When it comes to life-impacting stuff — civil rights, political movements, or education reform, for example — Los Angeles too often gets overlooked by snobby journalists and intellectual types in New York City and Washington D.C.
Let's just admit it: They don't take L.A. seriously and they hate to give the nation's second largest city credit for anything of value.
But as the U.S. Supreme Court considers the unconstitutionality of Proposition 8 on Tuesday, March 26, Los Angeles deserves major credit for the rapidly successful pro-gay marriage movement in the United States — and we can tell you why …
It all started in November 2008, the days and weeks after California voters approved Proposition 8, the state's gay marriage ban.
Outraged by the vote, tens of thousands of gay and straight folks in Los Angeles angrily took to the streets, marching, stopping traffic, and demanding equality.
Those amazing sights and sounds were broadcasted around the world by CNN and other major TV networks, showing political leaders and regular citizens in Oregon, Iowa, New York City, and everywhere in between that enough was enough. Discrimination of any kind was unacceptable in the United States.
Americans took note.
Between 2008 and 2009, after Proposition 8 was passed, Iowa, Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire recognized gay marriage.
Legal observers often say public opinion can make a huge impact on the courts and politicians when they're dealing with social issues. We submit that L.A.'s very loud opposition to Proposition 8 started turning the tide of public opinion in favor of gay marriage.
Not only that. The American Foundation for Equal Rights, which organized and funded the federal Proposition 8 lawsuit that's in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, is based in Los Angeles.
AFER board members include L.A. folks such as political strategist Chad Griffin, movie director and children's advocate Rob Reiner, Reiner's wife and children's advocate Michele, Oscar-winning producer and political activist Bruce Cohen, and Oscar-winning screenwriter and gay rights activist Dustin Lance Black.
L.A. power players David Geffen, who's gay, and Steve Bing, who's straight, also gave $1.5 million each to the AFER cause, as Variety's Ted Johnson points out.
Griffin and company all played key roles in pushing forward the federal Proposition 8 lawsuit, which kept the issue of gay marriage in the American public consciousness since the lawsuit was filed in 2009. A federal judge in California ruled Prop. 8 was unconstitutional in 2010.
Black then later wrote the play “8,” which examined the federal trial. Highly publicized, star-studded readings were held in Los Angeles and New York. Those events generated even more attention about the need to stop discrimination and legalize gay marriage.
L.A.-based Courage Campaign, the highly-effective grassroots organization founded by Rick Jacobs, was also working on the front lines of the gay marriage movement in California and other states.
As all those things were unfolding, Washington D.C. and New York recognized gay marriage and the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) — the federal ban on gay marriage — was being successfully challenged in the courts. The U.S. Supreme Court will take up the unconstitutionality of DOMA on Wednesday, March 27.
In 2012, Maryland, Washington, and Maine — that state backtracked for a bit then rebounded — recognized gay marriage and Minnesota voters shot down a gay marriage ban.
None of these things would have happened so quickly if it wasn't for L.A.'s gay and straight folks who pushed back hard after Prop. 8 was passed in 2008.
Which shouldn't be surprising.
Los Angeles has been an important player in the American gay rights movement for decades — read the excellent book Gay L.A. by Lillian Faderman and Stuart Timmons. In fact, Harry Hay, widely considered the founder of the modern gay rights movement in the United States, was a longtime resident of L.A.
Los Angeles, you made things happen and got things done — and played an integral role in furthering the concept of equality for all Americans during this pivotal time in our country's history. For that, the nation owes you a well-deserved pat on the back.
Patrick Range McDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org.