When voters in several states overwhelmingly approved measures placing limits on gay rights and affirmative action during last Tuesday’s elections, UR alumna Betsy Shapiro ’06 decided to take to the streets.

Shapiro organized a local rally last Friday protesting the passage of amendments in Arizona and Florida that ban gay marriage, as well as Proposition 8 in California, which overruled the state’s May 15 Supreme Court decision allowing gay marriage. In addition, the protest took issue with an Arkansas amendment prohibiting same-sex couples from adopting children, as well as a new Nebraska amendment proscribing affirmative action based on race and gender.

‘I woke up on Wednesday morning and I had to deal with the concrete reality that the majority of people in the United States think that discrimination is acceptable,” Shapiro said.

Shapiro wasted no time. In an e-mail looking for support, she wrote, ‘Racism and homophobia have the same root of prejudice that leads to injustice. Fear of the different must be combated in every way possible. At the same time, these injustices create something concrete to fight against.”

By last Friday, Shapiro had the rally assembled by the Liberty Pole at the corner of East Avenue and Main Street, receiving help mainly from other area colleges, the Anti-Racism Movement (ARM) and Spiritus Anti-Racism Coalition (SPARC).

A few local citizens, as well as several members of UR’s Pride Network, attended as well. The protestors eventually started a march down East Ave. toward Alexander Street and back, according to Pride Network education chair and senior Anne Pitlyk.

Shapiro originally aimed to recruit various speakers, but the frenetic pace at which the rally came together made that objective difficult, and the event eventually morphed into a rally.

‘I wanted to give everyone a voice. We are a diverse community with different tactics and paths,” Shapiro said. ‘I care about creating space for people to realize that they don’t need a group to make their voice heard.”

Though some people that Shapiro approached to speak ultimately declined, she noted the great show of support from them regardless, as well as from the community. The amendments passed by Arizona, California and Florida joined a wave of amendments passed in the last decade that prevent same-sex marriage, a practice now recognized only by Connecticut and Massachusetts. Some residents who disagreed with the actions of their respective states expressed happiness with the movement’s message.

‘It’s important that we have this kind of nationwide support as we begin the legal battle that is necessary for protecting the civil rights of all Americans,” California resident and senior Daniel Snow said.

The rally’s organizers hope to build on that sentiment. While Friday’s rally only drew a total of 24 members, including nine UR students, the organizers plan on holding a rally each week until it reaches what Shapiro describes as ‘a critical mass.”

‘We want to show that these issues need to be taken seriously and that our voices are not going to go away,” Pitlyk said.

Brenneman is a member of the class of 2009.

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