This morning, after some bus mishaps (omg, I can’t wait for BRT!), my girlfriend and I arrived in front of Oakland City Hall for the Join the Impact rally for equal rights. It was a beautiful sunny day, and it was great to see thousands of advocates gathered in Frank Ogawa Plaza.
The crowd was incredibly diverse – filled with people of every age, gender, race, and sexual orientation. And there were so many families – kids everywhere! It was great to run into so many people I know and to see so many others I’d never met before. Serendipitously, one of the first people I ran into was Matthew, my precinct walking partner on election day. We formed a special bond that day, a bond that can only be formed by going door to door in a hilly precinct where most doors were up several flights of stairs. It was so great to see that the election results hadn’t gotten him down too much and that he was still working towards marriage equality.
Several LGBT leaders gave moving speeches throughout the day, but the star of the show was Coby, a boy whose parents started an LGBT family coalition. He started off saying that for many years he didn’t know that there were people who didn’t approve of his parents’ union. He didn’t realize that his family was different from others because, well, they’re his family. Coby went on to explain that when he heard kids at his school make fun of gay people, he thought it was because they didn’t understand what it meant to be gay. His mothers then made an effort to educate the students at his school, and ultimately, he thought that kids understood this issue more than many adults and should have more say in our society.
After him and his mother spoke, the rally organizer introduced Rebecca Kaplan, Oakland Council Member-elect who is the first out lesbian to be elected to the city council. She talked about how strange election night was, and her story closely mirrored my own election night emotional roller coaster ride. At 8:00pm, Rebecca found out that Obama had been elected president, and shortly after that she found out that she had won her council seat with 62% of the vote. So for the next three hours, she celebrated, joining hundreds of people spontaneously partying in the streets of downtown Oakland. But then she started to face the fact that Prop 8 was going to pass. Rebecca spent the next day crying, wondering at the irony that she was just elected to the council but was also stripped of her human rights. She ended her speech by saying that this fight for equality is not about fighting against faith. After all, her own faith tells her not to eat pork, but she’s not forcing that rule onto others. After speaking, she lifted her shofar (a ram’s horn) and blew loudly, as the crowd erupted into cheers.
Sean Sullivan, who ran for an Oakland City Council seat in June and who currently is the development director for Equality California, was up next. He started off talking about the myth that has been spread around that Prop 8 was about blacks vs whites. Sean reminded us that Fox News had started spreading this myth, but that it is not the case. All you had to do was look around the diverse crowd in Oakland this morning to see how right he was about this. Sean then delved into the history of this fight, explaining that Equality California has been working for years to secure the right for same-sex couples to marry. He said that the fight is not over – they’re currently taking this fight to the California Supreme Court and preparing to put an initiative on the ballot in 2010. Sean implored all of us to join this fight because it won’t be an easy one – we’ll need everyone who cares working hard to help make marriage equality a reality.
It was a very inspiring day for me and helped bring some amount of closure to the mixed emotions I’ve been feeling since election night. After seeing such energy in Oakland, and reading about incredible rallies throughout the country, I feel confident that we will overturn Proposition 8 and restore equality in California and beyond.
My girlfriend and I took hundreds of photos, but here are some of my favorites:
For a bunch more incredible photos of the Oakland Join the Impact rally, check out The Inadvertent Gardener’s Flickr page.