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Protest against the Illinois "Family" Institute on June 10, 2005
On June 10th, supporters of equal rights for gay people gathered at a Gay Liberation Network initiated protest against a $100-a-plate yacht fundraiser for the Illinois Family Institute (IFI). The IFI is a far-right group which opposes equal access to employment, housing and public accommodations for gay people, and which on a national level has paired with other stridently anti-gay organizations like the American Family Association, headquartered in Tupelo, Mississippi.
"There is a simple, explicit word for those who oppose the equal rights of others--bigots," said Gay Liberation Network co-founder Andy Thayer. "Opposing equal legal rights for whole groups of people is bigotry, no matter how much they try to lard up their language with rhetoric about 'Christian love' and so-called 'family values.'"
The keynote speaker for the IFI's fundraiser was Phil Burress, the architect of Ohio's draconian constitutional amendment banning legal recognition not only of same-sex marriage, but any same-sex relationships. The IFI used their event to launch a drive for an anti-gay amendment to the Illinois State Constitution. With a fractured gubernatorial race looming in 2006, the IFI apparently hopes to use a divisive race as a platform to promote the gay-hating amendment.
An unexpected turn occurred just one day before the protest when two lesbian members of the Columbia Yacht Club made known their extreme displeasure with the decision of the club manager to hold the fundraiser at the club. Although there are apparently no by-laws prohibiting such an event, the club manager was asked if he would rent club space to Nazi or KKK members. One of the lesbian members, Jane Schmoll, appeared at the rally with her hairdresser--she insists he's straight!--to speak to the crowd.
An effort is underway to protest directly to the yacht club's board. Wishing to avoid controversy, the club is not likely to repeat the public relation's disaster.