Team Autostraddle goes to the NYC Rally against gay marriage, interviews Lt. Dan Choi & protest organizers!
Initially we’d thought today’s Anti-Gay Evangelical Protest, scheduled to shout nonsense towards New York Governor David Patterson’s office at 2 PM on Sunday May 17th, was spearheaded by NOM (the National Organization for Marriage). We’d initially learned of said rally — billed as a “Marriage Convocation” — on the NOM website (which I suggest you never visit, unless you have a fork handy and your girlfriend thinks it’s sexy when your eyes bleed) on April 24th and promptly decided to attend, because we are genuinely curious as to WTF is wrong with these people.
Some time between April 24th and May 13th, that story changed. On May 13th, it was announced that in direct response to Patterson’s gay marriage bill passing on May 12th, Hispanic pastors in New York were mobilizing for a May 17th protest to let Patterson know that “this is not a political issue. It’s a G-d issue, and we can’t stay in our pews praying.” Regardless of whom, why or wherefore; the rally was still featured on the NOM website and we figured we’d go check it out. If there is a storm gathering, we would like to be there with the white knights/horsemen and so forth, I hear the apocalypse is a totally crazy laser-light show!!
Recap of the event follows — but first — Here’s our video, edited by Carlytron!
New York state senator and Pentecostal Pastor Rubèn Diaz (Democrat) led the event which bussed in thousands of people from surrounding areas in New York and New Jersey. These supporters were organized via Radio Vision Cristiana International, the New York Hispanic Clergy Organization, the CONLICO network of bishops and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. (Read Pam Spaulding’s take on the Democrats’ unwillingness to challenge Diaz on his bigoted views.)
Rising Star Haviland, DJ Carlytron, our new BFF Brookling and I set out relatively on time to go meet NOMNOMNOM. First we passed a teeny-tiny counter-protest starting at 43rd street where we first recognized Dan Choi, who was there with his boyfriend Matthew Kinsey. Coincidentally I’d decided last night (while reading his letter to Obama on CNN: “Don’t Fire Me!“) that Dan Choi was my favorite gay of the year, though we’d been fans since catching him on Rachel Maddow the first time and so we fangirled out — “We saw you on Maddow!!” and he was like, “You watch Maddow?” and we were like, “look at us, clearly we are the Rachel Maddow target audience.”
As protesters walked by the group chanting, waving bibles and holding signs (“Adam & Eve not Adam & Steve,” etc.), Dan shook everyone’s hand, enthusiastically affirming that Jesus loved them. Brookling snatched a copy of the Ten Commandments in Spanish from a passerby, then decided that she already knew the Ten Commandments and threw it away. (Sidenote: last time I checked, the ten commandments didn’t mention the gays. HOWEVER, “do not use the Lord’s name in vain”? That’s right up in there.) Unfortunately it was laminated so we were unable to turn it into our own sign.
Farther down the masses had gathered. Insanely loud music played and people told us that G-d loved the sinner but hated the sin, which is actually not true. G-d loves love, weirdos! We attempted to speak to about ten people who said they didn’t speak English and then when Brookling busted out the Spanish, redirected us to a fenced-off press area, where, sans press passes, we snuck in claiming we were doing a school project about “both sides of the issue” for our sociology class.
We spoke to Rev. Daniel Delgado, the NHCLC Regional Director from the Third Day Church in Staten Island, and Bishop Kittim Silva of the International Council of Pentecostal Churches of Jesus Christ from the Iglesia Pentecostal de Jesucristo in Queens. Both men said they supported civil unions and acted totally befuddled as to why their people were marching around with signs that seemed to suggest a less tolerant attitude. HOW WEIRD!!!
I was surprised they didn’t just start talking crazy and felt about 25% placated by their seemingly tolerant stance talking points. However I was extremely confused as to why Diaz has shifted his attention from more pressing issues affecting this community, such as Immigration reform, public education and health care, towards something that neither man we interviewed could reasonably explain affected them at all in any tangible way.
In other news, during our interview with Silva, five large men gradually encircled us, took our pictures, attempted to cut the interview off and then asked for our names to be written down “for safety,” Brookling obvs gave them fake names. We do look very dangerous, so I get it. It’s the sunglasses. I wear very large sunglasses.
As reported by The Gay City News:
Like many speakers at the nearly three-hour rally, [Rev. Miguel] Rivera [of the National Coalition of Latino Ministers] spoke in Spanish and a translator gave a spirited rendering of the reverend’s already spirited speech punctuating each “out” in Spanish with another in English.
