Action meant to draw attention to Catholic Church’s opposition to U.N. human rights declaration
A new grassroots direct action organization has already staged one protest in Dallas and has announced plans for a second.
Queer Liberaction drew about 10 people to the sidewalk outside a Mormon bookstore in North Dallas Saturday afternoon, Nov. 29, for an action protesting the Mormon church’s role in passing the anti-gay-marriage Proposition 8 last month in California, according to organizer Blake Wilkinson.
Wilkinson said the group’s next action is set for Wednesday, Dec. 10, outside the Cathedral of Guadalupe in downtown Dallas to draw attention to the Catholic Church’s opposition to a proposed United Nations resolution condemning the criminalization, imprisonment and execution of LGBT people around the world.
Wednesday is International Human Rights Day, the same day that representatives from France will introduce the resolution adding LGBT rights to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights first adopted in 1948. If the resolution passes, it will mark the first time it will include a call for protecting LGBT rights.
Wilkinson said he and other organizers of the Dec. 10 protest want to "draw attention to the archaic stance of the Catholic Church," which has refused to back the proposal.
"The general nature of the resolution is speaking out against criminalizing people, against putting them in jail or executing them, because of their sexuality. But the Catholic Church opposes it because they say it would throw open the floodgates to same-sex marriage across the world," Wilkinson said.
He added, "It is a bit duplicitous of the church to oppose this. On the one hand, they speak to equality for people and against executions and the death penalty. But here they are, not taking a stand against executing someone because of their sexuality."
The Rev. Jon Garrin and the Rev. Cliff Garrin, co-pastors of Dignity/Dallas, also issued a statement Thursday about the church’s opposition to the proposed resolution and encouraged people to attend Queer Liberaction’s rally.
Dignity is a national organization for LGBT Catholics.
Wilkinson said the group chose to rally outside the Cathedral of Guadalupe because of the church’s location and the visibility it will give the demonstration. He also believes it will give the group a chance to interact with the church’s largely Latino congregation and to begin reaching out to other minorities, too.
"In California, 53 percent of the Latino community voted for Prop 8, and 70 percent of the African-American movement voted for it. If we are going to make any headway in getting our rights, we have got to get out of the white, middle class community and talk to immigrant communities and the African-American community," Wilkinson said. "We have got to work in solidarity with the women’s rights movement, with transgenders. We have to do outreach to other oppressed groups."
Wilkinson said that is the goal of Queer Liberaction, an organization born out of some people’s dissatisfaction with the protest rally held Nov. 15 at Dallas City Hall and organized by Join the Impact as part of a coordinated nationwide response to the passage of Prop 8.
"A group of us found each other because a lot of people left the Nov. 15 demonstration wishing it had been a bit different, wishing we had been more visible," Wilkinson said. "We could have been on a busier street [instead of tucked away among the concrete buildings at City Hall]. We could have had a march from City Hall down to First Baptist, where they had a protest planned for the next morning. It would have publicized the cause," he said.
Organizers of the Nov. 15 rally said the gathering was designed to show solidarity with California’s LGBT community in the wake of Prop 8′s success. But Wilkinson said his group believes the focus should be on addressing the reason for the amendment’s passage, including the Mormon church’s involvement in the campaign.
"The gay people took to the street after Prop 8 passed, which is fine. But maybe if we had been out in the streets from Day 1, calling the Mormon Church leaders out on their bigotry from the start, it wouldn’t have passed at all," he said. "If we hadn’t been so worked about offending the leadership of the Mormon Church maybe we could have stopped it."
Wilkinson also said last Saturday’s protest was "never focused on the bookstore itself," Moon’s LDS Bookstore, which is owned by a member of the Mormon Church.
"We were there to get our message out, and the bookstore was a connection to the church. We chose this location because it had the most visibility. The Mormon Tabernacle in Dallas is tucked away in a residential neighborhood where no one really would have seen us.
"There were some concerns we would be harassing customers at the bookstore, but that was never anybody’s intention. Doing something like that would be ridiculous. Some people just assumed that’s what we would be doing, but that’s not what I am about," he said.
Wilkinson said he had also met personally with the bookstore’s owner in the week before the rally and "he said he was perfectly fine with us being there on the sidewalk. He recognized that we have the right to present our ideas."
Wilkinson said he had not checked to see if the owner, Reid Moon, had contributed money to the efforts to pass Prop 8, adding that he "got the feeling gay marriage wasn’t a big issue" to Moon. "But that doesn’t invalidate the location. It was a Mormon bookstore with ties to the Mormon church, and this protest was about the leadership of the Mormon church and their role in passing Prop 8."
In an interview Thursday, Dec. 4 with Dallas Voice, Moon acknowledged that he had talked with Willkinson before the protest and had suggested to him that protesting at the Mormon temple in Dallas or at the bookstore could backfire.
"Mormons, in general, are pretty conservative across the board. But I did an informal survey among my friends, and while about two-thirds of them supported [Prop 8], the other third were more like ‘live and let live.’"
Targeting the church or its members with protests, Moon said, was likely to alienate that one-third that had not supported the amendment.
"I tried to explain to him my view that there are more efficient ways to go about this, that you risk alienating those who might support you if you do protests," Moon said. He also told Wilkinson that he was "just an independent bookstore owner who happens to sell books to the Mormon community. I don’t speak for the church leaders. I don’t get money from the church. But I am a member of the church."
Moon also said Wilkinson asked him to make a statement denouncing the leaders of the Mormon church and the church’s involvement in the Prop 8 campaign, but "I told him, that’s not gonna happen."
"I am a pretty laid-back, easy-going guy. You won’t find a better friend than me," he added, saying that he has close friends who are gay and that he has worked with many LGBT people, including employees at a bookstore chain he had owned in California.
But, Moon said, once he realized that Wilkinson would not be deterred from the protest, "I asked him to just at least be civil. …
"I told him I wouldn’t interfere with the protest. I asked him if I had to be worried about my customers being harassed, and he said that wouldn’t happen," Moon said. "I understand his frustration with the issue. It’s not like I want him out there every week. Nobody likes to be singled out with something like this. But I knew he was dead set on doing it."
A check on an online database listing donors to Prop 8 indicated Moon had not donated to the Prop 8 campaign.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 5, 2008.