Gay community copes with No. 3

Legislation and civil disobedience are two ways in which members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community are coping with the passing of Amendment 3, a discussion group concluded on Tuesday.

Although there was some disagreement regarding which method was better, some participants stressed the need to incorporate both aggressive and behind-the-scenes tactics.

“Every civil-rights movement has depended on different strategies,” said Chad Beyer, executive director of the GLBT Community Center of Utah.

Beyer gave the example of the Women’s Civil Rights Movement. He said women successfully won the right to vote through both protests that put them in jail and through lobbying for changes in legislation.

So, too, should the GLBT community work multilaterally to effect social change, he said.

Evan Done, president of the U’s Lesbian Gay Student Union, said he agreed with Beyer.

“The reason why there is a place for both is because they both work off each other,” Done said.

Done cited a more recent example of the accommodating-militant dichotomy: Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

“I don’t think that Martin Luther King Jr. would have gotten nearly as far as he had it not been for some of the work that Malcolm X had done,” he said.

“Likewise, I don’t think that Malcolm X would even have had a place to speak and a voice…had it not been for the initial work of Martin Luther King,” he added.

A panelist of three experts argued strongly that legislative pushes will lay the groundwork for combating Amendment 3’s effects.

Jane Marquardt, chairperson of Equality Utah’s board, said that legislators and courts have community roots, and that these federal officials would need to know GLBT people before changing laws.

“I heard someone say a great line: ‘Before we’ll ever win at the ballot box, we have to win a discussion at the water cooler,'” she said.

Marquardt added that states around the country are voting on the issue of gay marriage before spending enough time debating the issue.

“It’s like we took the test on the second day of class,” she said, urging the GLBT community to become gay-issues educators.

Panelist Scott McCoy, campaign manager for the Don’t Amend Alliance, said he agreed with Marquardt that people should educate the community about the basic legal rights that Amendment 3 denies homosexuals.

He added that the topic of gay marriage itself carries too much emotion and religious ideals.

Panelist Michael Mitchell, executive director of Equality Utah, said that in addition to education and discussion, he sees lobbying as a powerful tactic.

“Early in the session, we’re going to have a lobby-training day,” he said “We’re talking about bringing in people from all over the state, bussing people in…and getting everybody up on the hill on the same day to lobby.”

Mitchell also spoke about Governor-Elect John Huntsman’s campaign promise of pushing for reciprocal benefits for homosexual couples.

“He said it, we’re going to push him for it,” Mitchell said.

Because the proponents of Amendment 3 gained a victory on Election Day, they may become more relaxed toward other gay issues, such as hate-crime legislation, Mitchell said.

“This may be the year for hate-crime [legislation] to pass,” Mitchell said.

Together, the panelists also urged the audience to write letters to newspapers, volunteer for equal-rights groups and continue talking to friends and family members.

“It’s incredibly important as we approach the holidays…that we take our partners home,” Mitchell said.

For some audience members, the panelists’ suggestions were not enough. Some expressed a desire to take a more active approach by holding protests and filing lawsuits.

“One of the questions we’ve been asked frequently…is ‘When are you going to sue?'” Marquardt said. “I think that most likely, the challenges to Amendment 3 will come up as life happens.”

Marquardt cited a possible example of a gay couple whose family challenges the legitimacy of a will after a partner’s death.

Mitchell said the audience should not give up protesting completely, but that the GLBT community as a whole should focus on channeling its rage in a proactive manner.

Not much is accomplished if the goal is just to stage an angry protest, he said.

Instead, perhaps GLBT supporters should wear black armbands on Jan. 1, the day Amendment 3 becomes an active law.

Charles Milne, program coordinator for the U’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center, echoed Beyer and Done’s sentiments.

“We all need to be working together from different angles,” he said.

He added that building coalitions, both with legislators and with straight friends, is key.

Done said he agreed with Milne that straight people can be powerful allies to the GLBT community.

“The most powerful thing an ally can do is be an ally every day,” Done said.

For more information about becoming an ally or about gay issues in general, visit the LGBT Resource Center online at www.sa.utah.edu/lgbt/ or Union Room 317. Students can attend the LGSU meetings, which are held every Monday at 7:30 p.m. in Union Room 411.

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