The translator acted more like a chorus for many of the speakers often making the rally sound more like a revival meeting than a political event.
Indeed, the rally opened and closed with a prayer. Participants arrived, some coming directly from church, and left holding their Bibles in the air. They listened to religious music prior to the start of the speeches and prayed or sang.
Then we went back to home base with the gays, chatted with our gays about how excited we were for the Broadway Impact rally ’cause it’d feature singing and dancing (even though we knew we’d probs not go, ’cause we’d be at home editing our video) and then talked to Dan and his adorable boyfriend. I may have thought a few times of Tasha & Alice, because I have chapstick for brains.
As you can see in the video, Dan Choi radiates honor and goodness, he is a good good man. His optimism was inspiring and his message is honest, beautiful, and incredibly compelling. Haviland told him and his boyfriend what a cute couple they were so they gave us a little homosexual conduct, which was awesome.
I have transcribed all three of our interviews in their entirety!
Interview #1 with Rev. Daniel Delgado
Riese: So can you tell me how are you guys all out here today, how was this organized?
Daniel Delgado: This rally was organized by a series of regional & national organizations. Among them are Senator Ruben Diaz from the Bronx, La Vision Christiana, which is a 24-hour evangelical radio station, the Penecostal Preachers of New York City and the National Hispanic Chrisitan Leadership Organization (NHLC), which I represent. We’re the national organization, we represent 25,000 churches, 16 million latino evangelicals, and I cover New York and New Jersey.
Riese: Do you do other issues too, or is it just this one?
Daniel: The primary issues NHLC deals with are teenage pregnancy, education- we want education reformation, too many high school dropouts, we’re looking at Latinos but it overlaps into all the other ethnic groups, why are they not graduating from high school, there’s a lot of underlying issues, broken homes, etc. Obviously there’s the same-sex marriage issue, as ministers of the gospel and as people of faith, that’s something that affects all of us —
Riese: How do you feel that fits in with the other issues in terms of how it affects you guys personally, like, how do you feel that affects you personally?
Daniel: The other issues meaning…?
Riese: Meaning like education, that directly impacts you, but how does same-sex marriage affect you like education does?
Daniel: [doesn’t understand the question — he explains here why education is important, rather than why gay marriage affects him personally] If you look historically, the way government’s kingdom would stay in power is by keeping the people dumb, so they would follow those who are elite with the education, and we want everyone to be educated so they can make the educated decision.
Brooke: How does this [same-sex marriage] issue impact you? We’re looking at both sides, so how does this issues impact you?
Daniel: I’m glad you asked me about the same-sex issue. The first thing I want to clarify is this is not an anti-gay rally, this is not a bigotry rally. What this is saying is it’s a religious freedom issue, we don’t want our religious freedoms to be violated. In regards to this issue, we need to understand that marriage was instituted by God, between a man and a woman. That’s something that the government shouldn’t legislate. But at the same time you have a segment of your population– and I believe in rights for all– so if you have a segment of the population that has chosen to live the gay lifestyle, the lesbian lifestyle, that’s their right. And they should have rights so you need to define something for them that would give them certain rights that are afforded within the context of marriage– create civil unions…
Riese: So you are for civil unions?
Daniel: Right — don’t redefine marriage, don’t redefine marriage. I’m here to say don’t redefine marriage. I’m here to say personally as a minister, I say “have civil unions, give people rights, that’s their right.”
Riese: Yeah that’s awesome. We see a lot of signs that say stuff like “Sodom and Gomorrah” and stuff that seems to be very negative towards —
Daniel: When you’re bringing a coalition of different people together, obviously it’s very difficult to manage the proccess in regards to– but if you speak to the key leaders that are here, you’re going to get a consistent message that we’re here for religious freedom.
Brooke: Is there a way to get what you believe to these people? Because the concern is that when you have signs like ‘Soddom and Gommorah’, it becomes more of a problem, and that’s where the issues pop up, and as religious leaders…
Riese: You know like with the separation of church and state —
Daniel: Right, and at the same time, that’s an interesting issue that you raise about church and state. In the same context we believe that’s why the state should not be legislating marriage, because that’s an issue that was an institution formalized by god and not by government, and so to legislate that… We’ve lost five states in this union … and Washington [D.C.] is a few weeks away —
Brooke: Wait wait, what are you saying — you LOST them?
