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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Gay Marriage ban inspires new wave of activists

Jesse McKinley writes:
(San Francisco) They’re calling it Stonewall 2.0. Outraged by California voters’ ban on same-sex marriage, a new wave of advocates, shaken out of a generational apathy, have pushed to the forefront of the gay rights movement, using freshly minted grass-roots groups and embracing not only new technologies but also old-school methods like sit-ins and sickouts. Matt Palazzolo, 23, a self-described “video artist-actor turned gay activist,” founded one group, Equal Roots Coalition, with a group of friends about 10 days ago. “I’d been focused on other things in my life,” Mr. Palazzolo said. “Then Nov. 4 happened, and it woke me up.”

Often young and politically inexperienced, the new campaigners include an unlikely set of leaders, among them a San Francisco chess teacher, a search-engine marketer from Seattle and a former contestant on “American Gladiators,” who jokingly suggested that he had become involved in the movement as a way of making up for his poor performance on the show. “We’re a gay couple in West Hollywood, neither of us involved in activism, but we just wanted to help,” said Sean Hetherington, 30, a stand-up comic who was the first openly gay contestant ever to do battle, however briefly, in the Gladiator Arena. “And we were amazed at what happened.”

Many grass-roots leaders say the emergence of new faces, and acceptance of tactics that are more confrontational, amount to an implicit rejection of the measured approach of established gay rights groups, a course that, some gay men and lesbians maintain, allowed passage of the ban, Proposition 8. “I think we are demanding as a community that we democratize our processes and ensure we all have a voice,” said Molly McKay, media director of the volunteer group Marriage Equality USA. “Because we are not a campaign. We are a movement.” The new activists have impressed some gay rights veterans. READ MORE

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