Sunday, March 13, 2011

If Not Now for Fairness and Equality, Then When?

by Joe Wilson:

During a recent visit to Durango, CO for a screening of my film, OUT IN THE SILENCE, in the Durango Independent Film Festival, I was verbally assaulted and physically threatened in an anti-gay tirade by two prominent local businessmen, Joe Leder and Michael Fletcher, while having dinner in a downtown restaurant.

I became the target of their anger, and Leder's raised fist, after I approached them and their female companions to say that I, as a gay man, was disturbed by their loud and mocking references to “queers” in a public setting, and hoped that they would think about the consequences of such behavior in the future.

I decided to say something because, as the co-director of a documentary about equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, I regularly urge audiences to speak up when confronted with intolerance.

How could I not practice what I preach when in such a situation myself?

While Leder, Fletcher and their companions eventually moved on, I was too shaken by the episode to venture out for the film festival-sponsored “gallery walk under the stars” that evening. Rather than risk more trouble, I hunkered down for the night in my hotel.

The next day, film festival personnel and many other community residents expressed embarrassment about the incident and promised to take their concerns to Leder and Fletcher. But I couldn't help but wonder what it must be like to be a victim of such, or worse, abuse and not have anywhere to turn for safety or compassion.

What about the student tortured at school whose teachers turn a blind eye and whose own family would reject him if they found out he was gay? What about the adults who have spent decades alone and in hiding because their church pastors preach that the “homosexual lifestyle” is sinful and wrong? What about the basic rights of millions of LGBT people – to education, employment, housing, marriage and family-formation to name just a few – that have been lost or never enjoyed due to the pervasive bigotry and discrimination that goes unchallenged, day-in and day-out, in towns large and small across the nation?

To those who believe in the promise that all people are created equal and endowed with the unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, we have an obligation to ensure that such rights are realized.

If not us to work toward these goals, then who? And if not now, when?

It's time to speak out in the silence for fairness and equality for all!

Please Join the OUT IN THE SILENCE Campaign

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