Fighting for Same-Sex Marriage the "Right" Way
Mark D. Snyder
Published in InNewsWeekly Nov. 2, 2006
A sea of red-white-and-blue, religion front and center, and a tightly censored crowd of supporters—The Republican National Convention? Nope. This is the scene outside of the state house each time our legislators gather to vote on the issue of same-sex marriage. And it is not the scene of our opponents.
The rallies coordinated by MassEquality serve a great purpose. They bring our community together, inspire us, and motivate us in our fight for equality. Unfortunately some organizers seem to be better trained in censorship than democracy.
I have witnessed MassEquality organizers coordinate efforts to squash freedom of speech by gathering groups of people to out- chant those initiated by the crowd, asking people to remove signs they deemed "offensive," and admonishing young activists for shouting at the bigots across the street.
There is a difference between de-escalation techniques used to quell violence, and outright censorship. There must be room for all forms of dissent and public discourse when the LGBT community gathers for a rally as large and significant as the same-sex marriage demonstrations. There is room for the Religious Coalition for the Freedom To Marry to lead religious songs of social justice. There is room for patriotic gays to wave their American flags. And in the spirit of the many historical protests that propelled the gay rights movement, there should always be room for us to non-violently express our anger and resist the oppression of the radical right.
Censorship is just one component of MassEquality's flawed public relations strategy that includes presenting the LGBT community as more normal, more mainstream, more religious, and more patriotic than our opponents. This strategy plays into the linguistic hands of the right-wing, and ultimately hurts the most marginalized members of our community. How many queer immigrants or anti-war activists want to sing the national anthem at a time when our country is slaughtering innocent Iraqis? How many genderqueer people worry about presenting themselves as mainstream? MassEquality should not be embarrassed by drag queens shouting at bigots, they should be embarrassed by their own blatant attempts at censorship.
If we want to create long-term societal change we should educate people about the beauty and value of our diversity instead of obsessively trying to prove our normalcy. Garden State Equality, the New Jersey based LGBTI rights coalition formed out of the struggle for marriage equality, has made an attempt to do just that. In all of their publicity they use the term LGBTI instead of gay and lesbian. Rainbows are abundant at their rallies. They shamelessly call the radical-right "hatemongers." And the organization was the first in the country to launch a television advertisement in support of transgender rights.
Our friends at MassEquality have good hearts and good intentions, but they should not be immune from criticism, questioning, or suggestions from the community they represent.
If we do not speak up, the days of rainbows defining the imagery of our movement could be lost to red-white-and-blue. At the rally this Thursday November 9th wave a rainbow flag to show you are proud to be queer, and proud of our community's diversity. Bring a sign that points out the connections to racism of the radical right. Chant about the oppression of LGBT youth and the trans community. Above all, exercise your constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression.