Rally stresses GLBT pride, equality

Vadim Lavrusik

W.article {border:4px solid #ccc;} 1ith rainbow flags gleaming around the University campus, the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender community joined in celebration of pride and the fight for social equality.

This week the Queer Student Cultural Center has its 10th annual Spring Pride Week to celebrate GLBT pride and address issues surrounding the GLBT community.

Speakers, including George Takei, who played Lt. Hikaru Sulu on “Star Trek,” and state legislators, are participating in the week, and students rallied Tuesday in front of Coffman Union.

Mike Grewe, Queer Student Cultural Center co-chairperson, said the event is during spring because many people who attend the University are not originally from Minnesota and are unable to attend the Twin Cities Pride Week in June.

“We do this to acknowledge that there is a large queer and allied community on campus,” Grewe said. “We want to encourage the GLBT community to celebrate their identity.”

Grewe said the week celebrates the GLBT rights movement in Minnesota, which started in 1969 when students created the first student-run group that focused on GLBT issues in the nation, called Fight Repression of Erotic Expression.

The University acknowledged Fight Repression of Erotic Expression as a student group in May 1969 and it is now known as the Queer Student Cultural Center.

The week began Monday with Takei speaking on human rights and his coming out experience and continued Tuesday with a pride rally that focused on political issues.

Pride rally

As part of Spring Pride Week, the Queer Student Cultural Center had a pride rally Tuesday in front of Coffman Union, with students holding such signs as those that read “Proud to be a gay American.”

Those who attended rallied against the current situation in the state Legislature with the bill that called for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and its legal equivalent.

Grewe said same-sex marriage already is illegal and that such an amendment would only write discrimination into the state constitution.

“The issue isn’t necessarily gay marriage, the issue is about putting discrimination into the constitution,” Grewe said. “The GLBT community feels this is legislative gay-bashing.”

Grewe said same-sex marriage has been illegal in Minnesota since 1971 and that the GLBT community has focused on achieving other social rights such as adoption, being recognized in some sort of union and being able to donate blood.

“There is a debate going on within the gay community, whether or not we want gay marriage and that hasn’t been addressed in the media,” Grewe said.

Not all people in the GLBT community want there to be same-sex marriage, Grewe said. Grewe said there are those who believe the queer community is unique and marriage would only assimilate the community into mainstream society.

At the rally, students walking by were able to stop at tables and get more information on GLBT organizations on and off campus.

Students were also able to sign a petition against the proposed amendment, Grewe said.

Pastor Paul Eknes-Tucker of the All God’s Children Church said nothing in the Bible condemns homosexuality per se.

He said the translation was lost through the transmission of the Bible into the English language and that homosexuality was around in biblical times.

Eknes-Tucker said his church has been performing same-sex marriages since its founding 32 years ago.

The Rev. David Kind, an adviser for Lutheran Student Fellowship, said he is very opposed to same-sex marriages.

“I am in favor of marriage being strictly between a man and a woman because once you break that apart you don’t have any firm definition of what marriage is and it simply becomes whatever we want it to be,” Kind said.

He said he doesn’t think it is a constitutional issue but rather a societal one and that he supports an amendment to the constitution.

“The Bible clearly states that homosexual acts are a sin, not that this sin is greater than any other,” he said.

State Sen. Scott Dibble, D-Minneapolis, who did not speak at the event, said the prospect of the amendment passing is poor.

Dibble, who is openly gay, said it is unlikely for the bill to be reintroduced and there is little desire of the people in Minnesota for the bill to be passed.

However, it is still an issue of politics and is something that needs to be addressed, Dibble said.

“It affects me personally,” he said. “It distracts me from focusing on other issues as well.”

Lt. Sulu

Takei has beamed out of the closet and joined the fight to help the GLBT community in its struggle for social equality.

Trekkies and members of the GLBT community came to hear Takei, best known for his role in the original “Star Trek” series as Lt. Hikaru Sulu, speak on human rights and his coming out experience this fall.

The event kicked off Spring Pride Week on Monday night, which began with a dinner and followed with speakers Laura Smidzik, executive director of Rainbow Families, and Takei as the grand finale.

Smidzik, whose organization is billed as one of the largest regional GLBT parent organizations, spoke about issues surrounding GLBT parents and the proposed amendment.

Smidzik is a gay parent herself and said she faces struggles every day.

Gay parents and partners are not given equal rights, she said, because they often have to pay lawyer fees to attain some of the same rights heterosexual couples naturally have, such as being a legal guardian of their children.

Smidzik said GLBT people are under attack because of the proposed legislation and the goal is to make it through this legislative session without the bill passing.

“We’re not going back in the closet,” Smidzik said. “We’re queer, we’re here, so get used to it.”

Takei, who was greeted with a standing ovation, began by speaking on his experience in American internment camps during World War II because of his Japanese ancestry and the constant struggle of groups fighting to achieve equality.

Takei said people often get caught up in emotion and follow the herd, as shown in the imprisonment of Japanese Americans after the attack on Pearl Harbor. But through these experiences, he said, people learn to overcome.

He said he was only a child but remembers the barbed wire fences, the machine guns and the spotlights at night.

“Those days are gone, but today I see an invisible barbed wire fence between gay couples and equal rights,” Takei said. “And these proposed bills I consider a desecration to the Constitution.”

Takei said this country is based on equality and the issue of same-sex marriage affects everyone.

He said State Sen. Michelle Bachmann, R-Stillwater, who proposed the bill in Minnesota, would not be in the same position 100 years ago, before women fought through an equal rights movement.

“We must fight and go where America has never gone before,” Takei said.