July 29, 2010
(We’re in St. Cloud, MN today, about 90 minutes northwest of yesterday’s tour stop in St. Paul, where despite the largest pro-NOM turnout of the tour, hundreds of pro-equality supporters outnumbered them and carried the day with a peaceful, positive message. Courage staffers Arisha Michelle Hatch, Anthony Ash and Phyllis Lozano are on the ground covering today’s events. We’ll be adding updates to this post, including pictures and video, throughout the day so keep refreshing to stay up to date. Don’t forget to check out this morning’s video and analysis from the stop in St. Paul, as well as photos and a summary on what happened there -Adam)
By Arisha Michelle Hatch
Today, 73 NOM supporters gathered on a lawn in front of Granite City Church. Despite being on private property, staff from the church permitted us to stand on the lawn and record the proceedings.
A handful of equality counter-protestors are standing about 250 feet away from the church on the sidewalk holding handmade signs, such as the ones below:
A larger crowd of pro-equality activists are rallying and marching on a different side of town. NOMTourTracker.com has a reporter there who will be sending in photo and video footage as it comes. Stay tuned…
UPDATE BY ADAM (11:10 AM PST): Phyllis just radioed in from the other side of town, where a hand-count of 89 equality supporters held a separate rally to show their support for the freedom to marry.
Phyllis told me a community organizer, Justin Michael, spoke to the crowd largely composed of students from St. Cloud State University, the second largest in the state (the rally is being held in Barden Park, next to the University). There’s a lesson here: St. Cloud is part of Rep. Michele Bachmann’s district, a virulent opponent of equality (and many other progressive issues). But this goes to show again that even in the reddest bastions of homophobia, we can find the future in younger supporters of equality like the students from St. Cloud State. We cannot write off areas of the country that may seem more conservative by their representation or character.
Phyllis said Justin told her they chose to rally in Barden Park, several miles away from Granite City Church, because they didn’t agree with the views of the pastor there and refused to rally on their turf. After rallying, they planed to march nearby before returning to the park to demonstrate their support to the rest of the city.
We’ll have video with Justin and folks from the rally as it comes in.
UPDATE BY ARISHA (1:35 PM PST):
The NOM rally in St. Cloud today was all about talking points; more specifically, how to respond when equality activists ask confusing questions to NOM supporters.
On the other side of town, 89 equality activists assembled, held a rally and then marched down the streets of St. Cloud waving rainbow flags. They didn’t go near the church.
Back at the NOM rally, Chuck Darryl, Communications Director for the Minnesota Family Council (who was also at the St. Paul rally), led the attendees through a series of common questions that equality activists may confront them with; interestingly enough, all of the questions he referenced were questions that we NOM Tour Trackers have been asking NOM supporters for the last few weeks.
“What do you say when activists compare [gay marriage] to the African American civil rights movement?” asked Darryl.
You could hear a pin drop.
“That’s a hard question to answer, right? [. . . because] it creates a false analogy. [. . .] Inter-racial marriage did nothing to redefine [the institution of] marriage.”
“What do you say when people ask you how [same-sex marriage] will affect your marriage?”
Next, Darryl cited a recent “San Francisco study” – a study that in the last few days has become a common talking point for NOM – which claims to have studied the “sexual patterns of 566 gay male couples from the Bay Area.” The study, conducted by the Center for Research on Gender & Sexuality at San Francisco State University (Darryl, by the way, couldn’t name the author of the study and was not prepared to discuss its statistical validity) concludes that “[m]any Bay Area boyfriends negotiate open relationships that allow sex with outsiders.” The study of gay couples also reported that 47 percent reported open relationships, 45 percent were monogamous and the remaining 8 percent disagreed about what they were.
Because of NOM’s “renewed” focus to staying on message, I decided to go straight to the source – I wanted to confront Chuck Darryl himself to see how this Communications Director might hold up to my questioning.
I asked Darryl several questions, including many of the questions that he posed to the silent NOM audience. Clearly, staying on message is easier when people aren’t around to ask follow-up questions, but I digress.
I didn’t pull out any tricks. I asked him all of the questions that he expected me to (and a few more). I asked him how allowing same-sex couples to marry might affect heterosexual marriages. I asked him if he knew who conducted the study about gay men that he was citing. I asked him why the article was relevant. I asked him if that study had been peer reviewed. (“It’s science,” he answered.) I asked him if he was a sociologist or a statistician – whether he could speak to the validity of the research (“Are you,” he asked).
I asked him if perhaps the study had polled a different subset of the community – if it had polled 600 lesbian couples or 600 of the now 18,000 married California same-sex couples – whether he thought the results would be different. I asked him if polling in allegedly monogamous heterosexual relationships would reveal similar infidelity numbers, eliciting my favorite response of the day:
“Marriage domesticates [heterosexual] men,” he stated emphatically.
I asked him if allowing the access of gays, lesbians and bisexuals to the institution of marriage may have that same domesticating effect – whether it’s possible that being told your whole life that you will never be able to marry the person you’re attracted to may manifest itself in a way that is antithetical to monogamous relationships.
He didn’t see (check that, he wouldn’t admit) the connection.
(Anthony’s working hard to get the video uploaded now, but let’s just say that I’ve seen better spin before. I’m curious to know how you think Darryl handled my questions.)
In other news, I learned a new term today, courtesy of Bob Battle: “homophobe-phobes”, meaning, people who are afraid of people who are afraid of gay people.
That’s one phobia I’ll fess up to, anyone else with me?
UPDATE BY ADAM (2:56 PST):
Here’s an interview by Phyllis with Justin Michael, an organizer of the pro-equality rally near St. Cloud State University, describing why they chose to hold a celebration, rather than a protest, and to hold it in a separate location:
UPDATE BY ADAM (5:21 PST): Arisha’s discussion with Chuck Darryl- actually, it’s one of a one-sided discussion because Darryl couldn’t muster a response to many of her points- is below. It’s just amazing.
How do you think Darryl did?