Originally published in the gayzette extra edition. Nov. 17, 2008
More than 1,000 gays, lesbians and allies protested for equal rights Nov. 15 in Denver at the City and County Building.
The rally and subsequent march down the 16th Street Mall were in conjunction with 300 other protests across the nation. A protest was also held in Boulder. The nation-wide protest, Join The Impact, was in response to Proposition 8, a California ballot issue that eliminated same-sex marriage.
The passage of Prop 8 on Nov. 4 overturned a state Supreme Court ruling that allowed same-sex couples to marry.
By The People, a group formed by Jill Roat, organized the Denver protest. It was met with little opposition.
“I cringe knowing that we still have to talk about Civil Rights,” Roat told the crowd at 11:30 a.m.
Congresswoman Diana DeGette, one of the most vocal supporters for GLBT rights in Washington, was unable to attend the rally but sent a letter that was read.
“I feel your anger,” the letter read. “We have to turn that anger into passion.” DeGette, who was re-elected Nov. 4, has pledged to help pass an anti-discrimination employment bill and repel Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
James Roy, engineer by day, singer-song writer by night, performed his song “Rise Above.” He wrote it in 2004 after several defense of marriage amendments were passed.
Roy told the crowd “It’s a matter of time,” before the community is granted full rights.
A lawyer from ACLU, Cathryn Hazouri, said the organization will be filing a lawsuit against Proposition 8. She said the ACLU has been fighting for gay rights long before Amendment 2 was passed in Colorado. Amendment 2 essentially made gays and lesbians second-class citizens.
“This was a real set back for gay rights,” the lawyer said on Proposition 8. “They took away established rights – that’s not what the constitution is supposed to do.”
But she reminded the crowd there are reasons to stay positive. The state of Connecticut recently became the second state allowing same-sex marriage when the state’s Supreme Court ruled that civil unions were not the same as marriage and were unconstitutional sighting the separate but equal policy.
“Four-to-one isn’t the ratio we want,” she said. “But it shows we have hope.”
Donna Davis a local activist said, “What marriage needs to be protected from is hate.”
She reminded the crowd that in 1857 there was a Supreme Court ruling that said no person “imported” from Africa or their descendents could never be citizens. But the 14th and 15th Amendment would later repel that decision.
Carlos Martinez director of The Center said the rally would create a voice that would be heard throughout Colorado and the nation.
“This will be a day remembered in our history that advanced the community,” he said. “This is an awakening to America: we are not invisible.”
“Let us not dwell in the defeat,” he said.
Ryan Kendal of the Denver GLBT Commission noted, “the courts have seen the obvious truth.” He echoed previous speakers that it would take time for the rest of the public to catch up. “Freedom is inherent,” he said.
Kendal spoke directly to those who voted for Proposition 8, “This is not about you and your values.”
The crowd, much larger than organizers expected, became restless after more than 60 minutes of speeches and songs. But at 1 p.m. those who wished to march were led by the Denver Police Department down the 16th Street Mall. The protest stopped traffic at intersections.
Most of the pedestrians on the Mall were supportive. One woman was seen waving a shirt with an upside down pink triangle on it from her apartment building.
Michael David Lang, 20, yelled “EQUALITY!” as he walked down the 16th Street Mall. Although it was his first protest, he seemed like a professional. A member of the Harmony Choir that performed earlier at the rally,
Lang said he got into politics this year because of President-elect Barack Obama.
Lang said he has family in California and made sure they voted No on Proposition 8.
Lang is optimistic about gay rights. “This is our America now,” he said. Lang said he married a female friend, Shelby Seitenbach, last year in Greeley to prove how the sanctity of marriage doesn’t exist in America. The marriage was later annulled.
“Hopefully this (march) will make a big difference,” he said.
Chris Duckworth, 18, one of three opponents to the protest, said he came to Denver to stand up for the tradition of marriage because he didn’t think anyone else would.
The Colorado Springs native said, “A lot of ‘Yes on 8’ supporters are afraid to come out because of all the protests in California.”
He said heterosexual marriage is a fundamental building block in civilization.
Duckworth said he doesn’t believe in divorce but wouldn’t support an amendment that would prohibit divorce but he doesn’t think it would be possible. He said the courts have already ruled that divorce must be an option.
“It’s not exactly something you can stop,” he said. He said it is easier to prohibit same-sex couples from getting married than outlawing divorce.
Beau Hebert, 25, who works with SoulForce an anti-violence group that has protests for the GLBT community and helped in Saturday’s protest, said he was excited at the turnout.
“This isn’t the last one,” he said.
Herbert said besides protesting in the streets, the community has to push lawmakers to help the cause. “This is visibility,” he said. “We have to elect the right people.”