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A Day Apart: Gay Community Shows Strength By Staying Home

By L. K. Regan

Today is Day Without A Gay, an event aimed at protesting the anti-gay marriage ban passed in California in November. The LGBT community, and its friends, families, supporters, and sympathisers, are encouraged to decline to participate in the economic life of the nation. How does it work? Will it work? Read on!

Day Without A Gay follows a model established by the immigrants'-rights movement in 2006: protest by refusing to go to work or spend any money at all. By sitting out of the economic life of the nation for a day, the theory is, a community can show its importance and its strength. The activist website jointheimpact.com, which helped to organize the nationwide marches protesting California's Proposition 8 last month, estimates that gays and lesbians contribute 700 billion dollars to the American economy annually. To deprive the economy of a day's worth of that money would theoretically be a noticeable dent. So, the Day Without A Gay website says, "On December 10, you are encouraged not to call in sick to work. You are encouraged to call in 'gay'—and donate your time to service!"

Not coincidentally, the choice of date falls on International Human Rights Day, to drive home the message of the need for equal protection under the law that has been the basis of the argument in favor of gay marriage. There are other realms in which equal protection is lacking beyond gay marriage, of course, and this fact has implications for the potential success of Day Without A Gay. For many people, "calling in gay" will be a risky proposition. Fully 30 states have no legal recourse for employees who are dismissed because their employer discovers they are gay. For people in that precarious position, the Day Without A Gay organizers offer a number of alternative ways to get involved, including writing letters to members of congress, convincing others to join the event, and refusing to spend money, use the internet (which generates page views and therefore advertising), or watch television. Whether the fear of reprisals will lessen the ability of the event to achieve its full force is, of course, unknown; but the concern itself speaks to the lack of legal protection gays and lesbians are forced to confront in all aspects of life—not merely with regard to marriage.

At the very least, as the site www.jointheimpact.com points out, merely packing your lunch rather than buying it will contribute to the effort—and save you a few bucks that you can give to a good cause.