Sexual Orientation Equality: The Civil Rights Fight Of Our Time

On Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, I saw Milk, a movie describing the life of Harvey Milk who, as member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, became the first openly gay man elected to public office in California and who successfully fought in 1978 to pass a gay rights ordinance for San Francisco as well as to defeat Proposition 6 (also known as the Briggs Initiative), which would have banned homosexuals, and their supporters, from working in California’s public schools. Milk was assasinated less than a year after being elected but due to his significant contributions he has become an icon for gay rights activists.

What struck me about the movie is that thirty years later not much has changed.

The passing of California Proposition 8 last November, which changed the state’s constitution to restrict the definition of marriage to opposite-sex couples and eliminated same-sex couples’ right to marriage, highlights the discrimination and ignorance that still exists surrounding the LGBT community.

The fight for gender, racial, and religious equality was won by previous generations of open-minded thinkers. But the civil rights fight of our time is that for sexual orientation equality.

I was fortunate to grow up in liberal Lexington, Massachuetts (the “birthplace of American Liberty”, no less) where we were taught that how others label themselves is irrelevant, it’s who they are as individuals that matters. (Crazy idea, right?)

My town and its schools have come under fire before because of our acceptance of the LGBT community, most recently in 2005 during an annual Day of Silence and when a parent filed a federal civil rights lawsuit after his son brought home a book depicting same-sex couples.

These two events prompted the “God Hates Fags” Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, headed by Fred Phelps, to stage anti-gay protests at five Lexington churches and at Lexington High School’s Class of 2005 graduation.

Unfortunately, the church is planning once again to protest Lexington because of its strong support for LBGT indviduals.

But this time, I feel like there’s something I can do to show that there’s no place for this type of intolerance in my hometown – and in my country.

Driving Equality is hosting a Phelps-A-Thon to counter Fred Phelps’ hateful message. For every minute the “God Hates Fags” clan is protesting, Driving Equality will be collecting donations for Lexington High School’s Gay Straight Alliance. Pledges can be made in any amount (even $0.25!) for every minute of the group’s demonstration or at a flat rate for the entire time.

During the protest, Driving Equality will display a sign in front of the “God Hates Fags” clan tallying how much money is being raised for LGBT equality. After the event, the church will be sent a Thank You card for their help in raising the funds.

This is an opportunity to turn something so negative and hateful into something positive. I hope that you will help me spread the message and will consider joining me in donating to the Lexington High School Phelps-A-Thon to show solidarity with the LGBT community at Lexington High School – and worldwide.

(More information on the Lexington High School Phelps-A-Thon can be found here and pledges can be made here.)

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