I got to Volunteer Park around 11:30, after sharing a bus ride with at least a dozen other people bound for the demonstration, and I headed for the outdoor stage. On my way, I passed this protester. I think this is one of my favorite images -- don't hate on America. Simple. The thing that the pro-8 people forget is that Gay Americans are just as American as Straight Americans.
I took several other pictures on my way up to the stage, many of people with clever signs, some kids running around, and between my arrival and the beginnings of the speeches, I took several pictures of couples who just want their unions to be as valued as those of straight couples.
There were a lot of kids. It was great to see too. And, in light of Seattles homogeny (as in milk), it was good to see the amount of diversity at the event. Old, young, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, straight, gay, and trans (and a Mormon missionary -- whom I point out because he was the only person advertising his religion on his sleeve... literally). All kinds of people showed up to rally around a single message: homosexuals are people too.
The festivities themselves were relatively brief, but featured a number of Seattle and Washington politicians who are out and pressing for the recognition of, not only their own marriages, but those of others.
Organizer Kyler Powell told us about growing up in the LDS church, and how when he asked about love, his dad said "Love is a promise two people make when they would move mountains for each other.
State Senator Ed Murray and his partner Michael spoke briefly. Senator Murray quoted Gandhi, "First they ignored us, then they laughed at us; then the fought us; then we won."
He was followed by State Senator Joe McDermott, who said, "we may be here out of frustration, but we can use that energy" to make the changes we seek.
Next up was the very enthusiastic King County Executive, Ron Simms -- so enthusiastic, in fact, that it was hard to get a good picture of him. He recalled, back in the day when people would try to used the Bible to justify their racism, and how his teachers would laugh at him and tell him to go home; when he told his parents his father would smile and tell him it was time for another march. "Talk about immorality?!" Simms began, "Talk about hunger - talk about war, that's immoral! But do not tell me that when two people love each other - that is right!"
PFLAG representatives Ben Vogt and his partner Jeff Albertson also spoke, rejecting the idea that their partnership, their citizenship was somehow less. Jeff quoted Dr. King, "When any society tells me that I cannot marry, that society has cut off a segment of my freedom." Hells yes, Dr. King.
"I am Charlene Strong, and I'm here to recruit you," said the next speaker, invoking the memory of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay member of the US Congress (who was assassinated 30 years ago). "Equality is not multiple choice," she said, still feeling the pain from being told that she could not see her wife as she lay dying several years ago. Heartbreak still wells up in me, to think that anyone would be denied the opportunity to comfort a dying loved one, all based on some arbitrary rule that says one couple's union is recognized by the state, but another union is not. How did we come to this? This hierarchy of relationships? It's bad enough that so many relationships have a power structure built into them, but to have a power structure amoung two different, unrelated relationships? That's just stupid.
Seattle Mayor, Greg Nickels agreed, declaring 15 November 2008 Marriage Equality Day.
After that declaration, the flags were unfurled (American and Gay Pride) and the march to Westlake Center began. I would estimate that about 4,000 people showed up. 4,000 people, marching 2.5 miles, with signs and chants, and various other forms of jubiliation.
Despite the fact that I climbed the 100 or so stairs to the top of the water tower (and back
down) and was very,
very sore by the end of the day, I had so much fun. Civil Rights are very important to me, and it was very rewarding to stand up with my fellow citizens and say "NO, we're not going to allow the rights of Americans to be taken away like that". And while a protest, no matter how enormous it was (4,000 times 50 states... 80,000 people -- that's an Obama rally!) is not going to repeal Prop 8, or magically give gay Americans their rights, but the more of us that stand up in more places and more often, the sooner we'll be taking further steps toward true equality. The struggle to help gay Americans have their full rights didn't end on Saturday. The struggle for freedom for everyone in this country isn't even close to being over, but that we are still striving rather than having resigned ourselves to accepting this shit because "that's how it's always been".
We all know that "that's how it's always been" isn't good enough. It's simply not. The people I marched with on Saturday are all very important people. They vote, they pay taxes, they love, they get angry and throw things, they get sick, and just because it's always been that because of their sexual orientations or gender identities they've been thought of as less-than, does not mean that it can, should, or will continue that way. If this country is going to remain the greatest, we have to start measuring our greatness by the way we treat our citizens, not the sizes of our guns.
And start acting like Americans.