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NYC Protest and Civil Rights March Opposing Proposition 8


So, last night's protest, which began at the Mormon Temple and left discrimination behind as it marched down Broadway to Columbus Circle, was a huge success. Thanks to everyone for showing up. Crowd estimates varied from 7-10,000. There was an unfortunate report that went out on the AP wire service early on that reported a few hundred people. Those of you who were there know how wildly inaccurate that is.


Towleroad political director Corey Johnson (above), who, with Michelangelo Signorile and Ann Northrop, initiated the entire event with assistance from several ACT UP vets including John Voelcker, later spent some time with the AP on the phone, and due to his persistence they later revised their estimate up to 10,000 based on what other outlets had been reporting.

Here's Signorile's report.

Here's a video of Corey directing the crowd as we began marching down Broadway.

I served as a marshal and was at the Temple starting at 5:30 pm. I met a lot of Towleroad readers, which was really cool. Hello to all of you.

Ann Northrop used a megaphone to instruct marshals on the plan. By 6 pm crowds had begun to gather in the small park opposite the temple and by 6:15 hundreds had showed up and a large circular picket line began circling the small square. Within minutes police were forced to create another picket area across the street directly in front of the Temple itself.

Chants of "Tax this Church" and Gay Straight Black White Marriage is a Civil Right" were heard as rush hour traffic pushed by on Columbus avenue. There was at least one audible "crunch" as a driver watching the protestors slammed into the back a taxi. Whoopi Goldberg appeared with a sign reading "For my Friends, Equal Rights" as the crowds also began showing up in droves.

Whoopi image from a great set of photos by Bitten by a Zebra.

At this point the police were freaking out a bit as to the crowd size and expanded the protest area into Columbus Avenue. Protestors were behaving very well and the energy was high.

At a certain point the police gave us the okay to begin the march, so we corraled demonstrators behind a 75-foot banner sewn this week by rainbow flag creator Gilbert Baker, who was there (Baker also designed the stretch-sequin turquoise armbands that the marshals wore).

Here's a great photo of the banner shot by Andres Duques, from a report on the event by gay journo Rex Wockner:


At that point I was placed just ahead of the front line of demonstrators holding the banner as we began a march down Broadway, which was closed to traffic. The enthusiasm was palpable. No incidents that I saw except for one guy near the beginning of the march down Broadway. He was actually dressed in a crisp shirt and tie (like a Mormon) and he walked across a group of protestors and gave them each a hard push before disappearing into the night.

There was also an "ex-Mormon" riding a Segway in front of the protest as it made its way down the street and he was really there for his own self-promotion and actually kept getting in the way.

Foreman_2The crowd moved down Broadway. As I was at the front of the line I couldn't see how far back the crowd stretched but it was blocks and blocks I was told, and the video below by Father Tony gives something of an idea. This is one of my favorite videos of the event, because it's just raw and it winds through the crowd which just goes on an on and on. I have a brief cameo at 5:40. Father Tony also has photos on his blog Farmboyz, plus a Flickr set. It includes this shot of former NGLTF head Matt Foreman.

Eric Leven of Knucklecrack has also uploaded a great video wrap-up of the event.

Here are the clips. Father Tony's on the left, Eric Leven's on the right:

We turned left on 61st street because the police thought it would be too dangerous to enter Columbus Circle directly at rush hour so we detoured and made our way down Central Park West so protestors could filter off into the southwest entrance to the Park.

We stayed at the entrance to Columbus Circle where the protest ended. It was meant as a show of force and solidarity, and as a way for folks to come together and express their desire for civil rights, and on that I think it succeeded admirably. Protestors lingered well after police instructed us to start telling people to go home.

Matthew Rettenmund of Boy Culture has a fantastic report with great pictures of Whoopi Goldberg, PJ Deboy, Joe.My.God, Tony Kushner, Kate Clinton, Eric Leven, Judy Gold, and a video:

Kateclinton_2Here's a shot of Kate Clinton from reader Charl Kroeger. More on his Facebook page.

Towleroad's Kevin Sessums, who I didn't get a chance to see, reports that he saw Peter Staley, Tony Kushner and his husband Mark Harris, Doug Wright, Moises Kaufman, Urvashi Vaid and Kate Clinton, Avenue Q scribe Jeff Whitty and Jake Shears as well as the elusive Dan Savage, Larry Kramer, artist Robert Hammond (and initiator of the developing High Line park) as well as composer Marc Shaiman, who led the recent charge to boycott Sacramento's California Musical Theatre, leading to the resignation of its artistic director of 25 years, Scott Eckern following revelations of his contribution to the "Yes on 8" campaign..


