Speakers take aim at president as hundreds gather on Cedar Springs in response to Calif. Supreme Court decision upholding marriage ban
Six months ago, black lesbian activist Chastity Kirven stood in the plaza of Dallas City Hall and led the crowd in a deafening chant of then-President-elect Obama’s campaign mantra, "Yes We Can. Yes We Can."
On Tuesday, May 26, Kirven stood on the patio outside Throckmorton Mining Co. and blasted the Obama administration for allegedly failing to keep the promises he made to the LGBT community.
"I’ve got news for you, President Obama — we’re not going away, we’re here to stay," Kirven told the crowd. "Tell President Obama, it’s not just the GOP that’s on his butt right now. He now has some pissed gays and lesbians who are going to hold him just as accountable. … All I’ve got to say is, I’m tired of you leaving your promises on the nightstand as you walk out the door after you’ve screwed me. Do something. Prove that you can make history to us. Don’t only be the first black president. Give equal rights to every American."
While her remarks were perhaps the most incendiary, Kirven wasn’t the only speaker who took square aim at Obama during Tuesday’s Day of Decision Rally, which drew hundreds to the Cedar Springs strip to protest the California Supreme Court’s decision earlier in the day upholding Proposition 8.
It was by far the city’s largest gay-rights demonstration since the City Hall rally of Nov. 15, with both being part of coordinated national efforts in response to a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in the country’s most populous state.
"It’s the first time a Constitution has been used to take away rights rather than grant them," said protester Bob McCranie of Carrollton, referring to the fact that some 18,000 same-sex couples were married in California before Prop 8 passed.
Although Tuesday’s long-awaited Day of Decision Rally wasn’t scheduled to begin until 7 p.m.— seven hours after the court’s ruling was announced — McCranie was one of dozens of people who by 6:30 p.m. had gathered around the Legacy of Love Monument at Oak Lawn Avenue and Cedar Springs Road.
They waved protest signs and Pride flags, cheered at honking motorists and chanted things like "What do we want? Equal rights. When do we want them? Now," "Obama, Obama, let Mama marry Mama," "Not the church, not the state, we alone decide our fate," and "Out of the bars, into the streets, we will not accept defeat."
The crowd then marched west down the middle of Cedar Springs Road to TMC, briefly blocking traffic in an impressive display that conjured up images of the annual Pride parade, except in reverse.
"I don’t think that it could have gone off any better," said Blake Wilkinson of Queer Liberaction, which organized the Dallas Day of Decision Rally. "The energy was high throughout all of it. People just organically took to the streets like it was something very natural to do, and I was very happy that the Dallas Police Department Police Department didn’t give us any grief over doing that."
Wilkinson added that he was pleased many of the speakers who addressed the crowd through a megaphone on the patio of TMC focused their remarks on the president, who among other things pledged his support during last year’s campaign for repealing the Defense of Marriage Act. DOMA prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages and allows states to ignore same-sex marriages performed in other states.
"I thought that was great that people were still not too blindsided by hope to open their eyes and see what’s going on, that he’s taken a serious step back," Wilkinson said. "It’s rightfully frustrated a lot of people, and I think people should be calling Obama out."
Longtime local gay activist John Selig, one of the speakers at the rally, told the crowd he’s a lifelong Democrat who gave money to the Obama campaign last year despite the fact that he was unemployed at the time.
"We now have strong control of both houses of Congress, we have a president — all of them understand that prejudice against us is wrong, and all of them so far have done nothing. Nothing," Selig screamed, his voice crackling through the megaphone.
Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt, a straight ally of the LGBT community, told the crowd that while she adores Obama and deeply admires him as a politician, it’s time to hold him accountable.
"We’ve got to make sure he follows through on his promises and commitments to this community, and I’ll be there with you," said Hunt, who joined other speakers in urging people to inundate Congress and the White House with letters and phone calls.
"We have to let them know that we vote, and they’re going to lose our vote if they don’t stick with this community," Hunt said.
Mike Mckay, executive director of Resource Center Dallas, suggested that it’s time for Obama to "get some cojones."
McKay served as facilitator for a recent meeting of LGBT leaders from around the country at a DFW Airport hotel where they drafted "The Dallas Principles," which call on the Obama administration to take immediate action on behalf of equality.
"I thought I would never quote Ronald Reagan at a gay and lesbian rally, but when he stood in Berlin and said, ‘Mr. Gorbachev, Tear down these walls’ — let me just say to Mr. Obama: Tear down these walls," McKay said.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 29, 2009.