Official Statement by leading BLACK LGBT organization on this weekend's political action supporting the repeal of Proposition 8
LOS ANGELES, CA -- Ron Buckmire, Board President of the Barbara Jordan/ Bayard Rustin Coalition, released the following statement regarding the Black GLBT March and Protest planned for Leimert Park on the morning of Sunday, November 23, 2008.
"African-American Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Americans have something unique to add to the multiple activities attempting to repeal Proposition 8. The Jordan/Rustin Coalition supports, endorses and will participate in any and all peaceful and lawful actions involving our own communities which support this goal. We are excited to announce our participation in the community grassroots organized rally for LGBT rights this Sunday at 11am in Leimert Park (corner of Vernon and Crenshaw).
"The event is organized by 'Love at Work -- The Exchange' and Reverend Freda Lanoix. Starting at 11:30am on Sunday, Black LGBT people will march in solidarity in a predominantly African American neighborhood to peacefully protest the passage of Proposition 8. We call on all fair-minded Black people to join us!
"As we await the California Supreme Court's decision on the legal status of same-sex marriages entered into between June 17 and November 4, the Jordan/Rustin Coalition will continue to work in the many communities we are part of to engage in discussion about equal rights for all LGBT Californians. We encourage our many allies in the LGBT and African American communities to join us in grassroots activism in hopes of change."
ABOUT the Barbara Jordan / Bayard Rustin Coalition
The mission of the Barbara Jordan / Bayard Rustin Coalition (or Jordan Rustin Coalition) is to empower Black same-gender loving, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and families in Greater Los Angeles, to promote equal marriage rights and to advocate for fair treatment of everyone without regard to race, sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
The Riverside Church in the City of New York stands in solidarity with our sisters and brothers throughout the United States who suffer from social and legal discrimination based upon their sexual identity. Our congregation is energized in its resolve to speak boldly on behalf of God's love and justice for all couples who wish to live in covenant love with one another and share their lives. The recent California vote for Proposition 8 that passed with 52% of the ballots defines marriage as "only between one man and one woman." The Riverside Church reaffirms its commitment as stated in The Riverside Church Statement in Support of Same-Gender Civil Marriage:
Recent circumstances leading to calls for a Constitutional amendment to define marriage to exist solely between a man and a woman, and ultimately ban any legal recognition of same-sex unions, compels The Riverside Church of New York City to raise its voice in unity with those who cherish the principles of freedom, equality, and fairness for all. In so doing, we stand firm in our call for a more just and humane society-one where basic civil rights, and the right to simply be, are never denied to any citizen of this land .
We now continue in this tradition of progressive activism by reaffirming our commitment to pursue an open and candid conversation to forge greater understanding of such issues as family values, sexual identity, and biblical interpretations of human relations. Further, in an attempt to embrace all committed-relationships, the Church will take the bold action of no longer distinguishing between same-sex unions and (heterosexual) marriages. All ceremonies among two committed, loving adults at The Riverside Church will be recognized as marriages . . .
We further commit our resolve to support efforts leading to the development of social policies and laws that enable same-gender loving couple's access to the privileges, legal protections, and benefits of civil marriage.
My leadership at The Riverside Church will continue to advocate these same principles, and I am committed to speaking out on issues of justice and equality with respect to my Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, and Queer sisters and brothers. Please accept this letter of support as another gesture of this commitment. I call upon all people of good will to work together to craft public policies and foster communal practices that will usher in the Beloved Community of which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke so often. In this Beloved Community, all God's children can have their life-giving, loving covenants affirmed.
The Reverend Brad R. Braxton, Ph.D. Senior Minister The Riverside Church in the City of New York
Funny thing, throughout African-American history comparisons have always been used to fight injustice. When enslaved blacks wanted freedom in America, they used the language of the Founding Fathers, who wanted freedom from the British Empire. What did the white ruling class say? "It's not the same!" When blacks demanded the right to vote, there were often comparisons to white women, who received the right to vote in 1920. What did many white women say? "It's not the same!" When another community even makes a slight comparison to the plight of African-Americans, we are now saying, "It's not the same!" The black community does not own the term "civil rights."
As a black gay man, I am constantly torn between two communities. There is the white gay community that is steeped with racism, the black community that reeks of homophobia -- and the black gay community falling in between. Three years ago I interviewed former Real World cast member Karamo Brown, a black gay man, and he said, "We have to make sure that we let our churches know we are not going to let them judge us anymore. Until we as a community get better with our homosexuality and say, 'No more!' they are not going to get better with homosexuality."
