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Prop. 8 protests: Stonewall 2.0?

By | 2018-01-15T23:49:15-05:00 November 20th, 2008|Uncategorized|

In the 1960s, the U.S. was raging with emotions concerning social justice. Women’s rights, civil rights and anti-war sentiments dominated the thoughts and actions of many young, hip activists. Then came gay rights and the Stonewall riots of 1969, when gays and lesbians fought back against a government and social system that was trying desperately to oppress them.
For years before Stonewall, the legal and social systems of the U.S. worked against gay people to criminalize them, persecute them and generally refuse to accept them.

The Stonewall riots, brought on by a police raid at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village area of New York City, sparked the gay rights movement into action, resulting in, among other things, the formation of gay rights organizations and the beginning of gay pride marches. It was a time of change that few older LGBT persons can forget.
And now, by some accounts, it’s happening again.
Bans on same-sex marriage are old news. In both 2000 and 2004, the fight for legal recognition of LGBT relationships led to equality in some states like Connecticut and Massachusetts – but bans in most. Today, 30 states have gay marriage bans on their books.
Like the homophobia and oppression that led to the Stonewall riots, the marriage argument has been building up for a decade. So why did it finally galvanize thousands upon thousands of people into action now?
Why did people in 300 U.S. cities go out this weekend and protest for gay rights?
And the most perplexing question: Is it the Stonewall of a new generation?
It’s no secret that California’s Proposition 8 was the catalyst that sparked these protests, much like the police raid – and the emotionally-taxing death of gay favorite Judy Garland – that brought on the riots of ’69.
Just like then, emotions are running high now. In the Nov. 4 election, people experienced a hope they hadn’t felt in years – eight, to be exact – with the election of Barack Obama. But along with that came the emotional letdown of the passage of Prop. 8.
Never mind that Florida and Arizona passed similar bans. California pissed people off in a way that no other state’s ban could. The state had given equality to LGBT Californians and then, just like that, it was taken away by ignorant voters lured by fear. For many – especially youth, who lack much of the skepticism about their right to have full equality – it was unbelievable. How could this happen? Was this really true? How could you give people marriage and then take it away?
But it did happen, and just like with Stonewall, the anger that had been building up finally felt real enough to do something about it. Within a week of the Prop. 8 announcement, it became the issue du jour of a new generation of LGBT rights activists. Facebook groups went up. Entire Web sites were founded. A nationwide protest was organized via Internet and text messaging.
If there’s one way the Prop. 8 protests of Nov. 15 veered away significantly from Stonewall, it was in their organization. Thank god for technology.
The only thing that remains to be seen is whether or not this was a momentary fad or the beginning of a new era of activism that will usher in rights that many LGBT people have never dreamed of. If this type of grassroots, organized, national activism continues to take place, it could mean big things for the movement. And then, it may just go down in the history books as Stonewall – Version 2.0.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.