Early Saturday afternoon, amidst the throngs of red-clad game day Badgers fans, a river of rainbow colors wound its way up State Street to the Capitol. Hundreds of people gathered as part of a nationwide day of protest against the passage of Proposition 8, the measure repealing the recently granted right of gay marriage in California.
Organized by a group named Join the Impact in support of the increasingly large anti-Prop 8 rallies being held all over California, this day of action was aimed to bring a national spotlight to the issue. With rallies being held in cities across all 50 states, opponents of the measure hoped it would prove to be "the largest organized Protest/Movement since the Civil Rights Movement."
Thrown together over the last week and faced with cold, windy conditions, local organizers were pleased with the estimated 500-plus supporters who turned out today in downtown Madison.
Young and young-at-heart, gay and straight, the group met at Library Mall and, with some assistance from the Madison Police Department, marched up State Street. It was a good day for maximum visibility, too, with both Wisconsin Badgers and Minnesota football Gophers fans out in force, as well as regular weekend shoppers. Onlookers stopped to take photos and several cars honked their horns appreciatively as the upbeat procession passed.
One group of protestors had lashed a large speaker system to a bike trailer, and blasted techno music as a few pink-masked people in brightly colored clothing leapt and danced around it. Others opted for the traditional call-and-response chants of "What do we want? Equal rights! When do we want them? Now!"
A whole slew of both clear-messaged and more creative signs bobbed above the heads of the rally. Some chastised The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, seen by many as one of the main contributors to the passage of the ballot initiative -- Mormons donated an estimated $20 million to the Yes on Prop 8 campaign. Others placards offered slogans like "First-class taxpayer, second-class citizen," and some went for a more positive approach, their signs urging love and respect.
Speakers exhorted the crowd to keep up the fight after the rally ended. "This is just the beginning!," declared one organizer. "Marching isn't an end in itself, but it is a way to get everyone energized for the struggle ahead."
Speakers also noted that Wisconsin had recently elected a Democratic majority into the Legislature, and that it was, in their opinion, a "pro-fairness" group. Those in attendance were urged to continue to educate friends and family about the issue, and to put pressure on their representatives to make sure fairness legislation made it into law. Their closing statement: "Every happy, healthy gay family is a walking contradiction to the anti-gay marriage argument."