I don't think the black community, gay or straight, has said, "No more." Hip-hop artists call us fags and we still play their music in our clubs, cars, and iPods. Gospel artists damn us to hell and we still buy their records. We sit in churches swallowing hate from the pulpit, knowing the preacher isn't all hetero himself. When will we, as the black gay community, say no more? We cannot expect the white gay community or whites in general, to do our work.
One day after State Senator John Campbell announced he is going to introduce a gay marriage bill this legislative session, Campbell received a threat.
The Windsor County Democrat says he got a call at the Statehouse from a woman who threatened to blow up his house.Police are investigating the threat.
Where are all the conservatives who complained about the "violence" in the largely peaceful gay rallies? Why aren't they up in arms about this?
And what about the hinting-at-violent threats made today by Randy Thomasson, president of Campaign for Children and Families. He said that the California Supreme court is, "playing with fire by threatening to destroy the people's vote on marriage." And that "if the court disobeys the constitution by voiding Prop. 8, it will ignite a voter revolt."
So, if the court does its duty and protects a minority from discrimination, what kind of "revolt" and "fire" does the fanatical fringe have planned?
The California Supreme Court must overturn Proposition 8, which passed by a narrow margin of 52 percent on November 4. In an order issued today, the Court agreed to hear the case and set an expedited briefing schedule.
In my view, Prop. 8 is an illegal, illegitimate vote that should be scorned, ridiculed and met with direct action. The vote is nothing more than mob rule, tyranny of a bare majority and an underhanded attempt to destroy the separation of church and state. This fight helped highlight that anti-gay forces have little use for America's style of government. They believe that minorities have no protection under the law and that the church with the largest membership gets to lord over the rest of the population - even if it is against their will. They want to impose church rules on all of us - even if we are not members. This blatantly violates the establishment clause and creates a state religion that we all must adhere to or face consequences.
Is this America? I don't think so. This is why the court must restore sanity and bloc attempts to write bigotry into the constitution.
Furthermore, those who passed Prop. 8 pretend they represent the will of "the people." They don't. They spent $40 million to win a bare majority, but were only able to do so by a disgusting con job, where they lied to Californians and scared them to death. Their campaign was so perverse, untrue and outright sickening that it borders on criminal. What they did was lie to "the people" because their case had no merit. And, they pretend they are doing God's work.
The court should do the right thing and show nothing but utter contempt for the illegitimate Prop 8 and the shameless liars who sponsored it.
A petition is circulating to support the legal effort to amend our tax laws such that the Mormon Church, and other transgressing churches, would lose tax-exempt status if they continue lobbying for state propositions. Check it out.
There will be an exciting "Liveblog" with Kate Kendell, Nadine Smith, and Barbara McCullough-Jones at the Bilerico Project - an excellent website. As you know, these three women led the anti-amendment charge in California, Florida, and Arizona.
They'll be answering questions and taking comments live about the amendment battles. Topics will range from "What went wrong?" to "Where do we go from here?" It's an amazing opportunity for our readers to directly engage and ask questions to these leaders - something I don't think has ever been done before to such a large scale. Pam Spaulding will be co-host for the evening's chat with Bil Browning of the Bilerico Project.
Dr. Jan Shipps, one of the nation's leading historians on the LDS Church says the reaction to the Mormon church in light of their support of Prop. 8 has been traumatic.
"I think they are really astonished that there are demonstrations at temples all over the nation," she said. "By talking to the Latter-day Saints outside of California that could come back to haunt them...It will take many, many, many months, maybe years to get this division healed."
The Family Research Council is a right wing organization that helps few families and does virtually no research. It is an extremist group founded by Focus on the Family to lobby Congress to pass anti-gay legislation. The organization, Americans United, exposed that FRC has already sent out an ugly direct mail campaign attacking Obama - before he is even in office!
Just as these radical organizations tried to destroy Bill Clinton - they are now trying to undermine Obama. What is unseemly, is that they have begun their direct mail smear campaigns even before the guy has had a chance to offend them. It seems to me that they want to sabotage the office of the presidency every time a Democrat gets elected. How patriotic is that?
The pro-American thing to do would be to give the guy at least a month to succeed before hurling toxins into the political environment. While Obama works to bring this nation together, Tony Perkins and his Family Research Council look to divide us and tear America apart.
