‘Calling in Gay’ Nation-wide Protest Held Today, Dec. 10th Against Passage of Prop 8

by on December 10, 2008 · 0 comments

in Civil Rights, Economy, Election, LGBT rights, Organizing

Editor: I could not find much news about the protest here in California. Here is what’s happening in Houston, Texas.

By Corilyn Shropshire / Houston Chronicle /Dec. 10, 2008,

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.

More outrage this time

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.

Organizers say the Proposition 8 vote and the recent presidential election have created the “perfect storm” to rejuvenate the gay rights movement. 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.

Model for boycott

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.

Individual responsibility

“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.

Peyton Davis, the “proud daughter of a gay man,” wants to call in today but can’t.

As an hourly employee at a local real estate firm, she can’t afford to lose the income. But she plans to stay out of her favorite restaurants and avoid the gas station and the grocery store.

“It’s not an easy thing to participate (given) the economy and culture war that we’re in right now,” said event co-organizer Sean Hetherington, of West Hollywood, Calif.


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