‘Day without a gay’ protest fizzles
Posted on December 11, 2008
Filed Under Uncategorized
Activists had billed Wednesday as “a day without a gay,” when gays and lesbians across the country would call in sick, boycott shopping and show the impact of their absence from everyday life.
Designed to be a protest against the Nov. 4 passage of Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage, the day’s events drew only scattered support in the Bay Area, the heart of the gay rights movement, and also criticism.
Several gay and lesbian people said they couldn’t afford to take the day off, particularly in a tightening economy where many are concerned about their jobs. And in the Castro district, business owners were livid that people were encouraged to not shop during the holidays, a peak time for retailers.
“Our rights have been taken away as much as anyone else’s,” said Rich Boutell, who runs Whatever comics on Castro Street and whose marriage was thrown into limbo with the Nov. 4 election. He and his husband, Cougar Andrews, kept their store open and wished the “day without a gay” organizers had encouraged gay-allied individuals to patronize gay-owned businesses. “The whole purpose should be to support your own, not to boycott. If you’re going to have a protest, it should be a positive thing. The gay dollar is powerful.”
Those who did take off work said they did it with the cooperation of employers.
They included Glenn Coffee, 48, a Noe Valley resident who works at Macy’s and said the store has always been supportive of gay employees and the gay community. The main purpose, he said, of calling in sick was to show that “as a community, we can show we have worth.”
The day’s events prompted a mixed response, which might indicate that the gay rights movement is still finding its voice. Gay and lesbian people are included in ways never imagined decades ago, such as domestic partnership rights in states across the nation and being included by a presidential candidate in his election-night victory speech.
But there are also dramatic challenges. Thirty states, including California, explicitly ban same-sex marriage, and Arkansas voters recently passed a ballot measure to ban unmarried couples from adopting children, an initiative directly aimed at thwarting gay and lesbian parenthood.
Religious groups, students, business owners and shoppers all had different views of a day focused on gay rights.
A group of Bay Area Catholics gathered in the Castro district on Wednesday evening for a prayer vigil to atone for the actions of church leaders. Because Wednesday was also International Human Rights Day, they focused their efforts on the rights of gays and lesbians.
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