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A Victory Over Illinois Gay-Haters!

Illinois "Family" Institute Cancels Rally in Wake of Protest, Lack of Support

Claiming that is was overwhelmed by other work, the Illinois Family Institute [IFI] abruptly "postponed" its anti-gay hate rally scheduled for March 18, 2006 at Broadview Missionary Baptist Church, an African American congregation located in its namesake western suburb next to Maywood. Lacking a new date, it is safe to assume that the event is canceled, dead in the water.

There are a few probable reasons for the failure of this latest foray by the white-led IFI into a Black church. First and foremost, African American gay activists Wil Lockett and Max Smith took the initiative to forthrightly confront the bigotry, Lockett having discussions with people in the congregation, encouraging them not to support the hate rally.

They attended last Sunday's worship service, and following an announcement that the rally had not been backed by other area churches who were said to be "afraid" to step out, the preacher launched an attack on "gay" marriage. Lockett stood and publicly denounced the anti-gay remarks he had just heard. "I couldn't take it anymore. I booed the preacher, and said 'I disagree!' The preacher remarked 'we're not hating on anybody...' And I replied 'YES you ARE!' and I walked out."

Word of our protest in support of marriage equality and against IFI bigotry, initiated by African American gays and backed by GLN, had already been posted to several listservs and Chicago Indymedia, distributed to several gay-friendly businesses and other places. The IFI is known to read GLN internet messages, published on our own listserv, webpage and on Indymedia.

It is highly likely that having experienced a lack of enthusiasm for the gathering of bigots, then having someone publicly object to the rally in a rare public challenge to church leadership, and finally learning of a planned public protest of the event, the church leaders told the IFI, "No rally here."

This victory shows the potential that public protests have for effectively opposing the IFI's bigotry and its attempt to enshrine discrimination in the Illinois Constitution. Moreover, it shows the crucial role that African American LGBT people can play in stopping the use of "divide and conquer" techniques pitting Blacks against gays, and vice versa, and exposing how lily-white, right-wing outfits like the IFI cynically seek to harness African Americans in their campaign to deny equal rights.

We are happy to have won this battle, and will use it as a springboard to continue the struggle to win full equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people.


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