Walter Beck takes a stand for equal marriage on National Coming Out Day. And he gets the crowds fired up.
Sometimes miracles happen in this weird trip of journalism and activism. I had originally planned on writing a story about House Joint Resolution 6 (HJR-6), which states:
Be it resolved by the General Assembly of the State of Indiana:
The following amendment to the Constitution of the State of Indiana is proposed and agreed to by this, the One Hundred Seventeenth General Assembly of the State of Indiana, and is referred to the next General Assembly for reconsideration and agreement.
ARTICLE 1 OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE OF INDIANA IS AMENDED BY ADDING A NEW SECTION TO READ AS FOLLOWS:
Section 38. Only a marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.
– House Joint Resolution 6, State of Indiana
But the mainstream queer rags had the story nailed up, Yet I thought I could search out some good inside sources, being that I was a Hoosier.
But it wasn’t meant to be, my sources dried up and I had to admit that the story died on the vine. All that was out there was press releases as well as what the mainstream journalists had already covered. The story was dead and I felt like a failure for letting it slip between my fingers.
Then I got another chance. A lawyer buddy of mine in Terre Haute, Todd Berry, had been invited to speak at a rally at Indiana State University in protest against HJR-6 and he thought it would be great if I would come back to the old stomping grounds and rally the Colors again.
He put me in contact with Marita Pinkstaff, who was the main organizer. I got in touch with her and happily volunteered to speak. She said she was new at the organizing end of things, so I gave her a few pointers from my years of street work and told her to call me if she needed anything before the rally. We were doing this as part of the National Coming Out Day observance hosted by Spectrum, the official ISU LGBT campus group. I guess Advocates for Equality went belly up since I left Indiana State.
There were originally three speakers scheduled – Todd, myself, and Wabash Valley Pride head honcho Terri Cole. Marita asked me if I was getting my speech together, but as usual, I was planning on speaking off the cuff – just let the righteous anger hit me when I took the mic.
Photographs courtesy of Todd Berry (Click Images to enlarge)
I got things set on my end, had some new signs made, and gathered three of my flags – my Rainbow flag, my Bisexual flag, and my Trans* flag. The Trans* Colors were the only ones that hadn’t seen the street, so I thought it was time they were baptized in the sacred concrete of the picket line.
The morning of the rally, there was a last minute change. Terri came down sick and wouldn’t be able to make it, so in her place we were having Rick Sutton, head honcho of Indiana Equality Action.
I sped down towards Terre Haute, signs and Colors in the back of my beat-up Nissan and a lit Pall Mall non-filter on my lips. I was dressed to the nines: my rainbow suspenders, black beret studded with buttons from the street, black jeans, and black leather boots. I was gassed on coffee and gas station speed, ready to ignite the old fires again.
I arrived at the rendezvous point, but couldn’t get ahold of Marita, so I called Todd and he came out to help me move my stuff. On the walk there, I smoked one last cigarette and Todd told me he was just going to play music, instead of speaking. So that left me and Rick to doing the main rambling.
We walked to the fountain and I saw Brian Morton, who would be acting as our MC, and Marita. I also noticed the Spectrum table, all set with their National Coming Out Day stuff. My how times had changed since I had left. I saw more than a few grungy looking freaks amongst their table, sort of warmed my gonzo heart, seeing brothers and sisters looking like they were aching for a bit of action.
Brian introduced Todd who warmed up everybody with a little instrumental music on his acoustic guitar. Then Rick came up to speak.
Rick spoke like a professional and he was dressed for it, decked out in his suit and tie. He talked about the efforts to derail HJR-6 at the statehouse level, which is where it is now. If we don’t derail it there, it will go to the ballot for a vote next November. He talked about the importance of contacting our state officials, keeping the heat on them. He spoke with passion and dedication, but it was restrained.
After he finished his brief speech, it was my turn. Brian introduced me and I stepped up there. At first I tried the mic, but it kept shorting out, so I said “Fuck it” and let my voice boom.
To say my speech was radically different from Rick’s would be an understatement. While we both were passionate about the issue, I was breathing fire, getting that crowd hooting and hollering and waving their picket signs. I exhorted them to stand up, to join groups, to march, to rally, to write, to fight, to struggle until we were all free and equal. I spoke of the coming struggles and the coming victories.
It wasn’t my best, but I got ‘em fired up.
After I was finished, I walked around the crowd a bit; they told me it was a great speech. One kid dressed in typical redneck attire told me that he was all in favor of equality. He said, “I know I don’t exactly look like it.” I told him that allies, brothers and sisters came in all sizes, shapes, and colors of the rainbow.
I went up to Rick and asked him what our chances were realistically of getting it stopped at the statehouse level. He said it was fifty-fifty at best. We had a few votes locked up, a few more locked out, and a few more to sway. I asked if there was any need for some street action, he muttered something about Evansville and Bloomington, gave me his card and then walked off to talk the press and be the cool-headed professional activist.
The rally was wrapping up, Todd actually did make a brief speech and then lead us out with ‘We Shall Overcome’. Apparently Brian, Marita and I were the only ones up for singing, but we did our best with our less than stellar voices.
We packed up our gear and started heading out. Todd and I smoked a cigarette and jaw-jacked about politics for a while. We were both happy with the event and looked forward to the ending of HJR-6.
So what happens next? We keep the pressure on our state officials until their votes happen in January. I’m hoping that’s the end of the story, that I can write back and tell you we had our victory. But if it goes to the bloody end at the ballot box, well, your Gonzo Correspondent to the Colonies has his signs, Colors, cigarettes, and notebook armed and at the ready.
On the way home, driving through the country on the East stretch of US 40, I saw a church sign that read “Fight the Good Fight of Faith”. Maybe that’s what we were all doing, fighting with the faith that we will all be equal as Hoosiers soon…