This week in gay, the natives got restless! At 2 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 12, the politely militant gays and lesbians of OneOrlando.org ripped a page from the national Join the Impact playbook, which itself cribbed notes from national group Freedom to Marry — holy gay network, Mary! — in celebrating Freedom to Marry Week. About 30 supporters gathered outside the downtown Orange County Courthouse, held up handmade posters and (at least those designated as couples) kissed in front of God and everyone while a bird flew by. Serendipity!
However, these are no longer the days of idly standing by and whispering, "I'm gay, please help!" The passage of Amendment 2 — and Proposition 8 in California — codifying hate and discrimination to the delight of the Christian bellies that require them, has bred a new kind of activism, one with sharp teeth.
Ten couples rustled their wares through the courthouse's metal detectors, ascended the escalator to the third floor and got in line to demand marriage licenses. Most had already filled out the application, scratching out "bride" and "groom" in favor of the Seussian "Spouse 1" and "Spouse 2."
"If they don't give me a marriage license," balked one lesbian clutching a wedding photo of her wife and herself, "I'm getting a fishing license!" Also uttered, on cue: "I hope I get it, I hope I get it!" from A Chorus Line.
But it wasn't all fun and games. Each couple approached clerk Elaine Chandler with the same script, which was basically, "If I can't have a marriage license, can I get a domestic partnership? No? So I'm a second-class citizen? Oh, thanks." A few participants threw in the "Can I speak to your boss?" line, which produced a defiant suit who refused to speak his name, but would only write "Steve Canter, legal counsel" on a scrap of paper. They had apparently been tipped off by a Sentinel piece that morning and were at the ready with printouts of the state's statute on marriage, highlighted. When asked about the possibility of transgender nuptials, Canter replied, "Florida laws define gender as birth gender."
After the last couple — beefcakes Shaun and Paul — a straight couple approached and were rushed right through, prompting one participant to ask, "How do you know what gender they are? Have you checked?"
Outside on the steps, the couples spoke of their relationships and their rights in press-conference fashion. One outspoken woman railed against the ability of murderers, rapists and pedophiles to wed, causing Equality Florida's Mallory Wells to wince at the potential for negative word association.
"This is a civil right," they all agreed.
Alas, nobody received a fishing license.
Two days later, on Valentine's Day, gay civil disobedience gave way to gay performance art when about 100 or so celebrants of the gay to gay-friendly variety convened on the grassy knoll outside the Orlando Science Center to form a giant sweetheart for the benefit of imaginary overhead helicopters; the silent black ones, probably.
The Human Heart: An OUTright Love-In brought out the young, the old and their dogs to create a bit of hand-holding at precisely 2:14 p.m. Feb. 14. Pink crepe paper was stretched around miniature cupid's arrows in preparation, and at the magic minute a fewer-than-expected group of the human-rights concerned latched hands for what was effectively a photo opportunity. And we all had a lovely time. Carry on.
Weird tidbit picked up last week while Happytown™ waited to watch convicted murderer Wayne Tompkins be put to death (see "Death in the afternoon," page 8): Inmates at the Florida State Prison in Raiford go through their daily routines under placards that read, "We never walk alone."
What exactly does that mean? Is it simply stating the obvious, as in, "You're in prison, pal, and you'll never shower by yourself, never mind go for a stroll through the daises unaccompanied by some shaved-headed dude with Satan tattooed on his biceps"? Is it Orwellian in nature, as in, "We're watching you, so no shivs for the cell-block snitch"? Or is it, as we suspected, given the north Florida location of this particular big house, vaguely Jesus-y — only as much as the law will allow, of course?
We contacted DOC spokesperson Gretl Plessinger for clarification on this pressing matter. Here's what she told us via e-mail: "The ‘We Never Walk Alone' statement was coined about nine months ago by Secretary Walter McNeil. It says Department `of Corrections` employees support one another and are valued as public servants."
So it ain't about the prisoners at all; it's about the men and women who keep 'em locked down. And now you know.
It pays to petition. Thanks to outcries from arts lovers all over the country `"Bending the president's ear," Feb. 12`, the economic stimulus package approved by Congress and signed Tuesday by President Obama does provide $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts. United Arts of Central Florida was quick to send out an e-mail with the good news, and promises to keep us updated on when and how any of that money will make its way to Orlando.
But all is not well in activist-land. On Feb. 16, Planned Parenthood sent out an action alert regarding the replacement for Florida Supreme Court Justice Charles Wells, who's set to retire this year. Adrienne Kimmell, executive director for the Florida Association of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, writes:
"The Governor is considering four nominees. Though we have more to learn about these nominees, we do know that Florida Right to Life, Florida Family Action, the National Rifle Association and the ultra right-wing American Family Association have begun to rally around the anti-choice Judge Alan Lawson. There is also a second nominee that we know is anti-choice, Daniel Gerber. We cannot sit by idly."
It's on! If you disagree with everything the American Family Association stands for — and why are you reading this column if you don't? — then contact the governor via e-mail and let him know how disgusted you are. There's a form letter on the Florida Association of Planned Parenthood website to fill firstname.lastname@example.org
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