Times Hails Anti-Prop 8 Protests as "Stonewall 2.0"
The losing opponents of Proposition 8,the big ballot initiative that passed in California this November banning gay marriage, continue to earn huge flattering headlines in the Times, as California-based. Jesse McKinley on Wednesday hailed the new, new, new liberal activism emanating from San Francisco in "Marriage Ban Inspires New Wave of Gay Rights Activists."
They're calling it Stonewall 2.0.
Outraged by California voters' ban on same-sex marriage, a new wave of advocates, shaken out of a generational apathy, have pushed to the forefront of the gay rights movement, using freshly minted grass-roots groups and embracing not only new technologies but also old-school methods like sit-ins and sickouts.
Matt Palazzolo, 23, a self-described "video artist-actor turned gay activist," founded one group, Equal Roots Coalition, with a group of friends about 10 days ago. "I'd been focused on other things in my life," Mr. Palazzolo said. "Then Nov. 4 happened, and it woke me up."
Often young and politically inexperienced, the new campaigners include an unlikely set of leaders, among them a San Francisco chess teacher, a search-engine marketer from Seattle and a former contestant on "American Gladiators," who jokingly suggested that he had become involved in the movement as a way of making up for his poor performance on the show.
"We're a gay couple in West Hollywood, neither of us involved in activism, but we just wanted to help," said Sean Hetherington, 30, a stand-up comic who was the first openly gay contestant ever to do battle, however briefly, in the Gladiator Arena. "And we were amazed at what happened."
Mr. Hetherington and his companion were among several people surprised by the strength of positive reaction after starting Web sites geared toward a demonstration planned for Wednesday, "Day Without a Gay." Its organizers are asking gay rights supporters to avoid going to work by "calling in gay" and volunteering in the movement instead.
McKinley glossed over the "confrontational" tactics of the protestors:
Many grass-roots leaders say the emergence of new faces, and acceptance of tactics that are more confrontational, amount to an implicit rejection of the measured approach of established gay rights groups, a course that, some gay men and lesbians maintain, allowed passage of the ban, Proposition 8....Now, however, the ballot initiative's passage has forced many in the gay community "out of our stupor" and opened the door for new leaders, she said. "It's totally legitimate to say that the normal way of doing things did not get us to the finish line," Ms. Kendell said. "And now some of those groups need to move over a couple of lanes to make room."
Like his media colleagues, McKinley didn't go into detail about the gay protestors tactics. But your humble Times Watcher heard the phrase "Nuke Utah" - a scream apparently keyed to the huge Mormon vote in favor of Proposition8 -at one of the two gay protests he witnessed during a mid-November excursion to Los Angeles (the first of which blocked traffic and resulted in a huge police presence that caused him to miss his ride).
On Tuesday, another group behind the failed campaign, Equality California, announced that it would add several new board members to reflect a surge in interest. The group has also added two "faith leaders," reflecting the opinion of many critics that the campaign should have courted the religious vote.
The new activists have impressed some gay rights veterans.
"They've shown a clear ability to turn out large numbers of people," said Cleve Jones, a longtime gay rights advocate and labor organizer. "It's also clear that they are skeptical of the established L.G.B.T. organizations. And I would say they have reason to be."
The ban, which passed with 52 percent of the vote, overturned a decision by the California Supreme Court in May legalizing same-sex marriage. The same court is currently considering a challenge to Proposition 8.
But many activists seem unwilling to wait for a legal solution and have planned a series of events to keep the issue in the public eye, including a nationwide candlelight vigil later this month, a Million Gay March in Washington next spring and continued protests at county clerks' offices throughout California.
McKinley founds the activists were getting moral support from the movies as well:
Quite a few activists said they had also been inspired by the acclaimed film "Milk," which chronicles the fight by a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Harvey Milk (played by Sean Penn), to beat back a 1978 ballot measure that would have barred gay teachers from California's public schools.
Justin Lenzi, a 23-year-old chess coach who attends San Francisco State University, said he saw Mr. Milk, who was murdered inside City Hall here shortly after the 1978 election, as a model for activism. So do others in his social set.
"I'm seeing a lot of people at my university, either gay or straight, who want to be part of my cause," he said.
Never in this glowing recital does McKinley mention the dark side of this activism, like the case of Scott Eckern, the artistic director of the California Musical Theater in Sacramento, who dared to donate $1,000 to the Yes on 8 campaign and was subject to vilification by the California arts community, leading to his forced resignation from his post.