Blogger Joe.My.God (pictured above) has a fantastic set of photos which include Michelangelo Signorile, Lavi Soloway, Judy Gold, Eric Leven, Gilbert Baker, Whoopi Goldberg, Corey Johnson, and myself working the crowd (below).


There's also impressive coverage over at Blabbeando with video.

Here's a photo of some interesting signage sent in by photographer Jason Rowan:


Alex K of Eat Read Play has a colorful report.

Alex Geana has posted a widget with dozens of photos.

I'm told New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn was there. State senator Bill Perkins also represented (below):


Band of Thebes has photos and reports the sighting of author Michael Cunningham.

Here's Tony Kushner, in a photo published along with many others on the Protest Facebook page:


Jon-Marc McDonald has some excellent photos and video including this shot of myself (at a moment when I actually remembered I had a camera in my pocket and could take some photos) as well as Slog's Dan Savage. He also has a shot of Larry Kramer.

Andytowle Dansavage

Here's the crowd after it had reached Columbus Circle and the police began cordoning it off with plastic fencing. The NYPD were very helpful during the entire protest:

David Shankbone, who shoots for Wikipedia, has a Flickr page with lots of great stuff.


The Advocate has an excellent story by Michael Joseph Gross on the Prop 8 protests springing up around the nation as well as some photos from the New York event.

Here's Gay City News' report on the event: "Gathering at 6:30 p.m. at West 65th and Columbus, the site of the temple, the crowd soon marched down Broadway behind a huge white banner saying 'GOD LOVES GAY MARRIAGE' made by Gilbert Baker, creator of the Rainbow Flag 30 years ago. Corey Johnson, one of the key organizers with Mike Signorile and Ann Northrop, said the turnout 'was a tremendous outpouring of grassroots energy and support.' He hoped that energy can be harnessed to win marriage equality in New York. Signorile said, 'It's about a right that was taken away, not just marriage.' He wants those energized to demand all of our civil rights and that Mormon-owned companies such as Marriott "stop giving money to the Church.'

The protest was covered on local news - ABC, NBC, CBS, and NY1. ABC's coverage (below) was the best imho. Anderson Cooper also mentioned it on AC360, during Dan Savage's appearance, and Campbell Brown and Jeffrey Toobin discussed it earlier in the night I believe.

KramerHere's FOX's local report. They reported 1,000 people, so they must have left early.

Larry Kramer spoke with them however. Said Kramer: "I guess we're tired of being hated, because this is what it's all about. Hate."

Here's a shot from ABC4's coverage in Salt Lake City. They reported 4,000 people:


NydnHere's coverage from the New York Daily News: "Thousands of human rights advocates massed outside the Mormon Temple on the upper West Side Wednesday night to protest the church's vigorous role in banning California's same-sex marriages. After some speechifying, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and entertainer Whoopi Goldberg led demonstrators on a flag-waving, drum-beating, slogan-chanting march to Columbus Circle. The peaceful protest drew young and old, white and nonwhite, straight and gay, most of whom smiled and waved at spectators..."

ANDERSON COOPER AC360 with Dan Savage:

Finally, AFTER THE JUMP...a video report from the New York Daily News.

Here's video from the New York Daily News:

Thanks to everyone for coming. It was a great night out in New York City.

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  1. Great Job Everyone!!! I'm a native NYer, but I'm in DC right now. Wish I could have been there with everyone. I'll be at the national protest here in DC on Saturday, and I our march can be just as successful as I'm told yours was. I really hope that we can keep up this momentum. It's so great to see us stand up as a community for once, really fighting for our rights. We need to put everything we have into this, and not only change State laws, but National laws. DOMA, and DaDt need to be repealed ASAP, and ENDA and Civil Unions need to be created. We need to support these innitiatives with every ounce of strength, hope, and creativity we have, and we need to learn to put our money where our hearts are. This isn't just about marriage equality, it's about total equality.

