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News and reports

July 2, 2004 | Pages 10 and 11

End the occupation of Iraq
Stop the war on the poor

Gay marriage is a civil right
By August Beck and Nell Crawford

FROM SAN Francisco to New York City, gay marriage activists made their demand loud and clear in Gay Pride parades this weekend: Equal marriage now!

In San Francisco, mock Supreme Court justices marched in front of almost 800 people in the Marriage Equality California (MECA) contingent at Gay Pride. Some 200 couples marched, many with their marriage certificates framed and stuck on wooden picket signs. Many churches in support of gay marriage also attended.

Mayor Gavin Newsom's decision to defy state law and issue marriage licenses earlier this year won him big points in this crowd, with many people wearing "Newsom" T-shirts and chanting "Gavin! Gavin!" "LGBT for Kerry" stickers were always in sight, despite the fact that the Democrat opposes gay marriage and has said that he's in favor of a ban in his home state of Massachusetts.

Jack Zelis, who made a "If not now, when?" sign for the parade, said he was trying counter the sentiment that it was a bad time to demand gay marriage "because it was an election year."

-- Amid the usual floats carrying politicians, drag queens and advertisements for bars, about 75 people marched with Equal Marriage Now! (EMN) in Chicago's annual Gay Pride Parade. The vibrant contingent garnered loud cheers from people lining the parade route, as they chanted, "No more back of the bus!" and "Gay, straight, Black, white--Equal marriage is a right!" and passed out thousands of leaflets urging others to join the fight.

Although Pride is a celebration of gay lives and culture, it commemorates the 1969 Stonewall riot, in which gays and lesbians resisted police repression, sparking the modern movement for gay rights. The need for a new political fight against bigotry was evident for reasons beyond gay marriage.

At three points throughout the march, antigay bigots held homophobic signs and yelled slurs. EMN activists confronted these bigots at each point.

John Kerry supporters led the march, and Barack Obama, a Democrat running for U.S. Senate, sent supporters, although he too opposes same-sex marriage. EMN activists are planning actions to confront these politicians and show opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment, which will be brought before Congress this coming month.

-- The Marriage Equality New York contingent at the New York City gay pride parade was among several contingents that had gay marriage as their theme. Signs included "Civil unions aren't enough, no second-class citizenship" in English, Spanish and Chinese.

-- In Seattle, one of the most popular contingents in this year's 100,000-strong Gay/Lesbian/Bi/Transgender Pride Day was the gay marriage contingent. People watching from the sidelines roared approval and cheered on seeing the contingent arrive. Supporters of Ralph Nader, who supports gay marriage, were also there to gather signatures to get him on the ballot.

-- In Cincinnati, Ohio, gay rights activists are fighting the bigoted Article 12 law, which specifically prohibits gays and lesbians from seeking protection against discrimination. "Gay rights under attack--what do we do? Stand up, fight back!" was the message of the gay marriage contingent at the pride parade on June 13.

Mitch Day, Steve Leigh and Matthew Pillischer contributed to this report.

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End the occupation of Iraq

BURLINGTON, Vt.--About 300 people from all over the state attended a demonstration against the U.S. occupation of Iraq during the last weekend in June. Speakers from groups such as U.S. Labor Against War (USLAW), the American Friends Service Committee, Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine and the International Socialist Organization took to the microphone to call out the liars in the Bush administration and to call for U.S. to be brought home.

"Ordinary Iraqis are not our enemy, and we must recognize that a war against the Iraqi people is also a war against us here in the U.S.," said a speaker from USLAW. The deep-seated anger at Bush, however, was deflected into a pro-Democrat Anybody But Bush message from the front, led by Ben Cohen of Ben and Jerry's ice cream fame. A speaker from Military Families Speak Out, who spoke about her struggle while holding up a picture of her only son who is currently serving in Iraq, received the loudest applause.

While many seemed to favor the United Nations assuming control in Iraq, there was also a small but firm anti-occupation sentiment. "Occupation is occupation no matter what color the fatigues are," said one demonstrator, who carried a placard listing the lies told by the Bush administration to justify the war.

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Stop the war on the poor
By Jon Daniels

CINCINNATI--Community activists organized a June 12 march against the city's all-out war on the poor. The Drop-Inn Center, a homeless shelter, is located in Over-the-Rhine across the street from Music Hall, where the city's elite arrive in limos for expensive concerts.

Since having a homeless shelter that serves a mostly African American clientele conflicts with plans to turn the area into a cultural center, they're trying to force us out. In protest, various community groups organized the march to keep the Washington Park area from gentrification.

After several inspiring speeches, demonstrators marched past the Drop-Inn Center and the District 1 police station to Laurel Park, chanting and speaking out against this city's war on poor people. This is only the latest chapter in the city's drive to punish the poor.

The first battle was to gentrify Main Street in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood--in the name of "neighborhood improvement." Now two large housing projects are being torn down to make way for townhouses and apartments that former residents can't afford to rent.

To help the developers, the city council passed a ordinance that "forbids the City of Cincinnati from spending, approving or in any way condoning more subsidized low-income development in those areas deem[ed] 'impacted.'"

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