Huge Fort Lauderdale Crowd Shows Support for Gay Marriage
by Patrick Berkeley
The last election was a roller coaster for the GLBT community. The most gay-friendly president in history was elected while a strew of anti-marriage and anti-adoption laws were all passed through in California, Arkansas, Arizona, and Florida.
For days after the election, protests raged on throughout California, sometimes even turning violent, while in Florida people remained complacent.
Until Saturday, November 15th when protests throughout the entire county, including cities in Florida, were all taking place at 1:30 pm Eastern Standard Time.
Fort Lauderdale had a huge turnout, with over 1,000 people rallying on the streets outside of city hall in downtown.
A rainbow flag was held across the steps in front of the building with different minorities, sexualities, and genders all holding a piece. A woman in the front cried out, “But I’m straight, should I still hold it?” and the organizer of the event, Bishop SF Ma-Hee, proclaimed, “It’s okay, we want everyone fighting for us.”
And that was certainly a huge element of this event: people from all different backgrounds standing together for one cause. Older Fort Lauderdale residents in wheelchairs rallied alongside children. A mother nursed her child in one area, as two older lesbians held hands, waving miniature rainbow flags.
Rabbi Andrew Jacobs came to the speaking area holding his young son donning a Mickey Mouse hat. He explained to the crowd his purpose in attending: “I believe in a God that has no patience for these forms of hate…on behalf of the Jewish community we fight this lack of tolerance.”
There were many different religious organizations showing support. Bishop Reed of the Christian faith began the protests with an invocation, asking, “God the courage to believe we are indeed loved.”
The rally focused on using religion to help the GLBT cause, countering all the discriminatory ways religion has been used to keep gay equality from happening.
Bishop SF Ma-Hee led the Fort Lauderdale branch of this huge protest, and she brought a spirit of electricity to the crowd, jumping around and shouting different chants and words of strength.
She repeatedly asked participants to stay away from any forms of violence in the protest. The recent California protests were marked by sporadic instances of violence when protesters targeted the Mormon church (thought to have contributed lots of money to helping the marriage bans getting passed).
Bishop SF Ma-Hee also brought up another controversy concerning the election results: the idea that the surge in black voters led to the anti-gay marriage amendments getting passed.
As a black woman herself, she said she was particularly offended by that. “We have allies in the African-American community,” she spoke. “People who are racist and prejudice are also, always, homophobic.”
At that, she introduced Andrew Lewis, an African-American president of the Democratic Black Caucus of Broward County.
“Barack showed us what is possible. He showed us how to do it. Our voices should not be silenced. It’s not just about people who speak up with hate but also those who stay silent in the face of such hate. Silence is NOT harmless,” he said, calling to mind the words of civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr.
Also standing along the steps of city hall were protesters holding up signs of pictures of gay men and women killed in hate crimes, representing the organization Gay American Heroes.
Back in February, Simmie Williams Jr. was killed in a gay hate crime in Fort Lauderdale, and his mother showed up to speak, “We want you all to have equal rights like anybody else.”
The recent shooting death of a student at Dillard High School with gay subtext also affected the proceedings.
Kyle and Freddie, two 17 year old students at MacArthur High School were at the rally.
They are both members of the gay straight alliance at their school. “There’s not anything gay enough as a teenager, nowhere to really be gay,” Freddie said. “It’s nice to see this many people, as friends, loving everybody, except amendment 2.”
An event that started mainly through organizational efforts by Join the Impact using the website Facebook, the national protests were thought to be a huge success with over a million participants and more upcoming actions already planned.
These same sentiments were echoed at a similar rally in Miami Beach where Mayor Matti Bower addressed a large crowd and urged people to “never give up the fight.”
On December 10, Join the Impact is supporting “A Day Without a Gay” in which the GLBT community is encouraged to call out “gay” from work, and focus that time on helping the community, and not spending any money, contributing to the economy. After that, another protest is scheduled for January.
For a city that once seemed uninterested, Fort Lauderdale is strongly building up its gay supporters. Bishop SF Ma-Hee compared the GLBT cause to the recent rocket ship Endeavor’s trip to the space station.
“At 8:55 Friday night, we saw flames flying in the sky, from the rocket Endeavor. We endeavor too. We endeavor to put an end to bigotry.” And the 1,000 people holding up signs, banners, and flags cried out, “yes we can.”