SAN FRANCISCO—In an election year that has already seen a big surge in youth involvement around the president-elect Barack Obama's campaign – the victory of California Proposition 8, which defines gay marriage as between a man and a woman, has been a catalyst for a new wave of youth activism in the LGBTQ community and beyond.
Since the November decision, LGBTQ community members and their allies haven't wasted time fighting the marriage ban. From street protests to legal actions urging the Supreme Court, which previously ruled in favor of same-sex marriage back in May of 2008, the issue has been kept in motion.
Young queers of color have found themselves in a special position after the media instigated tensions by blaming the loss of Prop. 8 on the black vote – with exit polls suggesting that black voters tipped the scales with an alleged 7 out of 10 blacks voting to support the measure. This news led to name-calling and slurs at protests.
"As one of many black people who opposed Prop 8, it's kinda scary that there's this group of people who were so willing to turn against black people," says 20-year-old Terry Taplin, an African American poet nationally recognized for his advocacy of LGBTQ causes. "At the same time, there are a lot of homophobic sentiments in the black community that now are hard to deny."
But other polls and research show that even combined with Latinos, these two groups -- African-Americans and Latinos -- still represent less than one third of the total electorate, and therefore should not the scapegoat for why Prop 8 passed. Perhaps the real culprit was Republicans and the Religious Right.
"I think that in the wake of Prop 8, now more than ever, it's important for the LGBT community to be as visible as possible. The protests and the rallies have to continue. Human rights has never been a matter of diplomacy, it's always been a matter of fighting for it," says Taplin.
The excitement surrounding this year's election among young voters, created a perfect platform for young organizers and activists like Allan Acevedo, a 19-year-old San Diego State University student. Acevedo wanted to be involved at a local level this year so he volunteered for State Assembly candidate Marty Block – an educator with a long history of community activism – in order to really learn about political organizing.
Acevedo is also a member of the board of directors for San Francisco's Gay Straight Alliance Network, so he had been politically activated around gay rights for some time – but Prop 8 gave him a platform to really organize.
"We went to Wal-Mart and Target to counteract paid signature gatherers in support of Prop 8," Avecedo says, "A lot of them lied and got people to sign the petition in support of Prop 8 by telling them that they were signing a measure to oppose it."
In his on-campus student efforts, Acevedo noticed that a lot of young people were complacent and unenthusiastic during the campaign believing that Prop 8 would never pass.
But it did – with a 53 percent majority in San Diego.
One pre-election organizing mistake that Acevedo acknowledges, was about race. "I think the campaign should have done more to outreach to people of color, even though I think people are distorting the statistics," he says.
Post-election, Acevedo began volunteering for the People of Color committee, organizing effective ways to outreach for different communities.
"We said that when we went to the black community we would not talk about segregation or compare their struggle for civil rights to ours – although there are several correlations – it wasn't about using logic, it was about touching people's hearts."
He also thinks that young people didn't quite understand the value of the outreach work they were doing before the election.
"Our whole campaign was phone banking," he says. "People weren't inspired until they saw people going out into the community. They began to send Facebook invites and text messages to come to protests and rallies. It suddenly became so much bigger than they thought it would be. We had students in the hallway, on the floor, and outside on benches. It was amazing to see so many young people take action when it mattered."
Now, Acevedo is president of the Stonewall Young Democrats, and he spends time passing out fliers for rallies, and recently organized a forum where 50 young people came to discuss further action.
He says that even though Prop 8 won, he is proud that so many college students are educating themselves and speaking out in support of gay marriage now.
"Young people have turned this from an issue into a movement," Acevedo says.
