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Gay Marriage Ban Activates Young Queers of Color

YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia , News Feature//Video, Words//Video: Jazmyne Young Posted: Dec 17, 2008

Editor's Note: Prop. 8 might have been a crushing blow in a victorious year, but it did activate young people of color who care about gay rights to come out and make a change. Jazmyne Young, 20, is a content producer for YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia.

SAN FRANCISCOIn an election year that has already seen a big surge in youth involvement around the president-elect Barack Obama's campaign the victory of California Proposition 8, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, has been a catalyst for a new wave of youth activism in the LGBTQ community and beyond.

Since the November decision, LGBTQ community members and their allies haven't wasted time fighting the marriage ban. From street protests to legal actions urging the Supreme Court, which previously ruled in favor of same-sex marriage back in May of 2008, the issue has been kept in motion.

Young queers of color have found themselves in a special position after the media instigated tensions by blaming the loss of Prop. 8 on the black vote with exit polls suggesting that black voters tipped the scales with an alleged 7 out of 10 blacks voting to support the measure. This news led to name-calling and slurs at protests.

"As one of many black people who opposed Prop 8, it's kinda scary that there's this group of people who were so willing to turn against black people," says 20-year-old Terry Taplin, an African American poet nationally recognized for his advocacy of LGBTQ causes. "At the same time, there are a lot of homophobic sentiments in the black community that now are hard to deny."

VIDEO: Meet Terry Taplin

But other polls and research show that even combined with Latinos, these two groups -- African-Americans and Latinos -- still represent less than one third of the total electorate, and therefore should not the scapegoat for why Prop 8 passed. Perhaps the real culprit was Republicans and the Religious Right.

"I think that in the wake of Prop 8, now more than ever, it's important for the LGBT community to be as visible as possible. The protests and the rallies have to continue. Human rights has never been a matter of diplomacy, it's always been a matter of fighting for it," says Taplin.

The excitement surrounding this year's election among young voters, created a perfect platform for young organizers and activists like Allan Acevedo, a 19-year-old San Diego State University student. Acevedo wanted to be involved at a local level this year so he volunteered for State Assembly candidate Marty Block an educator with a long history of community activism in order to really learn about political organizing.

Acevedo is also a member of the board of directors for San Francisco's Gay Straight Alliance Network, so he had been politically activated around gay rights for some time but Prop 8 gave him a platform to really organize."We went to Wal-Mart and Target to counteract paid signature gatherers in support of Prop 8," Avecedo says, "A lot of them lied and got people to sign the petition in support of Prop 8 by telling them that they were signing a measure to oppose it."

In his on-campus student efforts, Acevedo noticed that a lot of young people were complacent and unenthusiastic during the campaign believing that Prop 8 would never pass.

But it did with a 53 percent majority in San Diego.

One pre-election organizing mistake that Acevedo acknowledges, was about race. "I think the campaign should have done more to outreach to people of color, even though I think people are distorting the statistics," he says.

Post-election, Acevedo began volunteering for the People of Color committee, organizing effective ways to outreach for different communities.

"We said that when we went to the black community we would not talk about segregation or compare their struggle for civil rights to ours although there are several correlations it wasn't about using logic, it was about touching people's hearts."

He also thinks that young people didn't quite understand the value of the outreach work they were doing before the election.

"Our whole campaign was phone banking," he says. "People weren't inspired until they saw people going out into the community. They began to send Facebook invites and text messages to come to protests and rallies. It suddenly became so much bigger than they thought it would be. We had students in the hallway, on the floor, and outside on benches. It was amazing to see so many young people take action when it mattered."

Now, Acevedo is president of the Stonewall Young Democrats, and he spends time passing out fliers for rallies, and recently organized a forum where 50 young people came to discuss further action.

He says that even though Prop 8 won, he is proud that so many college students are educating themselves and speaking out in support of gay marriage now.

"Young people have turned this from an issue into a movement," Acevedo says.

Related Articles:

My Gay Problem, Your Black Problem

Mormon Polynesians Split on Prop 8

Prop 8 Opponents Seek Supreme Court Hearing

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