Saturday, November 15, 2008

Rally Against Proposition 8: A Report from Little Rock

We went to the protest today at the state capitol in Little Rock. I’m not good at estimating the size of crowds. I’d say there were perhaps 100 people there, or somewhat over that, standing on the steps of the capitol facing a podium at which speakers addressed the crowd. Not a bad turnout for our sleepy little city, particularly given the cold wind that was blowing hard under glowering skies.

The speakers were good. We didn’t hear all of them, since we have one of our grad school professors, now up in years, visiting from MontrĂ©al, and we didn’t want to tire him. Since our state passed its own homophobic legislation at the same time that California rescinded gay marriage, our rally focused both on proposition 8 in California and on our local legislation.

A gay man who’s a grandfather spoke about the new Arkansas legislation that will prevent unmarried couples from fostering or adopting. He appealed to the group to work to rescind this draconian law, noting that if, God forbid, something should happen to his son and son’s wife, he would be prohibited from adopting his own grandchild—despite his son's and daughter-in-law's express written wishes that he be the adoptive parent of their son in case of their death.

A law student who has formed a gay support group at the state law school (if I was hearing correctly through the wind) read sections of the California Supreme Court decision permitting gay marriage and commented on them. It was poignant and bittersweet to hear these ringing affirmations of the right to marry as a fundamental human right, in light of the vote in California.

A Unitarian minister told us that his church would host a gathering following the demonstration, to allow people to interact and to have a session to strategize about next steps. He noted the longstanding support of his church for gay unions, and his own history of celebrating these.

This demonstration was important since, if the blog of the statewide free paper Arkansas Times is any indicator of the mood of some of my fellow citizens, we're in a period of growing anger against the LGBT community. This anger is coming from a very specific subset of citizens: from white men who are enraged that "they" lost the recent elections, and are looking for somewhere to focus that anger.

And they've found it: it's my brothers and sisters in the gay community, and me. The right-wing old boys' network of the state is all lathered up these days, as they watch the protests against proposition 8 on television. Riots, they claim. Animals, they're saying--faggots and queers running through the streets, defying law and order and the vote of the people, pushing old ladies down, interrupting church services.

And so it goes. The battle continues. The march to progress takes a step forward and a step backwards, but it will not stop as long as the moral arc of the universe bends to a justice denied to some human beings. I was particularly encouraged to see that the crowd gathered today was a largely young crowd—young adults in their 20s, for the most part. That’s a testimony to the power the internet is now exerting on political movements. It’s also a hopeful sign for the future, in my view.

*I should give credit for the illustration at the head of this posting. It's Shepard Fairey's poster advertising today's nationwide Join the Impact protests--see Since many websites are replicating this image as they talk about Join the Impact in recent days, I'm assuming that it's not inappropriate for me to do so here. If that's not the case and any reader has information to the contrary, I'll be grateful to hear from you.