Stop the Hate: Vote No on 8 

By Anne Stockwell

Originally published on Advocate.com August 20 2008 12:00 AM ET

Robin Tyler, Frances Collier, Angela V. Shelton, Diane Olson

“I felt
compelled to make these PSAs,” Robin Tyler reflects
in an e-mail after a long day on the film set where,
at her urging, a parade of celebrities spoke out
on-camera against Proposition 8. “We have allowed
the radical right to brand ‘saving marriage for men
and women’ as a religious issue. We have to
rebrand the issue for what it is. This is not
spiritual. This is about hate, and it definitely will not
hurt our side to tell the truth.”

True to her
longtime feminist allegiances, Tyler’s homegrown ad
campaign will be a collaboration among women,
including Peg Yorkin and Katherine Spillar of the
Feminist Majority Foundation. A couple dozen actors and
activists were already on board for an August 17 shoot
organized by the FMF at the Beverly
Hills offices of Ms. magazine. The goal? To film
a series of ads supporting pro-choice and
pro-immigrant positions. Thanks to the volunteer
efforts of Tyler and the lesbian organization POWER UP,
which provided the crew, pro-gay also made the cut.

Nobody was sure
whether all the actors showing up for feminism --
including Tyne Daly, Christine Lahti, and Camryn
Manheim -- would do the same for gays. But everybody
did, with Tyler behind the reception desk banging out
speeches to suit each individual. Yet each one,
even those as short as one line, ended with
Tyler’s slogan: “Stop the hate. Vote no
on 8.”

 Dolores Huerta (POWER UP) | ADVOCATE.COM

Dolores Huerta

Right out of a
protest rally, the phrase is a long way from the
purposely vague “What if you couldn’t marry
the person you love?” message in recent TV
spots crafted by Let California Ring, a project
of Equality California Institute. That public service
announcement, which hit the air last week at a cost of
at least $4 million, is so careful it’s not
even gay: A conventional bride is blocked on her
way to the altar by such major obstacles as a scattering of
tin cans tied to a car in the parking lot outside.
Who's waiting for the bride? Another bride? Nah. A
male groom who doesn’t run to her rescue, possibly
because he’s having second thoughts about
marrying a woman who can’t sidestep a flower
girl clutching her in the aisle.

“I do not
believe that de-gaying the issue will win it for us,”
Tyler says. “Not being direct in other
states, i.e., Hawaii” -- whose
voters in 1998 made it one of the first states to
ban gay marriage -- “definitely did not
help us. We pay millions to these pollsters to tell us
how to win these initiatives, and despite the failure
of these campaigns, we keep following their advice.”

Speaking to me at
the August 17 shoot, the hetero talent had no problem
relating the gay issue to their own lives.

“If some
of us don’t have civil rights, then none of us do. At
least when we got rid of Jim Crow, I thought that was
the goal,” said Angela V. Shelton -- one half,
along with Frances Callier, of the Air America duo
Frangela. “As two black women, we feel that
it’s really our responsibility, because we have
a platform in terms of the radio, to go out there and
speak out about it,” Collier chimes in.

Tyne Daly briskly
notes that she’s speaking out “because
I’d like to see us return to some form of
representative government in the United States of
America. I think that would be joyful.” Daly cites
her friendship with out Judging Amy costar
Jillian Armenante, who later taped a spot with partner
Alice Dodd and their baby. More than that, Daly
remembers her own past experience as the wife of
African-American actor Georg Stanford Brown.

“When I
got married my marriage was illegal in seven states in this
country,” Daly says. “If indeed you believe
that government should get out of the bedroom, which I
do, then we have to change it law by law. Civil rights
changed by law. Government can’t dictate hearts and
minds. But it can decide law, and when laws changes,
other things change.”

Legendary
organizer Dolores Huerta -- a Catholic mother of 11 children
and partner of César Chávez, cofounder of the
United Farm Workers of America. In a sleeveless
dress edged with a Mexican cross-stitch pattern, she
projects an island of calm as the shoot swirls around her.

“I think
we can defeat it,” she says when asked to size up
Prop. 8’s chances on November 4. “I
think the forces of hate are going to be overcome by
forces that believe that every individual has a right to
determine their own life. One of the most important
decisions that one makes in life is, Who am I going to
live with? Who am I going to marry? How anyone could
even entertain the thought that you can interfere in
somebody else’s life is just totally outrageous.

“When I speak to Latino audiences in particular, I
always refer to our great president of Mexico, Benito
Juárez. He had a saying: Respecting other
people’s rights is peace -- as individuals and in
nations. And when I repeat that phrase, people
understand.”

Besides, she
says, “every single family has someone gay or lesbian
or bisexual in their family. Everybody does. I can say
that about my own family.”

Lisa Thrasher Robin Tyler Camryn Manhiem (POWER UP) | ADVOCATE.COM
 

Lisa Thrasher, Robin Tyler, Camryn Manhiem

On camera, Sara
Ramirez -- now playing lesbian(ish) on Grey’s
Anatomy
-- invoked justice: “Fundamental
rights are exactly that. They should neither wait for
popular acceptance nor be revoked when it is
lacking.”

Christine
Lahti’s message: “I am married to a man -- the
same man for 25 years. If we got a divorce -- which we
won't, but if we ever did -- I promise you it would
not be the fault of the same-sex couples who have been
getting married this summer and showering California with
love.”

Young gay stars
like Heather Matarazzo and Wilson Cruz showed up; so did
hetero up-and-comers like Melonie Diaz, who’s gone
from playing gay in last year’s Itty Bitty
Titty Committee
to wrapping an upcoming movie
with Alfred Molina, Debra Messing, and John Leguizamo.

On camera and
off, Tyler’s slogan was repeated all day. But how
will it reach the voters? She hopes to see her Prop. 8
spots on YouTube and in e-mail queues on college
campuses. She’ll offer the ads free to any
interest groups who want it as the election nears.
“We’re gonna edit it and send it all
over and see who picks up on it.”

Whatever happens,
she won’t be falling in line behind a strategy that
soft-pedals the fact that marriage equality means marriage
for actual gays and lesbians. “Our greatest
weakness,” she told me as the shoot wrapped,
“is our desire to be liked.”