Because my overall impression of the Decision Day Rally was a favorable one, I have decided that after completing this post (my second on the gathering), I will bump my first post (more positive than this one) so that it leads the blog. I based that on my overall reaction to the protest, talking to the people there and watching their reaction.
In this piece, I’ll focus on the speakers. And they seemed to harbor more hatred than the marchers (save for the handful with some of the signs I’ll post later). Those speakers, by and large, sounded like they were addressing a left-wing gathering, some wanting to rally the troops, others just to vent. Few should appear on television (or otherwise before ambivalent citizens) the next time gay marriage comes up for a vote.
Only one, an attorney, made a particularly positive case for gay marriage. On the whole, the speakers seemed to be leading a rally, so their rhetoric wasn’t entirely out of place. And they all, even the Mayor of Los Angeles (more on that anon) seemed to shouting their speeches. Maybe that had something to do with the sound system which kept breaking down.
Two of the speakers in particular, West Hollywood City Councilman John Heilman and Robin Tyler, one of the petitioners in the court case handed down today, seemed more interested in scoring points with left-wing activists than in making a case for gay marriage.
Heilman said that any “shred of hope” he had was “annihilated” with the court ruling. He wondered he was next on the “radar screen of the far right,” as if now with their victory in California, social conservatives will start to disenfranchise minorities. Then, he took a cheap shot at Carrie Prejean, the only one I heard last night. He seemed very angry, like a child throwing a temper tantrum after his parents took away the toy he had stolen from his brother.
Tyler, brandishing a rainbow flag, proclaimed that was flag she was “loyal to.” “Shame on the California Supreme Court,” she shouted. The court, she said, had “tarnished their (sic) legacy forever.” Later, she added, “Why in this country is war and torture a family value, but same-sex marriage is not?”
I did clap when she threatened a divorce between the gay community and the Democratic Party. She encouraged participants to “stay in the streets.” At times, it seemed some of the people there relished the decision because it gave them an excuse to protest. I mean, despite his position on the West Hollywood City Council, Heilman announced that “We’re going to block traffic.”
I thought Jennifer Pizer of Lambda Legal (at least I believe it was she; taking pictures and taking notes, I couldn’t always scribble down a name when a speaker was introduced) offered perhaps the best arguments. She presented a nutshell version of the kind of case advocates need to make. “Our marriages make society stronger,” she offered, “It’s going to be through the 18,000 [those Californians whose same-sex marriages were affirmed today] that our voice will best be heard.” Exactly.
A friend whom I ran into at the rally (and who happens to be both Jewish and Republican) suggested there should be a rally of the 18,000. Good idea.
She was followed by another pretty decent speaker whose name I did not get, though some of his rhetoric was a bit cliché-ridden. “It’s all about a word,” he said, “I’m going to say that he’s my husband” pointing (well, for where I was standing it looked like pointing, it may have just been a gesture) to that very man. I wondered, “Oh, is somebody going to prevent you from doing so?”
He was followed by LA City Councilman Bill Rosendall who offered ever more cliches, almost as if he had been designated to repeat at least one trite remark from each of the speakers who preceded him. He, like so many others, insisted that marriage was a civil and human right, hinting that those people, like the man who spoke before him, might be locked up for daring to say they were married.
When LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa started to speak, I turned to my friend and said, “He’s running for Governor.” Seems my friend Kerry with whom I walked later heard the same comments at the same time as I did, although in a different part of the crowd. (That seems to be what everybody was muttering.) He began not by addressing gay marriage, but by saying our state’s budget woes have been “caused by a broken system.” Sorry, Tony, interesting use of the passive to dodge responsibility. Don’t let your fellow Democrats pass the buck, it’s not the system that created the problems, it’s the spending habits of state legislators.
The future gubernatorial candidate attempted to tie marriage to the budget: it takes “a simple majority to strip away a fundamental right, yet it takes a two-thirds majority to pass a budget.” Actually, Tony, it takes a majority to amend the constitution, so why not get a majority of state voters to overturn the provision requiring that two-thirds majority?
Without it though, we’d be in an even worse financial mess because state Democrats would then be able to increase spending and taxes at greater rates than they already have. With higher taxes, businessmen would relocate to more tax-friendly states (as some are already doing), further reducing the Golden State’s tax base and so further expanding the gap between revenue and expenditure.
Once he was finished whining about the broken budget, he offered some cadenced rhetoric. He was followed by two actors Drew Barrymore and George Takai, each of whom had more respect for the audience than the politicians. They kept their remarks brief. Takai has such a wonderful speaking voice.
Other speakers included Lt. Daniel Choi (which made me wonder if he came out in order to become a gay celebrity), comedienne Kathy Griffin and the Reverend Eric Lee.
While only Heilman and Tyler said things that a mainstream audience would find offensive, the rest primarily offered banalities, though occasionally well delivered. Pitzer alone seemed to understand the need to place gay marriage in a larger context. It’s speakers like her whom gay leaders should tap to make the case for overturning Prop 8.
And one thing you may note from this list of speakers of above, not a single Republican among them (unless Barrymore and Takai are close-mouthed about their support of the GOP). Yet, again, we hear much about diversity and inclusiveness, at a gathering which fails to include political diversity, well that it, unless you see diversity of opinion as meaning diversity of left-of-center opinions.
My criticisms notwithstanding, this was a rally, not a public forum, but a rally covered by the media. So, Heilman and Tyler should have certainly shown greater sensitivity on how a non-sympathetic audience might view their remarks.
That said, given that it was a rally, on the whole, the speakers set the right tone for the left-of-center audience there (after all, it was in the heart of West Hollywood), but a tone that would be entirely inappropriate for the audiences they’ll need to reach in order to win the hearts and change the minds of Californians who have yet to be convinced about the benefits of gay marriage.