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Fighting for Same-Sex Marriage the "Right" Way

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.


Laurel said...

one thing to keep in mind when considering the song selections in the state house: i highly suspect that the songs are chosen to provoke certain feelings and hopefully therefore votes by legislators. it's strategy pure and simple. the goal isn't showcasing our beautiful diversity, it is killing an amendment. this is not a criticism of what you're saying, just my considered opinion/observation. those songs gag me to be honest, but i sang them until my voice was gone because i could see that the strategy actually does work on legislators. i've heard them say so. some were moved to tears, and not because we can;t carry a tune.

i suspect that the "goody goody" behavioral guidelines for outside the state house that you're talking about are similarily calculated. it's not useful in this context to vie in the public's eye with the haters for the honor of being most hateful and obnoxious. however, i am all for all kinds of flags, signs and songs outside. it's good for massequality to get people familiar with it's 'brand' with all those blue on white signs (and good to have something for people to hold who can't make signs themselves), but geez, we've got a lot more that needs saying than those signs can possibly say.

good luck tomorrow! i can;t be there, so please hold a hilariously poignant and stunningly creative sign for me!

Mark D. Snyder said...

thanks for your input laurel! I will be there around 3pm assuming its all still goin on.

John Hosty said...

I believe Benjamin Franklin said it best, "Everything in moderation" and to me that includes being extreme when the situation calls for it. There is something increasingly "Stepford" about how MassEquality conducts themselves. When I first came into the picture a little over a year ago I thought so long as we keep dishing out love in response to hate we will get people's attention. That does not work on everyone, and not everyone on our side is going to comply with that methodology. MassEquality seems to be forgetting itself. I think it best never to insult those you represent by trying to silencing them, or distancing yourself from them. Their is no shame in being yourself.

Tom Lang and those of us over at may have seemed like trouble makers in the begining, but we have proven otherwise. We have held people accountable for their actions by posting their names which they gave freely, but we have also given people a source of information, an insight to their neighbors they didn't have. In that insight lies the opportunity for dialog, healing, and growth. and others like it are created in the same spirit; the rowdy citizen in all of us who is the very heart of democracy. Thanks Mark for the great post, and thanks for your continued efforts to bring us all together.

John Hosty said...

I find it necessary to follow up my orinigal post. While at the ConCon I was asked several times by members of MassEquality if I had signed in. I took this opportunity to give out my business cards, which clearly indicate I am a gay rights activist. One such "captain" who's name I will withhold gave me the dirtiest expression when I said that I had already signed in and handed her my card. She could not wait for me to turn my back before she made a face that I would have expected of our oppostion. When I saw this I realized she had an issue, and assuming that she may have thought I was one of the haters, I said that I am a supporter. She looked at me with a scoul and said, "Of what?!" I said "Marriage equality." When her scoul did not leave her face and she turned to her friends making a juvinille expression I walked away wondering what type of person would allow her as a "captain" and a champion of MassEquality's cause. I expect better from our side. I call upon our community to try to end our infighting, but I fear that is call will fall upon deaf ears as it has before. We are better than this, and I know that many of you think this battle will be over after the anti-equality amendment is defeated, but that is only the first step along the road to equality. We have so much more work to do, and we have until now been a community devided within itself, with one group criticizing the other. We are better than our opposition, and we need to act like it.

Laurel said...

John, I agree we all should do our best. Sounds like she wasn't well trained. On the other hand, you could have educated her right there on the spot. It isn't clear to me from your description what it was that offended her. Maybe you approached a MassEq person with a chip on your shoulder? It isn't enough to get annoyed and walk away, only to blog about it later. If you feel friction with one of "us", work it out and then move on. We'll all be the better for it.

Anonymous said...


What's going on over at BlueMassGroup is a far bigger issue than any disagreements you might have with MassEquality.

David at BMG's position on the gay marriage amendment is now indistinguishable from that of Republican State Committee member Cynthia Stead (aka Peter Porcupine).

He's written literally dozens of entries on the need to force a vote.

Worse, he's arguing for doing so in order to get the health care amendment passed. He's even made "rhetorical arguments" that the amendment isn't all that bas since those of us who are already married will be allowed to stay married.

Gay people's participation is presumably to head directly to the back of the bus.

We need to gete over there and make our voices heard.

John Hosty said...

I have taken your advice and gone over to Blue Mass Group to speak to the directly. The Lead coordinator for the HC reform amendment is a woman named Barbara, and she is being helped by a woman named Ann.

To bring people up to speed, the fear is that because gay marriage is before the HC amendment on the Jan. 2 ConCon agenda, the drive to squash the anti-gay marriage bill will also squash the HC bill. Once they were informed that the gay community is willing to help them with their fight we were quickly able to start brainstorming of how to eleviate the problem.

Several possibilites are on the table, including asking the legislators to simply move the HC bill up on the agenda. If all else fails we can have the bill reintroduced as a legislative bill rather than a petition, and still have it on the ballot come 2008.

Laurel said...

Thank you John. Well done.