Let's try for a minute to take the religious conservatives at their word and define marriage as the Bible does. Shall we look to Abraham, the great patriarch, who slept with his servant when he discovered his beloved wife Sarah was infertile? Or to Jacob, who fathered children with four different women (two sisters and their servants)? Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and Israel—all these fathers and heroes were polygamists. The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better. Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachments—especially family. The apostle Paul (also single) regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust. "It is better to marry than to burn with passion," says the apostle, in one of the most lukewarm endorsements of a treasured institution ever uttered. Would any contemporary heterosexual married couple—who likely woke up on their wedding day harboring some optimistic and newfangled ideas about gender equality and romantic love—turn to the Bible as a how-to script?
Of course not, yet the religious opponents of gay marriage would have it be so.
The battle over gay marriage has been waged for more than a decade, but within the last six months—since California legalized gay marriage and then, with a ballot initiative in November, amended its Constitution to prohibit it—the debate has grown into a full-scale war, with religious-rhetoric slinging to match. Not since 1860, when the country's pulpits were full of preachers pronouncing on slavery, pro and con, has one of our basic social (and economic) institutions been so subject to biblical scrutiny. But whereas in the Civil War the traditionalists had their James Henley Thornwell—and the advocates for change, their Henry Ward Beecher—this time the sides are unevenly matched. All the religious rhetoric, it seems, has been on the side of the gay-marriage opponents, who use Scripture as the foundation for their objections.
The argument goes something like this statement, which the Rev. Richard A. Hunter, a United Methodist minister, gave to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in June: "The Bible and Jesus define marriage as between one man and one woman. The church cannot condone or bless same-sex marriages because this stands in opposition to Scripture and our tradition."
To which there are two obvious responses: First, while the Bible and Jesus say many important things about love and family, neither explicitly defines marriage as between one man and one woman. And second, as the examples above illustrate, no sensible modern person wants marriage—theirs or anyone else's —to look in its particulars anything like what the Bible describes. "Marriage" in America refers to two separate things, a religious institution and a civil one, though it is most often enacted as a messy conflation of the two. As a civil institution, marriage offers practical benefits to both partners: contractual rights having to do with taxes; insurance; the care and custody of children; visitation rights; and inheritance. As a religious institution, marriage offers something else: a commitment of both partners before God to love, honor and cherish each other—in sickness and in health, for richer and poorer—in accordance with God's will. In a religious marriage, two people promise to take care of each other, profoundly, the way they believe God cares for them. Biblical literalists will disagree, but the Bible is a living document, powerful for more than 2,000 years because its truths speak to us even as we change through history. In that light, Scripture gives us no good reason why gays and lesbians should not be (civilly and religiously) married—and a number of excellent reasons why they should.
In the Old Testament, the concept of family is fundamental, but examples of what social conservatives would call "the traditional family" are scarcely to be found. Marriage was critical to the passing along of tradition and history, as well as to maintaining the Jews' precious and fragile monotheism. But as the Barnard University Bible scholar Alan Segal puts it, the arrangement was between "one man and as many women as he could pay for." Social conservatives point to Adam and Eve as evidence for their one man, one woman argument—in particular, this verse from Genesis: "Therefore shall a man leave his mother and father, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh." But as Segal says, if you believe that the Bible was written by men and not handed down in its leather bindings by God, then that verse was written by people for whom polygamy was the way of the world. (The fact that homosexual couples cannot procreate has also been raised as a biblical objection, for didn't God say, "Be fruitful and multiply"? But the Bible authors could never have imagined the brave new world of international adoption and assisted reproductive technology—and besides, heterosexuals who are infertile or past the age of reproducing get married all the time.)
Ozzie and Harriet are nowhere in the New Testament either. The biblical Jesus was—in spite of recent efforts of novelists to paint him otherwise—emphatically unmarried. He preached a radical kind of family, a caring community of believers, whose bond in God superseded all blood ties. Leave your families and follow me, Jesus says in the gospels. There will be no marriage in heaven, he says in Matthew. Jesus never mentions homosexuality, but he roundly condemns divorce (leaving a loophole in some cases for the husbands of unfaithful women).