A growing number of us have our own modest marriage proposal. Call it Proposition 9, or Prop -8, if you’d like. It would instantly confer more than 1,200 rights and benefits to same-sex couples in every single city, state and small town in the U.S., and it's already supported by two-thirds of Americans.
Call it karma, but Focus on the Family is now in big trouble. At the group's peak, it had nearly 1,500 employees. This week, they announced another round of layoffs for the Lord - shedding 202 jobs, an estimated 20 percent of its workforce. This brings the new total to around 950 workers, according to the Colorado Independent.
The move to can the workers comes after the group pissed away $800,000 on Proposition 8 to ban same-sex marriage in California. One wonders if Focus on the Family will cut staff from its failed "ex-gay" Love Won Out road show? This extravagant traveling circus must cost a lot of money and it doesn't work.
The fact is, if this organization would butt out of gay relationships, it might be able to actually help heterosexual families. If it would stop its "ex-gay" propaganda - which helps no one and destroys lives - it would not have to downsize.
I think donors to this organization should focus on the money flushed down the toilet to uphold bigotry and discrimination at the expense of families.
The macho man known as Prince is apparently a Bible beater. Clay Cane reported that His Majesty told The New Yorker:
When asked about his perspective on social issues--gay marriage, abortion--Prince tapped his Bible and said, "God came to earth and saw people sticking it wherever and doing it with whatever, and he just cleared it all out. He was, like, 'Enough.'"
As far as action-steps a few broad outlines are clear:
1) Much better minority outreach. The specifics are for each organization to figure out. I am grappling with this, as are many organizational leaders. We can do a better job and we must.
2) Test a marriage campaign in a state and do the polar opposite of what we have done in the past. In other words, use real GLBT people to have a real conversation with the people. Do it in a state where we will lose - so we can experiment without the pressure of blowing a victory. But, take a poll before the campaign and after the campaign to see how effective the approach is. Was progress made? Right now, we keep doing the same poll/focus group tested campaigns. Perhaps this will prove most effective in the end. But, we won't know until we test a new way. Isn't it time?
3) Direct action must be a component added to every organization. This will bolster - not replace - the insiders. To continue to have only lobbyists who are not backed by legions of people is a strategic mistake. I know some of you are "message" control freaks and just terrified of direct action - as it may go against the poll-tested talking points. But, guess what, in the Internet age, you lost exclusive control of your message 15 years ago. Indeed, Andrew Sullivan, Dan Savage, Hilary Rosen, Rachel Maddow, Ellen, Rosie and Elton John - among others - all are gay and have huge national platforms (and this does not even count others like me, Signorile, Andy Towle, Rex Wockner, Bil Browning, Mike Rogers, Pam Spaulding, John Aravosis etc.) and can dominate a news cycle on gay issues at any given time. Thus, the age of organizations exercising strict message control is gone. done. finito. This is why direct action can strengthen your cause, not weaken it. Accept this reality and adjust.
4) We have to give America a civics/history lesson. a) People don't understand that the courts are there to protect minorities from mob rule - tyranny of the majority. b) People buy the line that anti-gay churches are just voting their values. Voting values is only to ensure that a religious group can practice their beliefs and live their values. It does not allow them to force other people to live by the rules of their church - effectively making everyone members - against their will.
5) We must do a better job making people understand the difference between civil and religious marriage. It must be hammered home. Until people get this simple point - we will have trouble.
6) Finally, there is a misconception that those who are protesting are some dumb mob who go home and do nothing after the screaming dies down. While this may be true of many, even a majority, a sizable minority of protesters will become energized and propel the movement forward. My own activism began after I saw a Save the Children billboard in Fort Lauderdale during a campaign in the late 80's. I then went to a rally and decided to dedicate myself to the movement. Many of us have a similar story.
So, far from providing a venue for a bunch of people yapping, these protests are energizing those who will eventually replace us and lead the movement. The passions stirred at these events do not stop when the protesters leave. Individuals will take this energy to the workplace, to universities, to the op-ed pages, to blogs, to their family dinner at Thanksgiving this year. Many more people will now come out over the holidays as a result of what is going on. They drew strength to do so from the massive crowds.
So, let's give these people who stood out in the lousy weather a little more credit. The action we are now discussing is already in motion in a thousand different ways that are not included in any memo or action plan we may write.
Few people at the three Proposition 8 protest rallies I attended -- two in New York and one in Chicago -- were familiar. The ones I recognized were the hardcore advocates and tireless workhorses who have long carried the GLBT movement. However, these semi-spontaneous rallies had a different flavor. There was an injection of raw energy and an infusion of new inspiration that has eluded our movement for more than a decade. I peered into the great expanse and saw a wide-eyed sea of fresh new faces -- neophytes who needed help to complete the old chant, Hey, hey, Ho Ho...(Homophobia's got to go).
