"Especially after the presidential election there's been an attempt to rein in the [gay pride] movement: 'Maybe we've asked for too much,'" says A.J. Marin, organizer of the Progressive Queer Organizing Committee from his South Side home. "The idea that [gay people] can get our liberation through assimilation, and that we're just like straight people except for what we do behind closed doors ... is just a modified form of being in the closet."
Marin, 28, moved here from New York City a year ago only to be "frankly shocked by the lack of activism in the community," especially in the face of what he says is the most open homophobia he's encountered living in cities across the U.S.
Being Mexican-American, he also felt underrepresented by the core gay groups in town, which reflect the city's largely white demographic. The fledgling Committee's 18 members, mostly black or Latino, began gathering in February and held their first cultural event earlier in May.
Now they are trying to gather support for the "Bring Stonewall to Santorum" campaign, taking the spirit of the iconic rebellion by Manhattan's Stonewall gay bar patrons against police raids in 1969 to the state's anti-gay-rights senator. Rick Santorum is up for reelection in 2006. The Committee's exact strategy is still being formed, although Marin says civil disobedience will not be the group's main tactic. Still, the group's concerns are clear, he says:
"Queers have a lot of the same issues that people in general have. There's too many queers who don't have health care. There's too many queers who don't have jobs." Santorum's ability to rile other constituencies besides gays - those concerned about the senator's stances on Social Security, reproductive rights or the war in Iraq, for example -- may offer the Committee allies outside the gay community.
Santorum, says Marin, "is the national spokesperson for homophobia. When the right wing chooses the person to be on the attack against us, it's our responsibility to be on the attack back."
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