The apostle Paul echoed the Christian Lord's lack of interest in matters of the flesh. For him, celibacy was the Christian ideal, but family stability was the best alternative. Marry if you must, he told his audiences, but do not get divorced. "To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): a wife must not separate from her husband." It probably goes without saying that the phrase "gay marriage" does not appear in the Bible at all. If the bible doesn't give abundant examples of traditional marriage, then what are the gay-marriage opponents really exercised about? Well, homosexuality, of course—specifically sex between men. Sex between women has never, even in biblical times, raised as much ire. In its entry on "Homosexual Practices," the Anchor Bible Dictionary notes that nowhere in the Bible do its authors refer to sex between women, "possibly because it did not result in true physical 'union' (by male entry)." The Bible does condemn gay male sex in a handful of passages. Twice Leviticus refers to sex between men as "an abomination" (King James version), but these are throwaway lines in a peculiar text given over to codes for living in the ancient Jewish world, a text that devotes verse after verse to treatments for leprosy, cleanliness rituals for menstruating women and the correct way to sacrifice a goat—or a lamb or a turtle dove. Most of us no longer heed Leviticus on haircuts or blood sacrifices; our modern understanding of the world has surpassed its prescriptions. Why would we regard its condemnation of homosexuality with more seriousness than we regard its advice, which is far lengthier, on the best price to pay for a slave?
Paul was tough on homosexuality, though recently progressive scholars have argued that his condemnation of men who "were inflamed with lust for one another" (which he calls "a perversion") is really a critique of the worst kind of wickedness: self-delusion, violence, promiscuity and debauchery. In his book "The Arrogance of Nations," the scholar Neil Elliott argues that Paul is referring in this famous passage to the depravity of the Roman emperors, the craven habits of Nero and Caligula, a reference his audience would have grasped instantly. "Paul is not talking about what we call homosexuality at all," Elliott says. "He's talking about a certain group of people who have done everything in this list. We're not dealing with anything like gay love or gay marriage. We're talking about really, really violent people who meet their end and are judged by God." In any case, one might add, Paul argued more strenuously against divorce—and at least half of the Christians in America disregard that teaching.
Religious objections to gay marriage are rooted not in the Bible at all, then, but in custom and tradition (and, to talk turkey for a minute, a personal discomfort with gay sex that transcends theological argument). Common prayers and rituals reflect our common practice: the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer describes the participants in a marriage as "the man and the woman." But common practice changes—and for the better, as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice." The Bible endorses slavery, a practice that Americans now universally consider shameful and barbaric. It recommends the death penalty for adulterers (and in Leviticus, for men who have sex with men, for that matter). It provides conceptual shelter for anti-Semites. A mature view of scriptural authority requires us, as we have in the past, to move beyond literalism. The Bible was written for a world so unlike our own, it's impossible to apply its rules, at face value, to ours.
Marriage, specifically, has evolved so as to be unrecognizable to the wives of Abraham and Jacob. Monogamy became the norm in the Christian world in the sixth century; husbands' frequent enjoyment of mistresses and prostitutes became taboo by the beginning of the 20th. (In the NEWSWEEK POLL, 55 percent of respondents said that married heterosexuals who have sex with someone other than their spouses are more morally objectionable than a gay couple in a committed sexual relationship.) By the mid-19th century, U.S. courts were siding with wives who were the victims of domestic violence, and by the 1970s most states had gotten rid of their "head and master" laws, which gave husbands the right to decide where a family would live and whether a wife would be able to take a job. Today's vision of marriage as a union of equal partners, joined in a relationship both romantic and pragmatic, is, by very recent standards, radical, says Stephanie Coontz, author of "Marriage, a History."
Religious wedding ceremonies have already changed to reflect new conceptions of marriage. Remember when we used to say "man and wife" instead of "husband and wife"? Remember when we stopped using the word "obey"? Even Miss Manners, the voice of tradition and reason, approved in 1997 of that change. "It seems," she wrote, "that dropping 'obey' was a sensible editing of a service that made assumptions about marriage that the society no longer holds."
