Nationalizing Prop 8: Chicago Join The Impact Protest
by Todd Beeton, Sat Nov 15, 2008 at 01:38:52 PM EST
Today, all over the country, Join The Impact organized rallies to protest the passage of Proposition 8. We in California saw Prop 8 awaken a sleeping giant as thousands of people gathered, seemingly spontaneously, all over the state in the wake of the news that it had passed. It was an amazing sight but little did we know that that truly was just the beginning. A national people-powered marriage equality movement seems to have sprouted up virtually overnight.
As I'm in here in the Chicago suburbs for a friend's wedding (no, I wasn't invited by Barack...) I went into town to check out the Chicago Join The Impact protest at Federal Plaza. The Facebook event had more than 3200 RSVPs and there had to be twice that many people there today. At one point, I heard an announcement that the police were extending the area where people were permitted to stand; this place was bursting at the seams.
It was an extremely moving event because it was clear that I was witnessing nothing less than the birth of our generation's civil rights movement. Sign after sign said it all: "gay rights are civil rights." As a Californian too, it was fascinating to see so many people in Illinois rise up against what my fellow citizens did on November 4th. Someone was even holding a No on Prop 8 sign re-jiggered to read "Vote No On Pro-H8." There was a distinct "We are all Californians now" vibe to the whole thing but I think also that this national movement might not have sprung up if it had been any other state. People think of California not only as a bastion of liberalism but also as a bellwether for the rest of the country. They see gay marriage go down in California, for many, it is a sign that it could mean the end of gay marriage everywhere else, before it's even begun.
The passion in the voices of the speakers was moving as well. One of the organizers of the event stood up and expressed great frustration with Illinois Democrats at not having passed a marriage equality bill, not even a civil unions bill. "There is no state bluer than Illinois! There is no excuse!" I expect we'll see pressure all over the country for state legislatures to pass marriage equality legislation and if we don't, we should. He also acknowledged the importance that this movement not end today, which is a really important point. "We're not just blowing off steam here today, as good as that feels. This needs to continue!" In Chicago, the next action will be next Saturday outside the Century Theatre in Evanston, IL to protest the fact that Cinemark CEO Alan Stock donated $10,000 to Prop 8. Considering the intensity on display at the protest today, I suspect Stock is going to deeply regret that donation.
One man stood up and confessed that despite being a gay man, he wasn't really on board with gay marriage until recently. What did it for him: Keith Olbermann's special comment the other night. Another activist read from a well-written script and at a certain point was like "OK, I have to put this down. It's a beautiful speech but I have to speak to you from my heart" and he went on to speak personally and passionately about his refusal to allow his country to treat him as a second class citizen. "Not anymore! Not anymore!"
All over downtown Chicago there were banners on lampposts congratulating "Chicago's own Barack Obama" and it seemed rather appropriate that this protest should be surrounded by these banners. As Barack has said throughout his campaign for the presidency, "this is not about me, this is about you...change can only come if you demand it...change doesn't come from the top down, it comes from the bottom up." President-elect Obama may not be in favor of marriage equality as a policy, but the spirit of our first community organizer president was there at Federal Plaza today.
This has only just begun...
(more pics over the jump)