‘Dance for Equality’ a Raving Success

Jane Pojawa

In 2008 the California Marriage Protection Act, also known as Proposition 8, took away the right of same-sex couples to marry in the state of California. The Courage Campaign has been working for its repeal ever since, and a March 2 event, “Dance for Equality” raised more than $20,000 towards that goal.

It was a great week for street art.

English “Exit Through the Gift Shop” director Bank$y was in Los Angeles for the Academy Awards and celebrated his nomination for best documentary by exuberantly tagging South Central with his signature thought-provoking stencils.

A few days later, his Los Angeles-based counterpart Shepard Fairey, known also as “the Obey guy” and the artist who designed Barrack Obama’s Hope campaign poster, was spinning records at the Courage Campaign’s?”Dance for Equality” fundraiser.

The event featured celebrity DJ sets by Fairey, The Crystal Method and Moby at the Avalon in Hollywood to raise money for legal efforts defending marriage equality and the defeat of Proposition 8.

About 1,200 people attended, largely drawn from the Courage Campaign’s collaboration with MoveOn, a grassroots political group with about five million members nationwide.

MoveOn is strongly in favor of minority rights and the repeal of Proposition 8, so the event was a natural fit for the two organizations. Rick Jacobs, the Courage Campaign’s Chairman and Founder, gives credit to Laura Dawn, MoveOn’s cultural director for putting the event together. “We really owe the success of this event to Laura,” he said.

Jacobs is optimistic that Prop. 8 will be overturned and soon; as early as this year, possibly into 2013 at the latest. “The crime is that every single day that people can’t get married, lives are being changed and in some cases lost,” he said adding that marriage equality is an issue that people who are not denied the opportunity tend to take for granted.

When asked if Bank$y was in attendance, Jacobs laughed. “Well, he didn’t make himself known, but if he was, I hope he had a good time.” Bank$y has never been publically identified.
It is almost impossible to go anywhere in urban Los Angeles and not see evidence of Fairey’s Obey campaign featuring the iconic image of wrestler Andre the Giant.

Fairey, who is married and a father of two, is a strong proponent of social causes including economic justice, advocacy for the disabled and marriage equality. His work as a DJ is less well-known, but certainly appreciated, by those who have heard him spin house music under the names DJ Diabetic and Emcee Insulin, a reference to his diabetes.

His set on this particular rainy evening included a lot of old school classics including Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing,” Stereo MCs’ “Connected,” “Genius of Love,” by the Tom Tom Club, and a cover of Indeep’s “Last Night a DJ Saved My Life.” Fairey’s style is decidedly non-flashy, but the mix of the new and the familiar quickly filled the dance floor.

Electronic music superstars The Crystal Method, composed of Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland, are best known for the driving dance beats featured in songs like “Name of the Game” and “Trip Like I Do.” In this dynamic set, the duo took turns dancing and playing music.

Crystal Method originals were interspersed with some remixes, notably Depeche Mode’s hit “Personal Jesus.” Kirkland took an active political stance exhorting the audience to see “Milk,” a movie depicting the political rise and assassination of openly gay politician Harvey Milk, and “8: The Mormon Proposition,” a documentary about how the Mormon church, through its front group The National Organization For Marriage, bankrolled Proposition 8 in California.

Proposition 8 denies same-sex couples the right to marry and consequently deprives them of around 200 legal rights that heterosexual couples enjoy. The message was enthusiastically received by the predominantly heterosexual 30-something audience, who seemed to be attending more for the extraordinary DJs than the political message.

At $25 to $35 a ticket, $100 for VIP seating,?”Dance for Equality” was one of the best concert values of the week as well. The event raised more than $20,000 for the Courage Campaign, which is now 750,000 members strong.

“When people know each other, barriers break down,” said Jacobs. “And [love] makes the country stronger.

The fight for marriage equality is being fought on two fronts: legal action and public awareness. He encourages college students to visit the website http://testimony.couragecampaign.org/ to see how the denial of equal rights to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people directly affects them and add their own story as well.

Moby’s pioneering loops and melodic style showcased in songs like “Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?” have made him arguably the most successful artist in the ambient electronica genre, with his album “Play” selling 10 million copies worldwide. He’s a dynamic performer as well, and the already-packed dance floor undulated with united movement.

Moby, who is openly bisexual and not married, considers himself a Christian, is a vegan, supports numerous social causes and has a laissez-faire approach to the role of the government in the lives of its citizens.

Preventing marriage between two consenting adults would constitute a violation of their civil rights as far as he is concerned.

And yet Moby did not talk about politics or human rights. He played music and danced. And everyone – men and women, gay and straight, younger and older, VIP and general admission, bartenders, activists, waitresses and security guards – danced with him, and the energy of him dancing with 1,200 people sent a clear message: Californians support love.

Street art and house music started as small gestures that grew into movements, and the National Organization for Marriage may find that marriage equality can’t be denied either. The final decision rests with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the California Supreme Court.

Update – March 16, 2011 – Statement by Sen. Dianne Feinstein:

Today, I introduced legislation to repeal the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) once and for all. I was joined by my colleagues Sens. Leahy, Gillibrand, Blumenthal and Coons. I have opposed DOMA since I voted against it in 1996 and it’s time to erase this stain from our history books once and for all…

Last month, I was proud to see President Obama and Attorney General Holder announce that DOMA is unconstitutional and indefensible. But with Speaker Boehner moving to intervene in the courts, it’s high time we begin our fight in Congress.

While the Prop 8 case winds its way through the courts and DOMA remains on the books, same-sex couples will continue to be denied the right to marry. In my state of California, home to one of the largest populations of same-sex couples, that’s something I’m not going to accept. And we can do something about it.

As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I’m going to step up to represent my constituents and fill that role. But it will still be a long, hard slog.