We cannot look to the Bible as a marriage manual, but we can read it for universal truths as we struggle toward a more just future. The Bible offers inspiration and warning on the subjects of love, marriage, family and community. It speaks eloquently of the crucial role of families in a fair society and the risks we incur to ourselves and our children should we cease trying to bind ourselves together in loving pairs. Gay men like to point to the story of passionate King David and his friend Jonathan, with whom he was "one spirit" and whom he "loved as he loved himself." Conservatives say this is a story about a platonic friendship, but it is also a story about two men who stand up for each other in turbulent times, through violent war and the disapproval of a powerful parent. David rends his clothes at Jonathan's death and, in grieving, writes a song:
I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; You were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, More wonderful than that of women.
Here, the Bible praises enduring love between men. What Jonathan and David did or did not do in privacy is perhaps best left to history and our own imaginations.
In addition to its praise of friendship and its condemnation of divorce, the Bible gives many examples of marriages that defy convention yet benefit the greater community. The Torah discouraged the ancient Hebrews from marrying outside the tribe, yet Moses himself is married to a foreigner, Zipporah. Queen Esther is married to a non-Jew and, according to legend, saves the Jewish people. Rabbi Arthur Waskow, of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia, believes that Judaism thrives through diversity and inclusion. "I don't think Judaism should or ought to want to leave any portion of the human population outside the religious process," he says. "We should not want to leave [homosexuals] outside the sacred tent." The marriage of Joseph and Mary is also unorthodox (to say the least), a case of an unconventional arrangement accepted by society for the common good. The boy needed two human parents, after all. In the Christian story, the message of acceptance for all is codified. Jesus reaches out to everyone, especially those on the margins, and brings the whole Christian community into his embrace. The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author, cites the story of Jesus revealing himself to the woman at the well— no matter that she had five former husbands and a current boyfriend—as evidence of Christ's all-encompassing love. The great Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann, emeritus professor at Columbia Theological Seminary, quotes the apostle Paul when he looks for biblical support of gay marriage: "There is neither Greek nor Jew, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Jesus Christ." The religious argument for gay marriage, he adds, "is not generally made with reference to particular texts, but with the general conviction that the Bible is bent toward inclusiveness."
The practice of inclusion, even in defiance of social convention, the reaching out to outcasts, the emphasis on togetherness and community over and against chaos, depravity, indifference—all these biblical values argue for gay marriage. If one is for racial equality and the common nature of humanity, then the values of stability, monogamy and family necessarily follow. Terry Davis is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Hartford, Conn., and has been presiding over "holy unions" since 1992. "I'm against promiscuity—love ought to be expressed in committed relationships, not through casual sex, and I think the church should recognize the validity of committed same-sex relationships," he says.
Still, very few Jewish or Christian denominations do officially endorse gay marriage, even in the states where it is legal. The practice varies by region, by church or synagogue, even by cleric. More progressive denominations—the United Church of Christ, for example—have agreed to support gay marriage. Other denominations and dioceses will do "holy union" or "blessing" ceremonies, but shy away from the word "marriage" because it is politically explosive. So the frustrating, semantic question remains: should gay people be married in the same, sacramental sense that straight people are? I would argue that they should. If we are all God's children, made in his likeness and image, then to deny access to any sacrament based on sexuality is exactly the same thing as denying it based on skin color—and no serious (or even semiserious) person would argue that. People get married "for their mutual joy," explains the Rev. Chloe Breyer, executive director of the Interfaith Center in New York, quoting the Episcopal marriage ceremony. That's what religious people do: care for each other in spite of difficulty, she adds. In marriage, couples grow closer to God: "Being with one another in community is how you love God. That's what marriage is about."
