A local coalition of gay-rights, civil-rights and faith groups called Stand for All Families plans to make itself known at the Sept. 20 "Stand for the Family" rally at Mellon Arena ... if only to prove they exist, say organizers.
But of course the coalition is hoping for much more, says spokesperson Dana Elmendorf. As the rally's flyer states, attendees will hear from right-wing figures including James Dobson, founder of the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, which is hosting the "Stand." Those at Dobson's rally, the flyers promise, will "[l]earn about what's at stake this election and get equipped to fight for the cultural issues that will protect the family."
"'Issues that protect the family' is of course code words for 'fear the gays,'" says Elmendorf, who will be standing outside the rally with her partner. "Their positions create environments where discrimination and prejudice start to flourish.
"What we're trying to do is reframe those issues," she adds. "We're not targeting people [attending] or even the organization. We're trying to create dialogue addressing the positions they espouse" ... dialogue with Focus members but "more importantly with people on the middle ground, those unsure about gay rights."
The coalition members insists on calling their appearance a "presence," not a picket or protest, and "not even a rally, because there won't be speeches."
Rally attendees "will see gay families and our allies walking together, holding hands. They will see signs with statements and pictures ... and whatever people dream up. People who are going to the rally are just walking by and we have five seconds to reach them, [so] visual imagery ... has a great impact."
The strategy has drawn the doubts of other, more radical groups who at press time were still planning their own actions at the Focus rally. One small, new group, Pittsburgh Antifa (as in "antifascist"), is calling for pink-, purple- and black-clad protestors to "noisily, angrily, and directly confront Focus on the Family Action" in an unspecified manner.
"The mainstream GLBT movement of late has sought to exchange freedom for the myth of security, the illusion of protection by the state, including the police and the military," says a statement released by Antifa organizer Mike Avallone of Bloomfield. The statement challenges "the belief that 'equality' is the goal for the movement, and the notion that assimilation can defeat prejudice."
"We feel this needs to be confronted for what it is," Avallone told CP. "Basically we just want to disrupt it as much as possible from the outside."
"I certainly understand that point of view," says the coalition's Elmendorf. But, she says, "We're not talking about being passive. We're talking about speaking ... sometimes relentlessly, but acknowledging that there is this middle ground." Such acknowledgment "is sometimes the most effective.
"Maybe nobody's mind will be changed," she concludes. "But what's been created is the reality in their minds that our families exist."
Other events to counter the Focus on the Family Action rally include a talk by Lars Clausen, a Lutheran minister who traveled across the U.S. examining attitudes toward gay people, chronicled in his books One Wheel ... Many Spokes and Straight into Gay America. 6 p.m. Sun., Sept. 17, First United Methodist Church, Aiken and Centre avenues, Shadyside (begins with book signing). For details on this and other events, see www.standingwithallfamilies.com or antifa.activeresistance.org.