Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Today, with no gays

Attorney Jerry Simoneaux is taking off today. So are the 10 other people who work at his Houston law firm.

Eric Weitzel was already scheduled to be off from his retail job, but he plans to call in anyway.

Simoneaux and Weitzel are among the gay men and women in Houston and across the country taking part in today's "Day Without a Gay" economic boycott. Outraged by the recent passage of California's Proposition 8 to overturn state rules allowing same-sex couples to marry, they and their supporters want everyone to be clear on where they stand.

"We aren't going to lie down and let people treat us as second-class citizens," said Weitzel.

Participants are "calling in gay" or, like Simoneaux, shuttering their businesses and closing their wallets as part of a national protest that aims to illustrate the impact of the gay community on the economy and boost awareness of gay rights.

Several of the people in this article are friends of mine (well, Facebook friends at least). Many more I am acquainted with though progressive political activism. The discrimination that is busily being codified into law in this country -- recall that we did this in Texas a few years ago -- does the memory of the Founding Fathers, and those who came afterward to correct the discrimination they overlooked, a supreme disservice.

Kris Banks, president of the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats, said there has been more outrage and activism over California's ballot initiative than there was in 2005, when Texans approved Proposition 2, which outlawed same-sex marriages.

While the gay community has made progress in mainstream media and culture, Banks said Proposition 8 was clear evidence that politically, there's still a lot of work to do.

"When the right to marriage was taken away in California, it was more of a spit in the face than anything we've seen so far," he said.

Proposition 8 has been challenged legally, and the California Supreme Court is expected to rule next year.

A brief digression: I continue to be astounded at the very existence of the Log Cabin Republicans, just as I would Chickens for Colonel Sanders or Jews for Hitler. "Well he does/they do some good things" just doesn't seem to even the scale. Continuing ...

Today's largely grass-roots protest coincides with International Human Rights Day and is patterned after a similar 2006 economic boycott organized by Latino immigrants. Word of the boycott has been passed along on Internet sites such as Facebook, where more than 8,000 people have joined the group "Day Without A Gay."

In Houston, the Facebook group claims nearly 200 members, with about 80 saying they might participate in today's boycott. Nationally, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people contribute more than $700 billion to the economy, organizers said. They hope to make their absence felt today.

For many participants, "Day Without A Gay" is also about giving back. Those who skip work are encouraged to spend the day volunteering. Weitzel said he plans to hand out coats and blankets to Houston's homeless.

Simoneaux will work at the Houston office of Foundation for Marriage and Family Equality, where he and Christopher Bown launched Texas' annual same sex wedding celebration and demonstration seven years ago.

Local activist Meghan Baker isn't scheduled to work tomorrow, and she plans to spend half of the day volunteering for Houston Area Teen Coalition of Homosexuals.

"The movement will have to start with each individual person taking responsibility to make it better," she said. Last month, Baker founded Impact Houston, an umbrella group to help generate greater communication among local gay rights groups.

"It's too bad that it's usually an adversary, something to fight against, that brings people together," said Baker who went to California in August and married Lindsey Baker, on the first anniversary of their ceremonial wedding in Texas.

Preventing two people from marrying each other -- note that's two PEOPLE, not 'a person and a box turtle' -- simply because some don't approve has never turned out well; just re-read Romeo and Juliet for a clue.

And as Jon Stewart inquired of Mike Huckabee on last night's Daily Show: "At whay age did you choose to not be gay?"


Take the day off, and don't buy anything today. After all, your civil rights may be next.

No comments: