We arrived fairly early, around 12:45 pm and the protest/rally wasn't scheduled to start until 1:30. We had a chance to sign the open letter to Barack Obama and meet a few people while we waited for events to get under way.
Yesterday, I'd heard that the Arizona Policy Council, a right wing anti-gay group was holding a prayer vigil at noon on the steps of the Capitol and thought Sandy's first protest might be interesting since Right Wingers seldom give up a chance to harangue a group of LGBT people.
However, none of the participants appeared on our side of the building even out of curiosity. This struck me as a little odd from my own experiences back East.
As the rally got under way the crowd swelled to around 100-150 at its height and by 2:30 had begun to diminish somewhat. After the first speeches and a return to the live musical acts we decided to leave around 3:00 and head back to Tucson.
The crowd was very friendly and I have to say I've never felt so welcome at a gay event as a stranger with no close friends in the area. Yet, the protest or rally itself was lukewarm.
The first speaker struck me as pleading for rights by taking the tack that LGBT people are really nice so we deserve a break. After about 10 minutes of the speech I finally turned to Sandy and said "Why is he begging? You don't beg for your Civil Rights you demand them!"
On and on the speech went with platitudes about how we must convince people we are worthy of our rights and how if they can just see how nice and normal we are they'll give us a chance.
By the time the speech had concluded I found myself utterly deflated. This was to be no call to action. This was to be no demand for equal treatment under the law. Rather, this was yet another popularity contest. There would be no outrage over this idiotic system of voting on civil rights. There would be no cogent arguments about the unconstitutionality of DOMA. There would be no substance. Instead, there would be more pleading and "peace and hope" cliches.
Honestly, the people are very nice but I maintain we will never get our Civil Rights by continually trying to win Miss Congeniality and standing hat in hand waiting for a handout from the powers that be. We have got to stand up for ourselves and that means making noise not hosting glorified tea dances.
As we drove home, Sandy, the newly birthed radical activist turned to me and said: "How old are you? 42? You know you're only 2 years older than Harvey Milk was when he started."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Well, you're right. It's silly for people to think somehow everone is just going to set aside their deep seated prejudices and like all gay people. Maybe, you should get more involved again and make some waves. Keep the pressure on in the streets while working the politicians behind the scenes."
I'm no Harvey Milk. But, I do think the direction is going to have to change or we'll be waiting a very, very long time on equal rights. Maybe, Sandy has a point. Maybe I do need to get involved and lobby for a more aggressive approach. The squeeky wheel gets the grease as my grandmother used to say and the LGBT groups aren't nearly squeeky enough... at least not in Arizona at the moment.
After all, when Right Wingers holding prayer vigils don't even bother to pay any attention to a bunch of Sodomites holding a rally they consider us soundly beaten. That's not a good thing. I'd feel a lot more comfortable with progress if I'd seen a few "Faggots are going to Hell!" signs in the distance.
Here are photos from the Rally/Protest in Phoenix: