Dozens of rallies were held around the nation on Saturday to protest the passage of California's Prop 8, which re-banned same-sex marriage and sparked a fury. But only one that I know of featured a prominent celebrity coming out of the closet, and that would be the one here at the GLBT Community Center. Here she is...
I've just filed a few lines about it for tomorrow's New York Times, but I've also posted the audio of Sykes' remarks and my brief interview with her in the podcast feed. It adds up to about 8 minutes and you can hear it by clicking here or you can save it to your computer by right-clicking here. (The file also contains a brief chat with an 18-year-old UNLV student about why he was so fired up over Prop 8's passage.)
Here's a little bit of what Sykes said. She started by talking about how exciting it was to her to see Obama elected:
"I thought, man we are moving in the right direction. And then at about 11 o’clock I was crushed. We took a huge leap forward and then got dragged 12 feet back. I felt like I was being attacked, personally attacked, our community was attacked. I got married Oct. 25, I don’t really talk about my sexual orientation, I felt like I was living my life, I wasn’t in the closet, but I was just living my life. Everybody who knows me personally, they know I’m gay. And that’s the way people should be able to live our lives, really. We shouldn’t have to be standing out here demanding something we automatically should have as citizens of this country. ... They pissed off the wrong group of people. They have galvanized a community. We are so together now and we all want the same thing and we shouldn’t have to settle for less. Instead of having gay marriage in California, no, we’re gonna have gay marriage across the country. When my wife and I leave California, I want to have my marriage also recognized in Nevada, in Arizona, all the way to New York. ... I’m proud to be a woman, I’m proud to be a black woman and I’m proud to be gay."
In my interview with her, she said this: "People shouldn’t have to talk about their sexual orientation, we shouldn’t have to do it, but with the legislation that they passed, I can’t sit by and just watch. I just can’t do it."
Sykes also disputed the much-reported claim that 70 percent of black voters in California voted to ban gay marriage. Several prominent writers, including Dan Savage here, have railed against homophobic blacks. Wanda said the exit polls were wrong and admonished me, "Please stop spreading that 70 percent of African-Americans voted Yes on Prop 8 because it’s just not true."
After the speeches, the very large -- figure more than 1,000 people -- crowd lined Sahara Avenue with signs. This gives some sense of how immense this was.