all of the grassroots organizations that could have truly helped marriage equality become a reality.
Yesterday’s action fair was organized by quite a few grassroots organizations and heavily promoted through JoinTheImpact’s activist network. All of this was also advertised under a national protest against DOMA: the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Signed into law in 1996 by then-President Bill Clinton, it prohibits same-sex marriages from EVER being recognized by the federal government, effectively delegating the decision to individual states. President-elect Barack Obama promised during his campaign to repeal the law and the event was organized to remind Obama (and his supporters) of the promises made.
The fair was held in the West Hollywood Community Center and about 15 various organizations set up shop to explain their purpose, recruit new activists, and show off their unique methods of spreading awareness and empowering the community.
I showed up around 4pm (due to two catastrophic tube failures during my ride to WeHo) and was surprised to find the hall full and brimming with activity. (This only exponentially increased in the next two hours.) I was surprised because I expected this movement to be dying out. It’s been over two months since Prop 8 was passed; even if the Supreme Court still hasn’t heard the full arguments against it and even if there’s still a chance that it will get overturned, time dilutes passion. And with few things left for the citenzry to actual do themselves, the new civil rights movement was bound to lose steam.
But this simply isn’t true, and the LGBT Action Fair proved that grassroots political action is alive and well.
Gabriel Avila, who represented the Young Professionals Council, a part of the Gay and Lesbian Center, was on hand to help recruit a vital demographic that will help keep this movement alive: youth. “The Young Professionals Council is concerned primarily with empowering the youth in Los Angeles,” he said. “The truth is that, while 80% of our funds come from patrons over 60, we need the youth energy to stay alive.” The YPC spoke to people about how to get involved in a grassroots organization, how to use the Gay and Lesbian Center in LA to provide for the gay youth in the city, and how the Center provides outreach to the community.
The Courage Campaign was also present to help give people an outlet to express their distaste with Proposition 8. I spoke with one of the organizers, David Fleck, about why the Courage Campaign was so interested in supporting the marriage rights of Californians. “We’re essentially the California equivalent of MoveOn.org,” Fleck explained. “Our primary goal is to help other organizations. We believe that California should be a progressive state. And when we take the rights away from a minority, we believe that progressive state has been threatened.”
“We don’t just support marriage equality,” he continued. “We support a wide range of issues; it’s just that this one is an immediate concern of ours.” The group was present at the fair and had interested parties pose for individualized photos that read, “Please Don’t Divorce _______________.” (Fill-in-the-blanks, of course.)
The event closed with a few enthusiastic guest speakers in West Hollywood Park, including mayor Jeffrey Prang, as well as a live presentation of Marc Shaiman’s “Prop 8: The Musical.” And it was a smart move ending the event on such a positive note. (Not that the event was ever negative.) The LGBT Action Fair demonstrated the tenacity, the effectiveness, and the rare power that a grassroots organization can bring to a movement. Even though the event was scattered with different methods of spreading awareness, providing different techniques as an outlet for anger and passion, and was home to a variety of opinions on the status of our movement. However, everyone had the same goal and, for a group so disparate and varied, this is precisely what the No on 8 campaign missed out on. By not including virtually any grassroots organizations in their campaign, a golden opportunity was missed: the opportunity to tap into a wealth of talent, ingenuity, creativty, and passion.
The quest for human rights was bursting with passion in West Hollywood this weekend. Let’s hope that those who are battling for our rights in the courts and on the streets start recognizing this.
Young Professionals Council website: http://laglc.convio.net/site/PageServer?pagename=YC_YPC
Courage Campaign website: http://www.couragecampaign.org/