In what some are seeing as a resurgence of street activism, gays in
several regions of the country have decided to take the battle for
same-sex marriage into their own hands.
There were large-scale protests around the country after
California"s anti-gay Proposition 8 was passed in 2008. But those who
predicted a Stonewall 2.0 movement were disappointed when the crowds
The current crop of activists is leaner, meaner and often ready
to commit civil disobedience to make their point.
The latest incident happened in Manhattan, when four members of a
new ACT UP-like group known as Queer Rising were arrested in February
after chaining themselves to the entrance of the New York City Marriage
Alan Bounville, Jake Goodman, Justin Elzie and Gabriel Yuri
Bollag were among 20 same-sex couples who applied for licenses and were
denied. Dozens of supporters cheered them on as they were led away by
Their protest was the latest in an unrelated series that suggests
there is growing impatience among rank-and-file gays over the stalled
effort to secure marriage rights for same-sex couples.
In Buffalo, lesbian activist Kitty Lambert, accompanied by a
crowd of supporters, showed up at the city clerk"s office and asked for
a marriage license for her and her girlfriend on February 10.
When she was told same-sex couples could not wed, Lambert turned
to the crowd of onlookers and asked if any of the men in attendance
would marry her. One man consented, and they were given a license on
Lambert, speaking to reporters, said she wanted to prove the
hypocrisy of the law by showing that although she cannot marry her
longtime partner, she is free to wed a man she had never met before.
"We have five children," she said, tearing up. "We have five
grandchildren. We live in this community with you. What more do we have
to do to prove we should have the same rights as every other New
In Orlando, performance artist Brian Feldman put out a call for
women who wanted to marry him sight unseen. The point, he said,
was not to make a mockery of marriage, but to mock the rules
Three women showed up on February 8 at the Orange County
Courthouse, ready to tie the knot. He picked the lucky bride by -- why
not? -- spinning a bottle of water. It pointed to Hannah Miller.
Miller said she agreed with Feldman about the inequality of
marriage laws. When someone congratulated Miller, who was wearing a
thrift-shop bridal gown, she bristled.
"Actually, I think you should be shaming me," Miller said. "This
is a disgusting thing I have to do. It"s terrible -- no offense to
After a ceremony that included the usual language about staying
together "until death do you part," the bride went one way and the
groom went another.
Acting up again?
The activists who gathered at the New York Marriage Bureau promised in
press releases before the event "a significant act of civil
disobedience to rival the lunch-counter sit-ins of the 1960s, in which
black Americans asserted their rights of equal treatment by society at
The Queer Rising event may not have lived up to these goals, but
longtime activists said it did echo the protests organized years ago by
groups like ACT UP.
"New York City is home to the Stonewall Riots, and in that
tradition we are here to say that equality doesn't arrive through the
ballot box," said Queer Rising spokesperson Spring Super. The bankrupt
strategy of putting all efforts into electing so-called friendly
officials has failed," Super said. "We must shift to building a
grassroots, national movement that demands full equality by any means
New York recognizes same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions
but does not allow them itself.
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