Minneapolis, MN - At the annual Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) Pride festival here, there was a unique marriage of causes: The struggle against war in Iraq tied the knot with the struggle for civil rights for the GLBT community at home. In a creative act of solidarity, the Anti-War Committee marched under the banner, “I do say no to war!” and offered same-sex couples the chance to ‘Commit to Peace’ and each other, in a ceremony led by an ordained minister.
Anti-War Committee (AWC) members saw this as a key time to bring their solidarity work home. The 2004 elections became not only a referendum on terrorism and the war on Iraq, but also on same sex marriage and other democratic rights for the GLBT community. GLBT people were turned into the domestic enemy, nearly as hateful as foreign ‘terrorists’ being fought in the wars abroad. The assault on queer rights was used to distract the country from the losing war in Iraq, a failing economy, the lack of jobs and the tax breaks getting bigger for the rich. Homophobic constitutional amendments were used on the 2004 ballot in eleven states, in order to get out the vote from the religious right, with the assumption that they would come out to vote against same-sex marriage and would also vote for Bush.
“The so-called war on terrorism has been fueled by the attack on queer rights, and it is really important this year to stand with the queer community against Bush and his war on terrorism,” says Anti-War Committee organizer Jess Sundin.
For this reason, the Anti-War Committee went all out to participate in the Pride events. In the parade, anti-war activists wore wedding attire and marched under the banner, “I do say no to war!” Informational flyers encouraged people to declare their opposition to war and the homophobic military. Gays and lesbians are officially banned from serving in the U.S. military.
At the AWC booth, supporters could get information about how to stay out of the military, including photos of a same-sex kiss or certificates of same-sex marriage. The highlight of the weekend was the wedding chapel, where nearly 20 couples declared their commitments to each other, and to peace. Couples could dress up with bowties and veils, carry flowers, choose music or poetry and celebrate with cake. In addition to the personal commitments made, every couple vowed to help build a world with peace and justice.
“This year’s theme really allowed us to connect the anti-war movement with the queer community in a fun and exciting way. We were all there to have fun but also to stand up against Bush’s attacks at home and abroad,” said Meredith Aby, an Anti-War Committee organizer.