The struggle against Prop 8: interview with US activist

Protests against Proposition 8, the California referendum that robs same-sex partners of marriage rights granted in a state Supreme Court decision earlier this year, began the day after the November 4 vote and continued through the rest of the week.

The largest was a march of up to 30,000 through San Francisco on November 7.

On November 12, "More than 10,000 people gathered in New York City … to demonstrate for same-sex marriage in solidarity with gay and lesbian couples in California …", according to a Socialist Worker article that day.

"The protesters targeted the Mormon Church, a major funder of the campaign to pass Proposition 8. Similar to demonstrations in San Francisco, the protest was organized mostly through Facebook, text messages and e-mail."

A nation-wide day of action was scheduled for November 15.

The November 7 San Francisco march was initiated by two people new to activism, Oskar and David Vidaurre, whose call began with a Facebook page and spread fast.

Oskar Vidaurre talked to Socialist Worker's Amanda Maystead about how the demonstration was organised and the struggle ahead against Prop 8.

* * *

@question = Why do you think Proposition 8 passed?

I think it has a lot to do with the lies the "Yes on 8" campaign promoted — like the whole idea of gay marriage being taught in schools, and churches losing their tax exempt status. I think that scared a lot of people, and a lot of it wasn't based in reality.

I think both campaigns had the same resources, but the "Yes on 8" campaign really played on people's fears.

@question = Have you ever been involved in any kind of activism before organising the November 7 demonstration?

No. Then when this happened, my brother and I just got really angry. The night of the election, we were in the Castro, and there was an impromptu celebration for Obama. That same night, we started spreading the word about the protest.

Neither my brother nor I were involved in the "No on 8" campaign all that much and we knew that a lot of people who had been working really, really hard were probably going to be a little burned out and just really saddened by the results.

So we took it upon ourselves to organise this protest because we still had all this energy.

We printed out flyers and put them up around the Castro. We put the website on the flyers, and encouraged people to print out flyers or make their own.

They did, and that's pretty much how it happened.

@question = How did you use the Internet to build the march?

It started with a Facebook group. We invited all of our friends. Everyone was really excited about the idea, and so they took it upon themselves to invite all of their friends.

We started a blog, because not everybody has access to Facebook.

We just received tons and tons of e-mail. People all the way from the eastern part of Contra Costa County were e-mailing us and saying, "Oh, I printed out a hundred flyers and put them all over my neighbourhood".

We were getting e-mail every single minute, so just based on that, we knew that it was going to be pretty big — at least 2000 people, but I couldn't have anticipated how big it really was.

One thing that really upset me was the media coverage afterwards. The San Francisco Chronicle initially reported only several hundred people. Then they upped it to 1000, and now I think they say several thousand. And it was way at the back of the paper.

The whole point of the protest was to get media coverage, and it seems to have been swept under the rug.

The Facebook group has about 3000 members, and I would say a good half of them are from Southern California. And we got all kinds of messages saying, "I'm too far away, but I really support you guys, so let's organise something down here".

And there's places all over the state — like Modesto, Fresno, Sacramento — where there are protests.

It's spreading pretty fast, and I don't think people are going to give up any time soon.

@question = What do you think needs to be done to repeal Proposition 8?

I think at this point, it's going to have to happen in the courts. Maybe it will be up for a vote again at some point. But I do hope it happens in the courts, because that's the only way I see it happening any time soon.

But at the same time, I think that these demonstrations are important, just to send a message to those judges and everybody else that we're still mobilised and resolved to fight until the end.

That's really what I think the protests are for.

@question = What's your message to others like yourself who maybe weren't involved as much before the election?

I think the message is that anybody can make a difference. You don't need to be some famous activist to make a big difference.

David and I have never been involved in anything like this, and yet we had close to 10,000 people marching with us that night. So people just need to get involved and do whatever they can — whether it's printing flyers or making Facebook groups.

Because anybody can make a difference.

[Abridged from Socialist Worker.]

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