Daniel: Lost in regards to the legislation of same-sex marriage. I say that’s a loss because now you’re encroaching on the religious freedoms of the people in this state, and if you look historically at this state, this state is very evangelical and Catholic, so you’re encroaching on all of our rights. What needs to be done is you need to go back to the table to discuss the issues, to get away from the coo-coo fanatical stuff– I’m against that, as the minister of a gospel I’m against that.
Riese: Do you feel like most of the other leaders here are like that?
Daniel: I have my convictions, it’s not God’s perfect purpose for a man and a man to be together, that’s my conviction, but nevertheless you’re welcome in my church. On Staten Island I pastor at a church called Third Day Missions, and you’re welcome in my church, you’re gonna be treated with respect and dignity and love and we’re going to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, the gospel of love. But by the same token you have on the other side, you have the radicals also — you have on the other side, I just interviewed with the Village Voice, they were radical. But they were there, because you know, I let them know what our position is. This is not homophobic, the church is not homophobic, it’s not anti-gay. What it is is anti the state legislating religious freedom, that’s basically it.
Brooke: Thank you.
Riese: Thank you so much.
Interview #2 with Bishop Kittim Silva of the International Council of Pentecostal Churches of Jesus Christ.
Brooke: We’re doing a school project, would you mind answering some questions?
Kittim Silva: Sure, my name is Kittim Silva [something else we can’t hear]
Kittim: We are here to protest against marriage between man & man and woman & woman. We are not against the gay community, we are not against their civil rights, but we are against marriage between man & man and woman & woman based on the Bible and the tradition and the history.
Brooke: And the people who are in the protest, where are most of these people coming from?
Kittim: They are coming from different places, from different counties, and some of them from New Jersey, but the majority from New York, and also from New York City, and the majority of us are democrats.
Riese: I noticed there’s a lot of signs that say things like ‘Soddom and Gommorah’, these very negative things —
Kittim: No, you don’t see those signs here, we are not a protest against gays. We are protesting against our governor, David Patterson, what he’s endorsing and promoting, and he’s endorsing the marriage between man & man and woman & woman. And we respect the rights of gay people but we are against that marriage. We are here to say that we don’t have to redefine marriage, because it’s already been defined in the history and in the Judeo-Christian traditions.
Brooke: So then what do you think of those signs over there?
Kittim: Those signs say G-d created man + woman, that’s equal to marriage, man and woman, Adam and Eve.
Brooke: But there’s also a Sodom & Gammorah one —
Kittim: Probably that’s further down —
Brooke: There’s a lot of them —
Kittim: There’s not a lot.
Brooke: No, there are. I just wanna know because that’s like — I mean, that’s a reflection on you all.
Kittim: Our people that we come with– we don’t come here to attack [the gay community].
Brooke: That’s what they’re doing though.
Kittim: No, not really. You need to see again and come back to me with a report.
Brooke: Can I show you? Can we walk over there?
Kittim: Where? Way over there?
Brooke: You have like five blocks of people!
Kittim: Noooo —
Brooke: There’s like a whole row down there!
Kittim: Don’t put those people in your news, don’t put it in the news.
Brooke: That’s the negative, that’s what we feel from them —
Kittim: We don’t share that opinion with them, they are wrong.
Brooke: But they’re here on your behalf!
Kittim: No, those people are wrong, I would like to remove them.
Riese: You should then, you should remove them.
Kittim: We are here to talk about marriage between man & man and woman & woman.
Brooke: That’s what we thought too, but then we saw all this stuff over there about how they hate gay people.
Kittim: You don’t pay attention to that, just pay attention to these people over here.
Brooke: Just pay attention to the people who are in charge?
Kittim: Over here you will not see that, look at that– (reads sign) “A Day to Proclaim a Voice in Favor of Matrimony Between Men & Women.” That’s our message today, we are not against the gay community, we have respect for them.
Brooke: Then what are you going to do to break off the people who are saying those things, because that’s where the poor reflection on you all is happening…?
Riese: Why don’t you have signs that say you are for civil unions?
Kittim: You can go to them and say, ‘Sir, I have spoken to someone who says that your sign is wrong’, go over there, I give you that authority to go over to them.
Brooke: Do you have a card or something that we can show them?
Kittim: No, but you want to take down my name?
Brooke: Yeah, I’d like to in case we have some follow-up questions.
Kittim: This is not a protest against that, it’s against redefining marriage…
Big Man: What college are you working for?
Brooke: Um, Duke University. But I’m up here for the summer.
Big Man: What’s your major?