There has been a paradigm shift in the movement following marriage defeats in California, Florida and Arizona -- as well as an anti-gay adoption measure passing in Arkansas. From seemingly out of nowhere, people who have sat on the sidelines are now making headlines at rallies across America.
The leaders of what is being billed as Stonewall 2.0 are not coming from large, established organizations, but Internet savvy activists who can use a mouse to mobilize the masses. While Internet activism is nothing new, the fact that this huge outpouring of organic outrage is not being channeled through official organizational channels has enormous implications.
Up until two weeks ago, major GLBT groups instructed people to write a check and then essentially instructed donors to check their activism at the door. Sometimes, one was asked to take their commitment a step further by sending e-mail or attending a dinner. I think this week's protests mark the end of the Passive Era of gay politics. A sign at protests, "No More Mr. Nice Gay", highlighted this monumental change.
Now, don't get me wrong, the Passive Era served its purpose. By the mid 1990's exhaustion had beset the movement. Many leading activists had either died from AIDS or were worn out from fighting the culture wars. People felt deflated by the early Clinton years and dispirited after Newt Gingrich wrested control of Congress. Most of the tangible results during this period occurred in the courts, which produced historic victories, but relegated most GLBT people to cheering bystanders.
At this moment of malaise, technology afforded people the ability to engage in activism without leaving the house. While these notable advances have greatly aided the GLBT movement, they also allowed many people to be anesthetized by the Internet. It soon became a movement of elite movers and shakers, with little room for direct action.
The upside to the Passive Era was that aspiring gay insiders actually did sometimes get inside the halls of power and have a voice in the political process. Our organizations became more professional, better organized and institutionalized, which meant that they were not always on the brink of bankruptcy and had the ability to plan for the future.
But, make no mistake - we are not the same movement we were prior to Nov. 4. Having our marriage rights stripped away by a slim majority in California was a transformational experience for many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals. I have lost count of those who have approached me to say that they never thought they were the political type -- until now. These people will bring new ideas, untapped energy and significantly strengthen our work.
It is still unclear how this influx of fiery emotion will specifically change the movement. But, I will make the bold prediction that those organizations that do not adjust to this new reality will wither and die. Newer, sleeker models will replace those that remain stodgy and continue to fight by fax, without incorporating the heat on the street. The new activism is a hybrid of direct action and digital activism. It is evolving, mutating and morphing by the day. And, whichever groups figure out how to be a conduit for this anger -- and effectively turn it into a force -- will lead the movement in the coming years.
This is a rare moment where the pain of Proposition 8 meets the possibility represented by Barack Obama. A great many people can now see that passion can lead to real progress -- and they demand a role in creating change.
Lastly, the rules of the Mormon, Catholic and Evangelical churches are now enshrined into civil law. We are all unofficial members of these religious institutions and captive to their narrow, sectarian rules. They have effectively hijacked the state and now govern our personal relationships and private lives -- whether we like it or not. I think people are finally awakened to this existential threat and willing to fight back.
On Nov. 8, I stood in freezing weather with hundreds of Chicagoans. Last week in Washington, 900 protesters braved a tornado watch to rally in front of the Capitol. Far from a victory, anti-gay forces unleashed a ferocious storm with powerful winds of change that will only end with the sound of wedding bells.
I was watching the University of Florida football game this weekend, and a few of us got talking about old times, back at the University of Florida in 1992. Those were certainly good times. Here is a party from my senior year.
Last week, so-called "ex-gay" activist James Hartline tried to swift boat me on an op-ed I wrote about race and Proposition 8. I responded by pointing out that he was nuts. He had claimed to have prayed away AIDS and is so extreme that he once attacked Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as "one of the biggest anti-christian supporters of homosexuality and abortion in the American government."
Well, today he sunk to new depths of dementia by claiming protests against Proposition 8 are the cause of wildfires in California. According to Hartline:
God keeps trying to get their attention. They, for their part, are shouting so loud for the acceptance of homosexuality, that they cannot hear the thunderous warnings of God: 'Repent! For the judgment comes soon!'
Each time homosexual activists attempt to force their agenda on California, there have been raging, massive, incinerating fires sweeping across the California landscape.
The sad thing is, Hartline is what passes for an ex-gay "leader."