Well, once again it seems that I have offended campus gay activists with my most recent article, ?Dispelling myths about gay activism.? Several very un-gay (in fact, they were hostile) emails convinced me that I was not taking the campus gay rights movement as seriously as I should. So, naturally, I did what any rational person would do under the circumstances and started searching the local university websites to learn more about campus gay activism.
After only minutes, I came across a letter, which was circulating among gay activists at Duke University. After reading the following, I recognized what a serious civil rights struggle campus gay activists are facing everywhere:
As many of you know, North Carolina's LGBT community is currently organizing what may become the biggest sit-ins since the 1960s.
The event, a Traditional Southern Wedding, Sit-In, and Reception, will take place in Raleigh's Nash Square, one block away from the Wake County's Register of Deeds, on April 22 or 28. The event will begin in the afternoon and be an actual commitment ceremony between two long-time lovers. Although it will require a protest permit, the event will feature the ornate flourishings of a traditional southern wedding--caterers, flower arrangements, white trellises and more. Progressive pastors, imans and rabbis will preside over, or be present at, the ceremony. Witnesses will be in formal attire and celebrate love between two people.
After the ceremony, the two brides will lead willing members of the wedding party to the Register of Deeds office. Once there, they will request a marriage license and get turned down. The brides and party members will demand that the government legally recognize their union and proceed to stage a sit-in. They will stay there long enough for reporters to get their fill --two hours or so-- then peacefully disperse. If the police try to disrupt our peaceful action, all the better: the news that night will feature two brides, in full regalia, being drug away. So here's where we, the organizers, are: We need our Rosa Parkses.
We are searching North Carolina for two long-time lovers willing to let their love be the focal point of this historic action. The planners met last Sunday and, after thinking hard about an effective media image, came up with the following characteristics. For this action, the ideal couple is:
1. Prepared to commit their love to one another.
2. Between baby-boomer, African-American women.
3. Willing to wear dresses and/or other signifiers of a wedding.
4. Raising a child, or children, together.
5. Interested in leading a mass sit-in.
6. Willing to get arrested for this cause.
7. Willing to have a religious figure preside over the ceremony.
8. Willing to let documentary filmmakers, national interviewers and reporters feature their daily lives and/or thoughts before and during this event.
It would take another full Sunday to explain the logic behind all these details, but let me briefly articulate some rationale. We're attempting to appeal to our
progressive base and straight people "on the fence" regarding same-sex marriage.
We're using wedding imagery because it evokes viewers' empathy and personalizes this abstract debate. We want baby-boomers because we want to appeal to an older set, and young people tend to be on our side. We want the couple to be African-American to steer clear of the Republican Right's argument that all LGBT people are whites "piggy-backing" on civil right sympathies. We want the couple to be women because brides wear the signifiers of wedding --dresses and veils-- which is important when we're talking about 10 second media clips. We would like the couple to have a child because it testifies to the immediacy and practical value of marriage. We want there to be religious figures present to avoid the argument that this is a secular verses religious issue; instead, it becomes one of fundamentalist intolerance and skewed biblical interpretation. And, lastly, we feel the sit-in is important because it casts the government, rightly in this context, as something that opposes love and community. So, we're looking for the right couple to rally behind.
If you know of partners who might be interested, please get them in touch with me?. We hope that this event will be one of North Carolina's, and the South's, contributions to the national same- sex marriage debate. We might not have progressive courts, or public officials willing to risk their jobs on equality, but we do have liberal and loving religious leaders, a powerful LGBT community, a history of civil rights and thousands of straight supporters. Best,
p.s.-- feel free to forward this e-mail.
Don?t worry, Randall. I?ll make sure that this letter is distributed far and wide. And I will never again use my words to diminish the credibility of campus gay activists. I?ll use your words instead.