Brooke: I’m a sociology major. This is my summer project.
Big Man: I need to have the two names of them.
Brooke: Yeah, of course. [Writes down our names]
Big Man: — For protection.
Interview 3 with Lt. Dan Choi:
Riese: So will you tell us what you are doing now, in your life?
Lt. Dan Choi: Right now I’m an advocate, I’m a fighter for all the people that are discriminated against. It’s another word for unemployed, [laughs] a long-winded way of saying that I don’t have a job!
Riese: Have you been trying to have a conversation with Obama?
Dan: Well I’ve written an open letter to him, to every member of Congress. I actually got to shake hands with the highest ranking military man in American, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen, a couple days ago. I was at the congressional hearing, a very boring hearing, and they didn’t talk about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, they’re sort of in the closet about it themselves. But I got to shake [Mullen’s] hand at the end and tell him, “I’m getting kicked out under DADT, it’s an honor to meet you” and he said, “Yeah, I’ve been reading the news, I’ve sort of heard about you.”
So it was interesting to see that our leaders are actually paying attention and that they are listening. And it’s only a matter of telling them and they’ll listen. So this DADT is a bygone era, we have to tell, we have to ask. We have to be out there, we have to stand up and they will listen, and we are gonna get into a dialogue and make America better. But I think that just the fact that I want to serve, and I portrayed that to him, you know, I told him I want to serve, I want to continue being in the army, in the military, and I understand if the law is gonna force me out, and I understand if I have to get kicked out, but once the law gets repealed I will be the first one in the recruiting station raising my right hand again saying, you know, I want to serve. I mean, West Point gave me all the education and the training that I have, so why wouldn’t I continue using that for my country?
Riese: Yeah I really like what you said in the letter about the honor code, and how they tell you not to lie but yet they told you to lie, I thought that was really well put.
Dan: Exactly. And the honor code is not for straight cadets or straight soldiers, it’s good for all soldiers. And the travesty is that it, the different code, the DADT discrimination code, is saying that it’s okay, it’s actually policy for gays to lie, it’s actually being forced upon them and so, that not being an army value, not being part of the Warrior Ethos, that’s part of why Americans, all Americans, should be ashamed and overturn the law right now.
Dan: Of course, Americans want to do the right thing. They see that we are at a time of war, and it doesn’t take them too long to realize that what they are doing to our soldiers, putting them through not only lying and hiding but basically being in the closet, which as I can tell them personally, I tell everybody personally including all my commanders and leaders in government and my friends and my family, I tell everybody, being in the closet is the most toxic poison, it is a disease, it cripples, and why would force that on soldiers who have a hard enough time as it is?
Riese: Yeah, absolutely. [to Matthew Kinsey, Dan’s boyfriend] How has this been for you? Am I allowed to ask you that? [Matthew and Riese are laughing]
Matthew: Pretty eye opening. [laughing] Definitely! I think, I mean, one of the reasons I fell in love with Dan is because you know, who he is, and his heart and his sincerity, and the genuineness, it just comes out even just speaking to you right now.
Riese: Yes, right. Absolutely. You can definitely see that.
Matthew: And you know when I told him I loved him and he could be vulnerable and I would continue to love him I didn’t realize [laughing] he was going to take it to the world stage-
[basically everyone is laughing now]
Dan: Well you should never hide love…
Matthew: But I think that’s right. I think what he’s saying is, just like a family, this is just a microcosm of families and society today. Like, you know, [referring to Dan] like you said before, the military should reflect the people it serves. And this is basically what we are saying. And I’ve never necessarily been an activist before but, you know, Dan’s, you know, encouraging that and…
Riese: True love has its price!
Matthew: Exactly! Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it… [Dan and Matthew laugh]
Riese: Well it’s great. Thank you for everything that you’re doing and it’s an honor to meet you.
Dan: Thank you.
Matthew: Likewise. It’s our pleasure.
Haviland: Thank you so much. Thank you for everything you’re doing, really. And can I just say that you guys are a BEAUTIFUL couple? Beautiful.
Later that same day … Broadway Impact held a Marriage Equality Rally, where Cynthia Nixon announced she and her girlfriend Christine Marinoni are engaged!
The rally featured Audra McDonald, Cheyenne Jackson, Cynthia Nixon, David Hyde Pierce, Gavin Creel, Kristin Davis, Christine Quinn, Tom Duane, Daniel O’Donnell and the cast of “HAIR.” Dan Choi was also, obvs, in attendance.
What a day for the Gays!