    Posted by: Jon B | Nov 13, 2008 2:56:51 AM

  2. Hey Thanks New York. Just wanted to leave a link of places to boycott, like El Pollo Loco Burger King and Outback Steakhouse more here

    Posted by: pepe | Nov 13, 2008 3:03:26 AM

  3. What a great turnout! Thank you Andy for publicizing this.

    Posted by: sharksfansd | Nov 13, 2008 3:06:12 AM

  4. California sends her thanks and love...Joe

    Posted by: joeinsf | Nov 13, 2008 3:10:58 AM

  5. I just sent a letter to the major newspaper in Salt Lake City indicating that I will not be coming to Park City this year. I think a major boycott of all things Utah is in order. However, I do think that we need to consider the political wisdom of working for 99% of the loaf as we wait for demographic reality to work it way (ie let the old bigots die off) Young people of all ages support gay rights. (See Nate Silver's web site for details) Marriage is in inevitable in time. In the mean, time real people need the rights and privileges that could be had for asking, right now, through civil unions. This has worked well in the U.K. Civil unions takes the religious element out of the equation, a huge political consideration. Plus the gay community really needs to focus on out reach to blacks and Hispanics. Can you imagine the power of clinics staffed and funded by the GLBT community that could proved free or low cost health care in poorer parts of California? We need to be hard headed about the political opportunities that the new Obama administration presents. Remember, the right wing it intent on rebuilding through a new culture war. By focusing on civil unions (if the legal cases go against us) we can have all the benefits we need now while working towards the longer range goal that younger voter will deliver in the future. Something to think about

    Posted by: nate in wisconsin | Nov 13, 2008 3:35:30 AM

  6. A wholesale boycott of Utah is not in order. Not everyone in Utah is Mormon, and not every Mormon supported Prop 8. In fact, there are a ton of Mormons who didn't do anything other than vote yes.

    While the indignation and anger is justified, we need to be channeling it in productive ways. We need to stop blaming people and start talking about what it's going to take to build up the support we need to get equal rights.

    Posted by: Jo-blo | Nov 13, 2008 4:37:03 AM

  7. Yeah New York -- great job.

    Saturday is a big day across the nation with lots of demonstrations planned in a lot of cities.

    I'm in MPLS. and we have one

    Saturday, November 15
    Outside Government Center
    350 S. 5th Street, downtown Minneapolis

    and another one at the State Capital in St. Paul from 3-7pm
    here's a link to the facebook page with listing across the country
    it has a link to events in 60some cities joining together on Saturday, November 15th

    or info at

    Posted by: colin | Nov 13, 2008 4:40:57 AM

  8. It was an amazing event. It showed that we are passionate about getting what we deserve to have... and what we should have as Americans: equality!

    Posted by: Jeff | Nov 13, 2008 4:41:35 AM

  9. see news of CMA at

    Posted by: jyotsna | Nov 13, 2008 5:13:18 AM

  10. Jo-Blo,

    With 60 to 70 percent of Utah's population identifying as Mormon, I think it is a viable target for a boycott in order to apply pressure on the church to withdraw from political lobbying (in fact ordering members to donate and vote a certain way). We also need to keep up the pressure to have their tax-exempt status removed, as was done successfully in the past in order to have them rescind some of their racial policies. Boycotting is one tool in an array of tools we have at our disposal, and we cannot ignore it. It must, however, be a part of a coordinated strategy.

    Posted by: Mike | Nov 13, 2008 6:53:59 AM

  11. Great job NYC!

    Posted by: ZEKE | Nov 13, 2008 6:55:04 AM

  12. Video here:

    Posted by: Jon-Marc | Nov 13, 2008 7:33:33 AM

  13. sadly these protests really do nothing... what's the point...just like any other protest they don't really "change" anything

    Posted by: what's the point... | Nov 13, 2008 8:11:21 AM

  14. Update: Pictures up as well as a rough video on

    There's a picture of Andy (last picture) on there as well

    Posted by: Jon-Marc | Nov 13, 2008 8:25:31 AM

  15. I encourage everyone to forward the following statement to everyone they know. Let's set the record straight and make sure that it's clear that this isn't just about marriage equality. It's about our civil rights:

    I am an American

    I am Gay. And I am a Second Class citizen.

    A number of civil rights and liberties guaranteed to U.S. Citizens under the Constitution are denied to me based on my sexual orientation.

    The Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Laws prohibit discrimination by an employer that is based on race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age or physical or mental disablilty. LGBT citizens are offered no Federal protection from discrimination under those same laws.

    Though I may do so without publicly acknowledging my sexual orientation, I am not permitted to serve or defend my country in any branch of the U.S. Military. If I were a serving officer or enlisted man and my sexual orientation were to be made public I would be dishonorably discharged. As of 2006, over 11,694 U.S. soldiers have been discharged under the guidelines established by the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy enacted in 1993.

