Last week I found myself in West Hollywood, grumbling and fuming as I sat in my car, a prisoner inside a steel confinement. Everybody hates traffic, and I am no exception. As hundreds, maybe thousands, of gay and lesbian people walked the streets displaying their signs and shouting at the top of their lungs their distaste for the passing of Proposition 8, I was just upset I couldn’t get home quicker. Prop 8 passed on a night in which our country hit a historic milestone. An African American, was elected President. A man who decades earlier would be forced to drink from a different fountain, ride in a different section of the bus and have a fire hose turned on him if he dared to demand his rights, was elected to the highest office of our country. That night, which brought such joy and hope to so many across the country, was marred by a quiet injustice. As people danced and celebrated in the streets and pundits discussed how far we have come, a group of people were stripped of their rights and deemed second class citizens.
I rolled my eyes and huffed. I have to sit in traffic for this? The cops have blocked the roads now. These protesters are stopping the cops from doing their jobs. What a waste of resources. I wanted to go home and watch the Laker game. Why did you guys wait so long to organize and protest like this? What good does it do NOW, a day after the thing already passed?
It wasn’t until a week later that I saw images of the protest. I figured it was a phenomenon of West Hollywood, an area inhabited by a large gay and lesbian population. Then I saw even more images. From Boston, Philadelphia, Florida, Alaska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Oregon, New York, Seattle (pictured above), New Jersey and even Texas. This wasn’t just a West Hollywood gathering. This was happening everywhere. One sign put it best, “No More Mr. Nice Gay”.
Rights aren’t always granted to us. The people of California, often thought to be the most progressive, voted to take the rights away from gays and lesbians that they had no business voting on in the first place. I am for the rights of gays and lesbians to marry, yet I have absolutely no business voting on the issue. It’s not for us to vote on. It shouldn’t be on the ballot. These are rights that should be a given, without having to convince extremists, conservatives, homophobes or Mormons.
The election of Obama helped to facilitate this I believe. The landmark election of a minority President lit a spark that has led to protests around the country of a new oppressed minority that will no longer allow themselves to be subjected to prejudice while wearing a smile. They will not accept civil unions because they just shouldn’t have to. The gay and lesbian community are doing what needs to be done in order to achieve equality. Rights are not acquired by asking politely. They are acquired by standing up and demanding them. I believe the advent of Obama has facilitated this, even though he himself has ironically displayed cowardice on this issue.
These protests are unlike anything I’ve seen before in my lifetime. They are extending to every region of our country, by people who are fed up with being kicked around. Gay marriage WILL happen. It’s just a question of when. And when it does, it will be in large part to the brave people who finally stood up and demanded, not asked, that their rights be granted. To anyone reading this involved in the protests, keep up the good work. And don’t let anyone, not even a frustrated commuter trying to get home to see his basketball game, tell you to stop.