Openly gay Los Angeles City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl stopped in the middle of his stirring remarks about the impact the anti-Prop 8 rally will likely have on the new LGBT and straight activists against H8.
"We are all Angelinos,' Rosendahl said, giving a quick update of the horrendous fires sweeping across Yorba Linda, Anaheim Hills, and Sylmar. Thousands have been evacuated. Hundreds - rich and poor - have lost their homes. Gov. Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency. From the pictures - it looks like hell.
I confess that for a fleeting instance I had a Pat Robertson-ish thought: Orange County voted 57.8% in favor of Prop 8. Might God be trying to tell THEM something? After all, what goes around comes around.....
No. No. Love, not H8. That's what this rally is all about. That's what this community is all about. That's what marriage is all about. No retribution - a point several of the speakers made.
LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's office estimated the crowd at about 13,000. The LAPD said it was more like 12,000. Not the 40,000 expected.
It's like West Hollywood City Councilmember John Duran said - West Hollywood voted 86% NO on Prop 8. "What I want to know is: who is that 14%?"
Alec Mapa, who MCed the event - gave everyone a few much-needed laughs. But he also called for a moment of silence in solidarity with all the other anti-Prop 8 rallies around the country and world. It was a moving moment - thousands of angry, spirited and positive LGBT and straight people - many, many with children - stopped as if in an heartfelt, spiritual Hands-Across-America moment.
The speakers were all amazing - inlucding LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa who helicoptered in from the fires to address the crowd - underscoring over and over how equality would come, if not through the courts, one day. They also urged protesters to enjoy their freedom of expression but cautioned about letting anger rule the day.
Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr were angry - civil rights attorney Connie Rice said - but they put it behind them, controlled it, so they could move forward and win the fight for dignity and freedom.
Noah's Arc actor Darryl Stephens talked about being young and black and gay and said the gay community needs to come "out of its bubble" and speak to communities and friends outside their regular sphere. He was representing FAIR (Freedom-Action-Inclusion-Rights) - the organizers of the event, with help from the mayor, Rosendahl, and the Center. He told me backstage beforehand that their main concern will be how to keep the energized youth motivated beyond the rallies.
One of the most poignant speakers was David Ambrose, 29, an openly gay man who reminded the crowd about the vote in Arkansas which banned gay and unmarried adults' right to foster and adopt. He was there with this sister - both of whom had been through the foster care system their whole lives. He decried the way the yes on Prop 8 campaign used children in their ads about so-called family values. Foster kids don't care if the two parents are gay or married - "they just want a loving home."
Morgan Early stunned the crowd for a moment when she said "we have a lot in common with the Yes campaign" - going on to say that those commonalities include the importance of family, children, and marriage. Her two dads, she said, have been together for 35 years and were married on Sept. 18. And her lesbian mom supported No on Prop 8 - but feared her coming to the protest rally lest she get injured in some way - she is still a mother first.
Duran moving passionately talked about taking to the streets with ACT UP. "This is the way we pass the torch. Lady Liberty is mad....It's time to march!"
There was some confusion after that - but slowly the crowd - which had been standing in the blazing hot sun for an hour and a half - started to move down the street. The progress was so slow, some broke off and headed down to another area for another rally.
Everyone is waiting now for the next thing - whatever that may look like. But no one could fail to recognize that something was happening here: youth who had never really felt second class were now awakened to their true status. Many hold hope in the future presidency of Barack Obama and indeed one of the rallying cries throughout the day was "Yes, we can!"
But most of the twenty-somethings with whom I spoke - such as proud lesbian FAIR organizer Alisa Sommer, 24 - were thrilled to be part of something so new and exciting and positive, and organized from the bottom up.
"Equality is in our blood. We're not coming from a place of anger - though we have every right to be angry. We're coming from a place of love - because love unites. And that's what this movement is about. The bottom line is - we want to be treated as equals."
My knees and feet never hurt so good.