    Despite the fact that anyone can spread the HIV virus through sexual contact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not permit me to donate blood based on my sexual orientation.

    Some States have made it illegal for me to adopt a child as a single person or as member of a legal Civil Union or Domestic Partnership. Most states rely on local municipal courts to decide the legality on a case by case basis.

    Legally, I can enter into marriage with another consenting adult of the same sex in only two States, Connecticut and Massachusetts. But because of the Defense of Marriage Act enacted in 1996 the U.S. Federal Government is not required to provide me with any of the 1,138 rights guaranteed to married heterosexual couples.

    Civil Unions currently allowed by 7 states do not grant the same rights and responsibilities as marriage does. Domestic Partnerships currently allowed by 3 States grant even less protection under the law. The remaining 38 States offer no legal Marriage, Civil Union or Domestic Partnership rights to same-sex couples. No State is required to recognize the Marriage, Civil Union or Domestic Partnership of a same-sex couple granted to them by any other State.

    The 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution requires states to provide equal protection under the law to all persons under their jurisdiction.

    If you have friends or loved ones that are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgendered show your support for them and stand up against legal discrimination and social inequality. Please contact your local, State and Federal representatives and remind them that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

    Posted by: Scott | Nov 13, 2008 8:27:46 AM

  16. Great event last night!!!

    Check out my post (with Judy Gold, Whoopi Goldberg, and hottie Eric Leven here:

    Thanks Andy for keeping us informed!


    David Dust

    Posted by: David Dust | Nov 13, 2008 8:33:39 AM

  17. What tv/press was there last night? I was in the crowd and saw one tv crew interviewing Whoopi Goldberg and another crew interviewing Tony Kushner. But I saw nothing about it on the local news here in NY. What kind of coverage did the event end up getting??

    Posted by: jesse | Nov 13, 2008 8:36:46 AM

  18. It's been such a pleasure to watch the transformation of this site in the last 6-8 months. The focus on progressive, and LGBT in particular, politics has made this site a must read (along with Pam'sHouseBlend) every day. Keep it up. You're keeping us expats engaged while keeping our Stateside family informed and passionate.

    Posted by: Todd | Nov 13, 2008 8:37:42 AM

  19. Father Tony has video from the protest at Bilerico Project that includes footage of Andy whipping up the crowd at about 5:40.

    Posted by: Bil Browning | Nov 13, 2008 8:48:58 AM

  20. Andy & Corey, thanks, as always, for the exhaustive coverage of the Prop 8 protests. Last night was amazing. Glad to see that with our justified outrage we've kept our sense of humor. I posted eleven photos.

    Posted by: Band of Thebes | Nov 13, 2008 8:52:16 AM

  21. Serious question: why are there no calls to boycott California? Or have I just not heard them?

    Posted by: darbnyc | Nov 13, 2008 9:21:49 AM

  22. Wow, a tremendous turnout and so heartening! Sincere thanks to everyone who came out last night.
    However, very disappointing to see everyone behind the huge inappropriate God Loves Gays banner. It's religion that absolutely fuels this bigotry, and religious belief has no place whatsoever in a reality-based civil rights debate.
    If religious gays want to be accepted religiously by others then that's a completely different struggle.

    Posted by: A.J. | Nov 13, 2008 9:30:58 AM

  23. Thanks for doing this in NYC, guys, but please don't forget about Arizona, Arkansas and Florida. They're calling it "a national protest against prop 8" and forgetting that Florida for example lost domestic partnerships not just gay marriage and worse still, people in Arkansas will have their foster children taken away from them. These other states might not have the celebrity power and political clout, but if you're going to protest, protest for ALL of last week's propositions. We're doing what we can, but hope that a national protest would not be limited to one state's issue. Thanks!

    Posted by: DAvid O | Nov 13, 2008 9:32:01 AM

  24. So, does the red sign behind the blue "Jesus" sign say "Church and State Must be Separate" or "Church and Hate Must be Separate"? Either way works for me! Great job, everyone!

    Posted by: Dennis Maust | Nov 13, 2008 9:37:09 AM

  25. Thank you NYC and to all who attended and showed your support. I would also like to thank Whoopi G. for the support, and showing to the protest and hit the issue very well. there is a separation between state and religion. Huffington post has the link on the interview.

    Posted by: RoyA | Nov 13, 2008 9:43:02 AM

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