By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
That historic period confirmed what many young gays today believe about themselves: Unlike older gays and lesbians — who faced far greater stigma growing up, even from family, friends and colleagues — they do not see themselves as social outcasts.
"Younger gays don't see themselves as a subculture anymore," says Mishory, who makes gay-themed movies. "They have goals in life just like anyone else, and they want many of the traditional things that the mainstream has to offer."
Luck wants to wake up in the morning with his husband by his side, kiss him goodbye as they go off to work, and then meet up for dinner at night and talk with his spouse about how their days went.
"We deserve the same rights as anyone else," Luck says. "We should be able to get married and raise children and do everything else."
But in 2004, the California Supreme Court voided the marriages in San Francisco. That's when Mishory and his peers realized that society didn't yet see them as equals and part of the mainstream. In May 2008, the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage as a result of a lawsuit, and 18,000 were legally wed in California — and remain so today. But when voters passed Prop. 8 months later, a cycle of homophobia had developed, angering Mishory and his friends.
Frank is one of them. "Prop. 8 was a shock for me," she says. "Before Prop. 8, my friends weren't into marriage. But once people were told, 'No, you're not going to have that,' they got adamant about it. They wanted that right."
Garcia, who works with younger people as a volunteer for an AIDS-awareness program, wants the younger gays and lesbians, who have not yet come of age, to have the right to marry. "If we have that option," Garcia says, "then there are no issues of equality. Kids won't feel they're unequal or separate from the rest of society. I want them to know they can marry whoever they want."
But paramount to the young is the pursuit of social lives and careers. At the same time, however, gay-activist groups aren't effectively pulling in these nonactivist-but-aware young gays for their support and ideas. Young gays openly criticized the big, longtime gay-rights groups that largely failed to reach out to them before the ballot-box passage of Prop. 8. Since then, Mishory says, he's finally begun to see some modest outreach efforts from the traditional gay groups run by established leaders.
Coming on the heels of those established leaders and groups, the newer, grassroots gay organizers, such as Rick Jacobs and Robin McGehee, have taken a more prominent role in California since Prop. 8 was approved by voters 52 percent to 48 percent. Using social-networking tools and blogs, Jacobs, in his mid-50s, and McGehee, 36, who co-founded the direct-action gay-rights group GetEqual, try to pull in younger gays by keeping them updated and inviting them to join activist campaigns.
"We want people to take the fight into their own hands," says McGehee, sounding a theme Jacobs also supports. "We use those tools to ramp people up and to get them out in the street."
GetEqual has held protests in Washington, D.C., Las Vegas and San Francisco, notifying backers via e-mails, Facebook and Twitter. GetEqual members heckled President Barack Obama this year at a Los Angeles fund-raiser for not moving faster to repeal the ban on openly gay members of the military. They made national headlines, keeping the controversial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in the national spotlight.
Jacobs, founder of Courage Campaign, set up the blog Prop8TrialTracker.com, which published blow-by-blow accounts of the Prop. 8 federal trial in San Francisco. And his NOM Tour Tracker campaign asks Courage Campaign members to counterprotest anti–gay marriage rallies across the country sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage. As a result, gay-marriage advocates often outnumber opponents at the events, and the confrontations are featured on Prop8TrialTracker.com.
Jacobs' blog is hugely popular: In seven months, the site received 2.6 million page views.
Equality California, the major gay-rights organization that unsuccessfully fought to defeat Prop. 8 in 2008, also has been pumping up its street-volunteer program in such places as Orange County, East L.A. and South L.A. — areas where large numbers of black, Latino and conservative white voters said no to gay marriage by voting yes to the measure.
The volunteers knock on doors and talk directly with people who may not be in favor of same-sex marriage, an effort launched in June 2009 and aimed at a still-unformed but possible pro–gay–marriage ballot measure. Over the past year, 4,000 people, mostly in their 20s and 30s, have volunteered, says EQCA marriage director Marc Solomon.
Solomon, who used the door-to-door method to protect marriage equality in Massachusetts, says volunteers believe they are making a difference, and 80 percent return to help. He sees it as the "most effective way of reaching people who aren't with us." Despite last week's ruling, Solomon says EQCA will continue its canvassing — in case Walker's decision is overturned on appeal by the Ninth Circuit and a pro–gay–marriage California ballot measure is pushed forward in response.