More basic than theology, though, is human need. We want, as Abraham did, to grow old surrounded by friends and family and to be buried at last peacefully among them. We want, as Jesus taught, to love one another for our own good—and, not to be too grandiose about it, for the good of the world. We want our children to grow up in stable homes. What happens in the bedroom, really, has nothing to do with any of this. My friend the priest James Martin says his favorite Scripture relating to the question of homosexuality is Psalm 139, a song that praises the beauty and imperfection in all of us and that glorifies God's knowledge of our most secret selves: "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made." And then he adds that in his heart he believes that if Jesus were alive today, he would reach out especially to the gays and lesbians among us, for "Jesus does not want people to be lonely and sad." Let the priest's prayer be our own.
Jon Stewart has had Frost/Nixon on his mind a lot lately, so it's not at all surprising to see the Daily Show host channeling those old interviews in his sit-down with Mike Huckabee. The two men devoted an entire segment of a two-part interview to a debate over gay marriage. Commendations all around, to both parties, for having a civil and even-tempered talk about the issue, though I'll personally confess: I have no idea what needs to be done to my brain to make it understand Mike Huckabee's "reasoning" on a structural level. When I hear that gay marriage threatens the sanctity of marriage in general, I have my own marriage as evidence that this is not the case. And anyway, it's a lot like saying that my preference for chocolate ice cream over vanilla threatens the sanctity of dessert. Must we have these conversations over harms that are entirely imaginary?
It seems we must. Huckabee's key point is that people should have "the right to live any way they want to" but that marriage is about men and women, basically making babies. "Anatomically, let's face it," Huckabee says, "the only way we can create the next generation is with male-female relationships." I must have missed the news about the steep population decline we're undergoing! Stewart covers the whole history of how marriage has been redefined, including how only recently, interracial marriage (you know...the sort that produced the next POTUS?) was illegal. This doesn't move Huckabee in the least: "There's a key difference between a person being black and a person practicing a lifestyle."
Stewart does a good job penetrating that argument, mostly for the audience's benefit. He also seemed to score a hit on Huckabee when he said, "It's a travesty that people have forced someone who is gay to have to make their case, that they deserve the same basic rights." That suddenly sent Huckabee off into a new realm of argument, where he insisted that just because he doesn't "support the idea of changing the definition of marriage doesn't mean I'm a homophobe." Is that where the barricade to denying people this basic right has been built?
It's really time to stop dancing around the fantasy of a post-racial America, particularly with the exposed nerves around Prop 8. Here's another example of jaw-dropping color arousal and unhelpful ruminating, this time in an op-ed by Caitlin Flanagan and Benjamin Schwarz in the New York Times, "Showdown in the Big Tent" -- it asserts most blacks are homophobic, apparently due to race itself.
Christian teaching on marriage is not the only reason so many blacks supported Proposition 8. Although it has come as a shocking realization to many in this community, a host of sociological studies confirm that many blacks feel a significant aversion to homosexuality itself, finding it morally and sexually repugnant.
None of these studies are cited by the way, and besides, if we run with that ludicrous statement and take a look at general demographics in this country -- many whites feel a significant aversion to homosexuality as well, or we'd have marriage equality in quite a few more states. Homophobia has nothing to do with race; religious beliefs, levels of education and class are much better predictors -- and that applies across color lines.
A blanket statement about blacks and homophobia overlooks black LGBTs, secular blacks, those with high levels of education -- those who did vote against 8. Did these folks turn in their Negro card when they lost their homophobia? It's absurd thinking.
But acknowledging this that would render this op-ed's hysteria useless, facts and logic are inconvenient. It's amazing how intelligent people can so easily fall prey to their own biases, and display them so publicly.
Again, it's clear there are unique cultural factors that make homophobia in the black community worth exploring and combating, but this op-ed is unbelievable, even suggesting that
Many gay activists have begun quietly to suggest that had Hillary Clinton been the Democratic nominee, Prop 8 would not have passed.
Why will this zombie meme -- that the black vote was the cause of the failure to defeat Prop 8 -- simply not die?
