Why Impact Florida will demonstrate outside of Governor Crist's wedding and feel perfectly alright about it

The first critique has been voiced most succinctly by Adam Smith of the St. Petersburg Times. He called the demonstration "tacky." I agree with Mr. Smith. The demonstration will be tacky. It will consist of hundreds of ordinary people. Some will be old, fat and pock marked. Some will be gangly, awkward and pale. All will be wearing t-shirts the color of those atrocious pink flamingo lawn ornaments that the word tacky seems to have been invented to describe. There will be no dancing. There will be no marching. There will be no structured or harmonious activity of any sort. The entire affair will be quite aesthetically displeasing because ordinary people gathering together to call attention to injustice is not an aesthetically pleasing business. Injustice is, by definition, a lack of balance, an absence of order and a disruption of harmony. It is tacky in the moral sense the same way acid washed daisy dukes are tacky in the traditional sense. There is no elegant, beautiful, polite or pleasing way to point it out. That does not mean that one ought to refrain from doing so.

Versions of the second critique have been voiced by many of my friends, family and fellow Impact Florida members. The second critique centers on the notion that there is something inherently wrong about, as one of my friends put it, "protesting someone's wedding." My first response to this critique is that Impact Florida is not, in fact, "protesting" the Governor's wedding. We are not opposing or trying to stop the wedding. (That would be pretty silly since Impact Florida is explicitly and enthusiastically pro-marriage. We want every Floridian, the Governor included, to have the fundamental right to marry.) What we are doing is demonstrating outside of the Governor's wedding. We are using the Governor's wedding to call attention to the injustice of Amendment 2.

Second critique sympathizers would probably stop me there and say, "Stop playing these semantic games! Whether you call it protesting or demonstrating, making a fuss at someone's wedding is just wrong." Under girding this claim is an assumption that marriage is a deeply personal thing and that a wedding is private to the point of being sacred, even if one of the spouses-to-be is the most powerful elected official in the state of Florida. I must confess that at one time I may have been sympathetic to this claim. However, in the wake of Amendment 2's passage, I am most certainly not.

Supporters of Amendment 2 (like Governor Crist) do not share this belief in the sacredness and the privacy of marriage. If marriage solely involved the two parties reciting the vows, then the supporters of Amendment 2 would have no better arguments to support their position than the ones used to justify sodomy laws or any other laws that intrude into the private lives of consenting adults for no legitimate or compelling reason. In their view, marriage is not a private matter (like sex or the decision to use birth control); it is a public matter of such social importance that only certain types of people should be eligible to receive the state's permission to do it. The Governor (like all of Amendment 2's supporters) has worked to ensure that everyone's marriage is the subject of public discourse and opinion. Why should this not also include his marriage?

The third critique has come primarily from my friends and peers in the GLBT community. They fear that this demonstration will exacerbate current hatred of GLBT people and hinder our struggle for civil rights. This is the critique I take most seriously. It is also the one I feel least able to respond to effectively. All I can really say to people who feel this way is that I think, feel, believe and hope that you are wrong. I think this demonstration will have just the opposite effect. I think this demonstration will show the Governor of Florida (and hopefully many others) that the people injured by Amendment 2 are real people. We are not sexual predators, social deviants, militant man-haters, spiritual abominations or whatever other fear inspired caricatures the hate-filled and the ignorant have used to obscure, negate and silence us throughout the years. We are teachers, marines, Amway representatives, tax attorneys, firefighters and nurses. We have been in committed and loving relationships for 3, 19, even 42 years. We have children, grandchildren and foster children. We have cats, dogs and guinea pigs. We vote. We pay taxes. We stand behind you in line on Friday afternoon at the bank and on Sunday morning at church to take communion.

I truly believe that Impact Florida's demonstration for marriage equality outside of Governor Crist's wedding will portray the GLBT community in a positive light. I believe it will play a part in demonstrating that we are all more than our sex lives in the same way that we are all more than our skin colors or our genders. I believe that the more visible we in the GLBT community are, the better our chances will be for one day achieving full citizenship in this state and in this country.

If you'd like to learn more about Impact Florida, please consider joining our social network by going here. Our next general meeting is this Saturday, December 6 at 2pm at the Metro Center in St. Pete.

In case you haven't heard (and I don't know how you would not have: the story has been everywhere from the Tampa Tribune to MSNBC to the Huffington Post), Impact Florida, an organization committed to attaining marriage equality for all Floridians, is planning a demonstration outside of Governor Charlie Crist's wedding and reception on Friday, December 12. As the recently appointed leader and spokesperson for Impact Florida, over the past 48 hours I have received an inbox full of compliments, questions and requests for interviews. I have also received a small but not negligible amount of criticism. Here are two examples from comments left anonymously on the Saint Petersburg Times' political blog, The Buzz:

"...you usually don't get involved in this voting thing except when you and your buddies try and settle once and for all the question if who's better; Donna Summer or Liza Minelli..."

"Let's make a deal. Everyone can marry anything and as often as they want. Take off all of the discriminatory restrictions. A man can marry his pet sheep and a woman can marry her stud German shepard. A teacher can marry as many of her teenage students as she can squeeze in. Why just limit the fun to homos? Why not let mothers marry their sons and sisters marry their brothers?"

As you can see from these two gems, much of the criticism has been too ridiculous to warrant a response. Some of it, however, has been what true criticism is supposed to be: constructive, challenging and supported by evidence. It has come not from anonymous strangers, but from friends, peers and other respectable folks not too cowardly to join their name to their opinion. I would like to take a few moments to present and respond to these legitimate critiques of Impact Florida's planned demonstration.

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