Collin County gay-rights group isn’t backing Cinemark rally in latest case of strategic differences
PLANO — A gay-rights protest is planned outside the Cinemark Legacy theaters in Plano on Saturday, Dec. 13, but the event doesn’t have the blessing of the local LGBT equality group.
The Cinemark protest is the latest example of internal differences about what the LGBT community’s strategy should be in the wake of Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in California.
Israel Luna, a gay independent filmmaker from Dallas, organized the protest in response to Cinemark CEO Alan Stock’s contribution of $9,999 to Yes on 8. The "No ‘Milk’ for Cinemark" protest will take place a day after the opening of "Milk" — a film about murdered gay-rights activist Harvey Milk — at the Cinemark Legacy.
Cinemark Theatres, the nation’s third-largest theater chain, is based in Plano.
Luna said this week it’s "upsetting" that the Collin County Gay and Lesbian Alliance hasn’t gotten behind the protest, set for noon on Saturday.
"I’m just starting to understand why we lost the whole Proposition 8 thing in California, because people are too afraid to do anything," Luna said. "I think everyone wants to just sit back and let other people handle it. These organizations are being way too careful and not wanting to ruffle any feathers or hurt anybody’s feelings."
CCGLA President Morris Garcia said Friday, Dec. 5, that while he respects the right of Luna and others to protest, the five-year-old group’s board opted not to endorse the demonstration. Garcia said CCGLA instead is pursing a meeting with Cinemark officials to discuss the fallout from Stock’s contribution.
"Hopefully it will be a productive dialogue and one that we can walk away from and hopefully publish a more formal and positive statement about the position of Cinemark and how it relates to the community," Garcia said. "Our position is to set up meetings, have an open dialogue and hopefully come out with a positive result from that."
Garcia said meetings between CCGLA leaders and Cinemark officials had not yet been scheduled. He also said CCGLA leaders hadn’t formulated a specific agenda for what they hoped to accomplish during the meetings.
Some in the LGBT community have suggested that Cinemark could resolve the controversy over Stock’s contribution to Yes on 8 by making a public apology or a donation to an LGBT equality group, or by adding domestic partner benefits for its employees, which the company doesn’t currently offer outside California where they’re mandated by law.
CCGLA has close ties with Cinemark, with at least two of the group’s members working in the company’s corporate office.
Blake Wilkinson, founder of Queer Liberaction, a newly formed direct action group in Dallas, said he fears CCGLA is taking "the careers before queers approach" in dealing with Cinemark. Wilkinson’s group has endorsed the Cinemark protest, and he said he plans to participate.
But Jesse Garcia, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, said he believes the LGBT community in Dallas should defer to the local equality group. Garcia added that while he’s personally boycotting Cinemark, he won’t be attending the protest due to a prior commitment.
"They have a whole different game plan than the Dallas community has," Jesse Garcia said of CCGLA. "It’s a whole different animal north of [Loop] 635, so it’s sort of like we need to respect that."
Jesse Garcia, no relation to Morris Garcia, also questioned a protest organized by Queer Liberaction outside the Cathedral of Guadalupe in downtown Dallas on Wednesday, Dec. 10. The protest, which took place on International Human Rights Day, was in response the Catholic Church’s opposition to a U.N. resolution backing LGBT civil rights.
Garcia, who also serves as president of the local gay chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said a majority of people who attend the Cathedral of Guadalupe are recent immigrants who can’t even vote but consider the cathedral sacred.
"That’s not going to be a very good first impression," Garcia said prior to the protest.
Garcia said while he admires Wilkinson’s enthusiasm and respects his right to protest, he also fears the approach could damage bridges he’s worked to build over the last several years between the LGBT and Latino communities.
"It’s going to look like the gays versus the Hispanic community," Garcia said.
But Wilkinson said after the protest Wednesday night that part of the goal had been reaching out to another oppressed group.
"They’re without rights, and gays and lesbians are without rights, so I think there’s a very easy connection there," Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson said about 25 people attended the protest, which also had the backing of Dignity Dallas, the gay Catholic group. Wilkinson said some protesters wore jail costumes and carried signs saying things like, "Gay rights are human rights" and "Executed in Iran."
The signs and fliers the group distributed were in both English and Spanish, he said, and the protest was covered by the Spanish-language TV station Univision.
For Wilkinson, who organized a previous Prop 8 protest outside a Mormon bookstore in Dallas, it’s not the first time he’s encountered criticism from other leaders within the LGBT community.
"They seem to be making these judgments of our group without even knowing what we’re going to be doing and what our message is really about," Wilkinson said.
For more information about Saturday’s protest, go to www.LaLunaEntertainment.com or e-mail NoMilkDallas@gmail.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 12, 2008.