Left-leaning California's horror about this newly revealed schism between two of its favorite sons is a situation that cries out for a villain, but the one that liberal white Hollywood has chosen for the role probably won't make it all the way to the third act.
"It's their churches," somebody whispered to one of us not long after the election; "It's their Christianity," someone else hissed, rolling her eyes.
Their churches -- those black churches did it. Have they forgotten who bankrolled Yes on 8 and exploited the cultural conservatism of a slice of the religious black community -- white evangelicals and Mormons. Gee, aren't the vast majority of those folks white?
More after the jump, including the unsettling news delivered to me on Saturday just before I had to go onstage to moderate a panel about building coalitions.
This kind of irresponsible baiting is incredible, yet I have to say that this kind of thinking is still roiling inside the LGBT community. On Saturday, just prior to the one I moderated at the Gay & Lesbian Leadership Conference, I had more than a few people come up to me to say that this kind of irrational, unproductive blaming was stirring among some of the attendees of a panel about Prop 8 moments ago.
Of course I was told this just before I had to go on stage and discuss "Winning Coalitions for the Common Good." Needless to say, it was intimidating to think that a good number of people in the room arrived agitated over Prop 8 and race, and here we were, there to talk about communication, reconciliation and moving forward.
As I said in my post about the plenary session, I had prepared opening remarks to lay the foundation for opening honest communication, and in light of what I was told about the rancor just before going on, I had no idea what to expect:
Today I'm here with my colleagues from the National LGBT Blogger and Citizen Journalist Initiative that is being held just a few blocks away. In many ways the issues we are discussing there have much in common with those this panel will address. In our workshops we are dealing with long-simmering communication challenges between blogs, traditional LGBT media, elected officials, community leaders and LGBT advocacy organizations. We're meeting to learn how to build mutually beneficial ties as we advance, report on, and provide commentary about the LGBT rights movement. The bottom line is that we have to add effective communication tools to our toolboxes to make that happen.
And here we, at your conference, to being a discussion about how to achieve similar goals on a different front -- how to build stronger coalitions, in this case between the LGBT community and communities of color, labor, women, the faith community and other potential political allies for the common good. And that involves developing a framework for productive dialogue in the wake Prop 8. In the blogosphere the reactions were raw, long-simmering tensions were unearthed in a very public way.
The fact is, this wasn't surprising to those of us who inhabit both worlds as LGBT people of color. What it laid bare was the long-standing dire need for better communication between the LGBT movement and communities of color, and discussion about LGBT issues within communities of color. So I see this as an amazing opportunity for all of us to add tools to our toolboxes to reach our common goal of equality.
The panelists on stage with me, Kathryn Kolbert, President of People for the American Way; Assembly member John Pérez of the California State Assembly; Robert Raben, of the Raben Group; and Dr. Kenneth Samuel, African American Ministers Leadership Council deftly negotiated this difficult territory, and the Q&A with the audience was productive. I left the stage with a sigh of relief; I do hope that there was active listening going on because that's the only way to move forward.
I did receive positive feedback about the session, so I left somewhat reassured that what was said gave people food for thought, and that they were perhaps ready to actually take action individually to leave their comfort zones to do the difficult work needed to use those tools in the toolbox and communicate beyond our fears about race, religion and difference. If we don't, the religious right will continue to exploit our inability to come to grips with the solvable schisms in our community.
SAN FRANCISCO — Some same-sex marriage supporters are urging people to "call in gay" Wednesday to show how much the country relies on gays and lesbians, but others question whether it's wise to encourage skipping work given the nation's economic distress.
Organizers of "Day Without a Gay" _ scheduled to coincide with International Human Rights Day and modeled after similar work stoppages by Latino immigrants _ also are encouraging people to perform volunteer work and refrain from spending money.
