Gay rights activists take to Ann Arbor streets

BY THOMAS CHAN
Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 16, 2008

A crowd of about 250 people in Ann Arbor braved the wet, 30-degree weather Saturday afternoon to join nearly a million others in cities across the country and the world to protest the recent same-sex marriage ban in California.

The protest, held in front of the post office at Fifth and West Liberty streets, was one of hundreds held nationwide opposing Proposition 8, a ballot initiative that banned gay marriage in California, and passing with 52 percent of the vote on Election Day.

While at the post office, the wet but otherwise jovial crowd chanted slogans and held posters, which read “Defend Equality. Love Unites,” and “Fight H8.” At one point, the crowd even sang a variation on “I Love You,” the well-known song from Barney and Friends.

Law School student Tom Bousnakis, one of protest’s organizers, told crowd that while he was excited for President-elect Barack Obama’s support of gay rights, he was disappointed that Proposition 8 succeeded on Election Day.

The rally was peaceful and there were no signs of counter-protests. Sergeant Ed Stuck of the Ann Arbor Police Department said there was no violence or incidents that required police intervention.

At about 3 p.m., the crowd at the post office briefly marched through downtown Ann Arbor and then to the Diag.

Once on the Diag, the rally concluded in minutes, but not before the organizers could implore the protesters to remain politically active.

“You guys are going to have to stay informed,” Law School student David Brown, one of the event’s organizers, said to the crowd.

The event’s organizers, mostly Law school students, mobilized using existing campus political networks and Internet resources like Facebook and jointheimpact.com, a website supporting gay rights that was launched just after Election Day on Nov. 7.

Law School student Alysha Rooks said the Ann Arbor protest was organized in a Wednesday lunch meeting after some of the organizers heard about the national protest from forwarded emails.

“We sat there and hammered it out,” Rooks said. “The entire protest was pretty much born and organized in under an hour.”

Rooks and Bousnakis both said they tried to keep the message of protest positive and non-confrontational.

“We’re trying to be really really positive about things. This is about equality,” Rooks said. “We shouldn’t have to live in a world where it’s still OK in polite society to say, ‘I really just don’t particularly care for gay people.’ ”

Ann Arbor Councilwoman Sandi Smith (D –Ward 1) said she decided the protest because she cannot marry her partner of 13 years.

“To have rights taken away is atrocious,” Smith said. “Maybe the opposition needs to realize they’ve awoken a sleeping giant.”

Public Health and Public Policy graduate student Linda Galib said she attended the rally because “everyone regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity or who they love or whatever deserves an equal chance at equal rights.”

“I’m gay and I would hope that if I want to get married some day, I would have the opportunity to do so just like my straight brother and sister,” Galib added.