Rally for Same-Sex Marriage Rights

Gay rights activists protest for marriage rights at Cook County Building

Monday, August 26, 1996, Chicago -- 
by Steve Sposato

	Waving signs with statements such as, "No special rights for
heterosexuals!" and "Till death do us part isn't just for straight
people," queer activists loudly proclaimed their outrage at the attacks on
the gay community this election year, especially in the form of the
homophobic "Defense of Marriage Act" legislation which breezed through
both houses of Congress and has been virtually assured a signature by the

	Though sponsored by Citizens for Gay Action, the International 
Socialist Organization and Queer Nation, the event also drew independent 
activists as well as members of the LesBiGay Immigration Rights Task 
Force, the Women's Action Coalition and ACT-UP. The event began quietly 
with literature being passed out, then a picket and chants outside, 
followed by a march into the County building at 118 N. Clark into the 
basement Marriage Bureau which was occupied for over an hour by nearly a 
hundred people chanting, making speeches, and demanding applications for 
marriage licenses. When turned down by the red-ribbon wearing office 
worker who handed out photocopies of the pertinent state statute 
preventing her from complying with the protesters' requests, couples 
responded by kissing, yelling, and sometimes simply walking away in 

	Though the event was not at the site of the Convention Center, 
the protest was obviously aimed at the Democrats in town to go through 
the motions of nominating Clinton for re-election. Chants such as "Hey 
Clinton! Hey Gore! Same-sex marriage is what we're fighting for!" and 
"Same-sex marriage, can you dig it? Clinton, let's face it, is a bigot" 
made that clear. Several speakers expressed outrage at the spectacle of a 
community preparing to support for re-election an administration that 
has so demeaned them. Speaker Andy Thayer called the gay community's 
Democratic allegiance "a fraud." 

	At the beginning of the protest, queer activists met with a mixed 
response from the firefighters union protesting for fair testing. In a 
display of wit, queer activists attempted to spark solidarity by 
chanting, "We ALL deserve a contract." Some unionists smiled at the show 
of support, and others were overheard making homophobic jokes. Later, 
though there had been rumors of a high level of support for the 
demonstration, security personnel initially halted the march downstairs, 
proceeding to confiscate all signs and posters (which later 
mysteriously reappeared). 
	Though it has never been at the top of the agenda for progressive 
queer activists who traditionally tend to critique the institution of 
marriage from an anti-capitalist and/or a feminist point of view, 
election year Clintonian politics have inspired more activism around the 
issue as it has become clearer that Democrats are exploiting the 
controversial status of the marriage issue in the gay community to 
appease the right-wing family values camp. In this case, once again, the 
Democratic convention here in Chicago may be acting as a political 
catalyst. Before the convention, the Citizens for Gay Action (chiefly 
organized around marriage) had begun fizzling out as the Hawaii case goes 
into a potentially years-long process of decisions and appeals. Thanks to 
Clinton and the Democrats, functioning more and more like Republicans in 
their ability to piss off progressives and radicals, at least one group is 
mobilizing again. It remains to be seen how many organizations active 
this week survive the convention, let alone the election.

This news alert issued by CounterMedia, a coalition of political organizations, media groups and individuals dedicated to providing alternative coverage of the Democratic National Convention and comm unity struggle in Chicago.
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