The passage of Proposition 8 in California led to a dramatically increased awareness of homophobia around the country as well as the launch of a new generation of activists.
What I didn’t realize until recently, though, is that Prop. 8 was also a unique catalyst in battling racism and faith-phobia.
Following the LGBTQ (lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer) community’s sometimes racist reactions to false reports that the African American community overwhelmingly supported Prop. 8 as well as faith-phobic language written on picket signs in reaction to the Mormon Church’s key financial support of the November ballot measure, it became shockingly clear that the ugliness of prejudice lives within the LGBTQ community.
In addition, the general consensus of the LGBTQ community is that part of what doomed the “No on 8” campaign was its inability to work with both LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ communities of color and faith.
Since then, in the battle to win marriage equality back in California, a large emphasis has been placed on building those inter-community relationships. These relationships are being built very purposefully – an LGBTQ People of Color Collective has been formed in Los Angeles – and sometimes by accident. The fact that so many places of faith offer their space for LGBTQ organizing has led me to enter a place of faith more times this past year than in my entire life.
A great example of how the battle for marriage equality is breaking down prejudices is the group, Vote For Equality. The marriage equality canvassing effort, run out of the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center, meets every other weekend and brings together a broad base of individuals and organizations to go door-to-door in neighborhoods across L.A.
The organizers and canvassers include people of many ethnic, faith, & sexual/gender identities. These canvasses often occur in communities of color, and more often than not, a local church hosts the canvass home-base.
Whether one is knocking on doors, answering a knock at the door, or is a member of the church hosting the canvass, everyone is having personal, one-on-one conversations with people of a different ethnic background, a different faith, and a different sexual or gender identity. On any given canvass up to 45% of voters not supportive of marriage equality change their minds.
After canvassing in South L.A. I was able to see firsthand how many LGBTQ people had conquered the “myth of the gay-black divide.” And since the passage of Prop. 8 I have welcomed people of faith back into my life for the first time since I was scorned as an openly gay teenager.
It’s not a one-sided effort, though. In light of Prop. 8, a Mormon group, The Foundation of Reconciliation, will held a memorial for gay suicides at a Latter-Day Saints conference last weekend.
So barriers are being removed. Understanding is being extended from each corner of the table to the other.
And to those who led the way in passing Proposition 8 I would like to say thank you for reminding us how much work we all still have to do.
Matt Palazzolo is a co-founder of the Equal Roots Coalition, a grassroots organization dedicated to winning LGBTQ equality.
(Photo by Tony Miller)