poetics, time, body disruption and marginally queer solutions

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Second-class label

For all the pithy slogans that dominated the Massachusetts constitutional convention earlier this year, only one captured the popular imagination as fast and furiously as a trademark punch line on a hit TV show. The tongue-in-cheek comment HI! I’M A SECOND-CLASS GAY CITIZEN — displayed in rainbow-colored letters on white circular buttons — became all the rage among pro-gay-marriage forces over the four-day convention in March. And while the legislative debate over same-sex marriage has ended for now — and gay and lesbian couples are preparing for more joyous events next Monday, when they will begin applying for marriage licenses — the buttons can still be found circulating around Boston, a quiet reminder of the need to keep up the fight for civil-marriage rights for same-sex couples.

The buttons are the product of a homespun effort launched by three local residents eager to contribute to the marriage-equality campaign. Joe Teja, 42, a Hyde Park attorney, came up with the somewhat sarcastic motto while taking in the scene on the first day of the convention. Standing in the State House, amid protesters on both sides of the issue, he and his partner of seven years, Dean Lampros, made a point of chatting with gay-marriage opponents to better understand their objections. While talking with one Bible-wielding man, Teja asked why it was such a big deal that he might be able to marry his partner. Recalls Teja, "He said, ‘You know, when I’m talking to a black person or a woman, I know who I’m talking to. But I don’t know when I’m talking to a gay person, and that makes me feel uncomfortable.’"


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