By Jim Larkin
Eric Ross knows there are a lot of gay and lesbian students in Michigan who would love to show the nation their unity while helping California fight Proposition 8.
They just haven’t responded to his call for action, yet.
Ross, co-founder of Students for Equality, is urging all high school and college students across the country to buy a Students for Equality T-shirt and wear it to school or college on Jan. 27, Equality on Campus Day.
The purpose is twofold. Proceeds from the sale of the T-shirts go to Lambda Legal, which is fighting the state of California to repeal voter-approved Proposition 8, which prohibits gay marriage. Also, wearing the T-shirts in large groups and then getting a photo of it placed in yearbooks and school newspapers raises the visibility of the LGBT movement and shows the nation that gay youth are a force to be reckoned with politically.
The only problem is while many participants thus far have come from California, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York and Ohio, few from Michigan have signed up. Ross said only a handful of Michigan groups and individuals have bought shirts.
“It would be great to see more representation in Michigan,” said Ross, 29.
And time is running out, if you want to save money. The cheapest shipping option for the shirts — which range from $9.99 for a short-sleeved T-shirt to $30.99 for a sweatshirt — gets you your shirt in 7-9 business days. And the quickest premium and 1-day shipping can cost as much or more than the shirt itself.
Part of the problem, admits Ross, is getting the word out about the event. The University of Michigan-Flint LGBT Center, for example, hadn’t heard of Equality on Campus Day. Neither had the Carman-Ainsworth High School Gay Straight Alliance, one of the few Gay Straight Alliances in Genesee County, said founder and teacher Frank Burger.
And uniting such groups was the main reason Ross and Elijah Nouvelage founded Students for Equality late last year.
“As part of the backlash of Proposition 8 passing, there were a lot of protests but nothing was being done to attract youth and keep them active,” Ross said. “We wanted to create a national data base of high school gay-straight alliances and college LGBT groups so when another issue came up, we would be ready to activate.”
And, he added, having Equality on Campus Day one week after President Barack Obama’s inauguration will remind the new president that gay and lesbian youth are not going away quietly.
“We are expecting him to address same-sex marriage, and LGBT rights in general,” Ross said.
For those questioning why someone from Michigan would want to help the fight to repeal a California measure, Ross has a quick response.
“It…does affect them, on numerous levels,” he said.
First, Ross said, California often sets the precedent for movements across the country, which is why nationwide opponents of Proposition 8 spent so much money to try to defeat it. Secondly, taking away one right in one state can have a domino effect across the country — involving not only gays but also straight citizens, he said.
He used, as an example, the Arkansas measure that prohibits not only gay people from adopting but also single parents.
“If one right can be taken away,” he said, “more rights can be taken away.”
And Ross, along with Students for Equality, hopes to be part of the fight to stop that from happening.
Ways to help:
* Buy an Equality on Campus Day T-shirt online at http://www.studentsforequality.com. Do it now to avoid higher shipping fees.
* Wear it to school or college on Jan. 27.
* Make arrangements to have a group photo taken of people wearing their T-shirts and have it published in yearbooks, school newspapers and local newspapers. Let Students for Equality know the time and place the picture will be taken, by emailing Eric Ross at [email protected], so it can be posted on the Students For Equality Web site.
* Questions? E-mail Ross at [email protected]
Students interested in participating in Equality on Campus Day can go to http://www.studentsforequality.com to buy the shirts and view their shipping options.