On One Hand

December 2, 2006

Ref. I Rally Draws Hundreds

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Published in The Campus Press

Ref. I Rally Draws Hundreds

Matt Pizzuti
Staff Writer

Protesters gathered in 20-degree weather on the steps of the state capitol building at noon on Saturday to support gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) rights in light of the defeat of Referendum I.

Word of the rally, which was originally organized by four CSU students, spread to other colleges in the state through Facebook and GLBT-rights organizations such as Soulforce.

Although student organizers previously said there could be thousands of attendees, the rally drew far fewer demonstrators, which many at the rally attributed to the cold weather. Estimates of the number of people at the capitol ranged from 100 to 400.

Speakers came from a variety of organizations that support GLBT rights.

Jean Hodges, the Mountain West director of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), urged concerned citizens to speak out about equal rights.

“We will not be bystanders,” she said.

Hodges said that as a grandmother, she felt the need to speak out because her son and his partner of 10 years do not receive the same legal rights that she and her husband do.

She said that in 12 of Colorado’s 64 counties, Referendum I, which would have given domestic partnership rights to same-sex couples in Colorado, won more votes than it lost. She added that it only lost statewide by a few percentage points and could stand a better chance of passing in 2008.

Jeremy Shaver, a spokesperson from the Interfaith Alliance, an interfaith organization to challenge the Christian Coalition’s political policies, said that those who voted against domestic partnerships did so out of anxiety about change. The anxiety should be addressed through discourse and not diminished as ignorance or bigotry, he said, but that GLBT people cannot let go of their own values or give up on their rights.

Ginger Meyette, a PhD student at the Unversity of Denver, also spoke and encouraged people to come out of “whatever closet they may be in whether they are straight or gay,” so that voters are “voting for a specific person’s rights and not some abstract thing.”

Other speakers included several beat poets, a pagan priestess and rally organizers.

A number of CU students were in the crowd, forming a significant proportion of the people at the rally. Rebecca Weiss, a junior integrative physiology major, said she went to the rally to support equality for all people and “to let the government know it’s not okay to withhold rights based on someone’s race, gender, or sexuality.”

She said that ensuring all people equal rights is the responsibility of everyone, not just GLBT people.

Weiss was at the rally with Gaddy Noy, also a junior integrative physiology major, who said he wished more people were at the rally.

“This is kind of ridiculous that we actually have to get together to get people to realize that we’re all equal,” Noy said.

But Tyler Jordan, 18, of Fort Collins, who is one of the protest’s organizers and will be starting at CSU in the fall, said he was excited about the rally’s turnout.

“It’s overwhelming to see people come out,” Jordan said. “This is the first time we’ve ever done anything” like this.

Jordan said he was impressed with the turnout considering that they started planning the rally right after the election and only had a few weeks to put it together.

CSU sophomore Mike Clarkson said he thought the weather reduced the number of people who showed up at the rally.

Clarkson drove from Fort Collins to Denver for the rally, bringing a friend and his father.

“It could have been better but I’m glad that the people who are here are here,” he said.

Sarah McCall, a senior and women and gender studies major at CU, said that she thought the turnout was high, considering the cold.

She said she thought there were 300 to 400 people at the rally.

“It’s really hard to get people out on a cold Saturday, especially college students,” she said. “I’m really impressed.”

The CSU students who organized Saturday’s rally are planning to carry that momentum into a nonprofit group called “Colorado Youth for Unity and Equality,” which is intended to make youth who support GLBT rights more visible through other rallies and demonstrations.

“The mission is pretty much what we did today – to try to help educate the public and get more youth involved,” Jordan said.


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