Sean Hetherington, a West Hollywood comedian and personal trainer, dreamed up the idea with his boyfriend, Aaron Hartzler, after reading online that a few angry gay-rights activists were calling for a daylong strike to protest California voters' passage last month of Proposition 8, which reversed this year's state Supreme Court decision allowing gay marriage.
The couple thought it would be more effective and less divisive if people were asked to perform community service instead of staying home with their wallets shut. Dozens of nonprofit agencies, from the National Women's Law Center in Washington to a Methodist church in Fresno collecting food for the homeless, have posted opportunities for volunteers on the couple's Web site.
"We are all for a boycott if that is what brings about a sense of community for people," said Hetherington, 30, who plans to spend Wednesday volunteering at an inner-city school. "You can take away from the economy and give back in other ways."
Hetherington said he's been getting 100 e-mails an hour from people looking for volunteer opportunities, and that his "Day Without a Gay" Web site has gotten 100,000 hits since mid-November.
Despite Hartzler and Hetherington's attempt to fashion a positive approach, some organizers of the street demonstrations that drew massive crowds in many cities last month have been reluctant to embrace the concept, saying that it could be at best impractical and at worst counterproductive to "call in gay."
"It's extra-challenging for people to think about taking off work as a form of protest, given that we are talking about people who may not be out (as gay) at work, and given the current economic situation and job market," said Jules Graves, 38, coordinator of the Colorado Queer Straight Alliance. "There is really not any assurance employers would appreciate it for what it is." Story continues below
Graves' group nonetheless is arranging for interested participants to volunteer at the local African Community Center in Denver. The agency said it could find projects to keep 20 people busy, but so far only 10 have pledged to show up, said Graves.
Join The Impact, the online community that launched protests last month over the passage of gay marriage bans in California, Florida and Arizona, has urged people to withdraw $80 from their bank accounts Wednesday to demonstrate gays' spending power, and to devote the time they might otherwise spend watching TV or surfing the Internet to volunteer work.
Witeck-Combs Communications, a public relations firm in Washington that specializes in the gay and lesbian market, published a study this year that estimated that gay and lesbian consumers spend $700 billion annually.
Bob Witeck, the firm's chief executive officer, said it would be difficult to measure the success of Wednesday's strike since gay employees occupy so many fields. And rather than suspending all consumer spending for the day, gay rights supporters would have a bigger impact if they devoted their dollars to gay-friendly businesses year-round, Witeck said.
"Our community leaders who are running book stores, newspapers, flower shops, coffee houses, bars and many, many other things are hurting right now, so paying attention to their needs during this hard time is an effective form of activism," he said.
Hetherington said he has been careful to design A Day Without a Gay _ he came up with the name after the film "A Day Without a Mexican" and liked it because it rhymed _ so no one feels excluded or threatened.
He has specifically urged high school students not to walk out of their classes and assured college students they won't be disloyal to the cause if they go ahead and take their final exams. He also has listed opportunities _ ranging from writing letters to members of Congress about federal gay rights legislation to spreading the word about Wednesday on social networking sites _ to gay marriage backers who cannot miss work.
The United Territories Of Polynesian Islanders' Alliance (U.T.O.P.I.A) originated in San Francisco, California in March 1998. The organization was formed to provide support to the Polynesian Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender community. Originally, the group identified themselves as GPAC (Gay Polynesians Alliance/California). In February 1999, the name was changed to UTOPIA. The new name was better suited to represent the diversity of the club. UTOPIA has been a support organization for GLBT Polynesians and friends consisting of members from Samoa, Tonga, Hawaii, Tahiti and Fiji. UTOPIA hopes to strengthen its alliance by recruiting members from all of Polynesia. Update: In 2007, after years of positive community activism yet with minimal funding to keep afloat, the S.F. chapter agreed a moratorium was needed to allow members and supporters a chance to re-evaluate it's successes and failures in hopes of re-organizing in the near future with a more substantial and sustainable plan for funding. Please stay tuned for further developments.
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