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Commentary: Why there's a 'day without gays'

  • Story Highlights
  • David Craig: I've been battling for marriage equality for gays since 1990
  • He says civil unions don't provide same level of rights and benefits as marriage
  • Craig is part of a group organizing "day without gays" protest for December 10
  • Craig: Poll shows growing support for gay unions and for gay marriage
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By David Craig
Special to CNN
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Editor's note: David Craig is a film, television and Web producer, an adjunct professor at the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Southern California, and a gay rights activist.

David Craig says there's growing support for recognition of gay unions and gay marriage.

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- My battle for marriage equality began in 1990, after my partner, Brian Binder, and I had a commitment ceremony. The ceremony was held at the end of a conference for Parents and Friends of Lesbian and Gays and was attended by more than 300 friends and members of both our families.

We were featured in a couple of books on gay marriage because the concept was so new at the time. We also registered as domestic partners and entered into every possible form of legal recognition available at the time.

A few years later, Brian was visiting his parents in Nevada to inform them that he was giving up his battle with AIDS. Something went horribly wrong, and he was rushed to the hospital. I flew there immediately.

As his caretaker, I knew his medical condition and had been involved in every medical decision. We had shared the joy of making a commitment to one another and the pain and suffering of a horrible disease.

But when I arrived, I was told I could not see him because I was not "family" and because my legal documents were valid only in California. Even as I heard him calling out my name, they refused to let me see him because we were not married. Brian died in 1992.

In 1995, I helped organize the first Freedom to Marry March in Los Angeles. Ten years later, the idea for A Day Without Gays was conceived. iReport.com: Are you taking part in "A Day Without Gays?"

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I was discussing same-sex marriage with Delia Fine, my colleague at the A&E Network. I proposed a gay version of Lysistrata, an ancient Greek satire about Athenian women who withheld sex from their husbands until they agreed to stop going to war.

She replied, "what if gays went on strike instead?" and the idea was born.

We convinced A&E to produce a movie based on the idea, which became a romantic comedy called "Wedding Wars" that aired on the network in 2006. Critics compared the film to "A Day Without a Mexican," which led to the one-day protest by the Latino community called A Day Without Immigrants.

In the wake of the passage of Proposition 8 in California, which banned same-sex marriage, I posted the event on Facebook. My fellow organizer, Steve Holzer, inspired by the Latino protests, suggested we call it A Day Without Gays.

We soon discovered that other organizers had conceived of the same idea simultaneously, and we all agreed to schedule the protest for December 10, which is International Human Rights Day. A week later, Join The Impact, the group that organized City Hall rallies nationwide November 14, joined forces with us.

Our goal is to raise awareness that marriage is a "basic human right" as declared by the U.S. Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia, the case that ended race-based restrictions on marriage.

We believe that to deny gays and lesbians that right, and the 1,400 state and federal legal and economic benefits of marriage, is discrimination and in violation of the 14th Amendment.

We are asking people who support us to "call in gay" to their workplace by taking the day off or to shut down their businesses. Our goal is to raise awareness that we are gay and lesbian Americans who work, own businesses, pay our taxes and support the economy to the tune of $712 billion a year, according to an analysis by Witeck-Combs Communications, a public relations agency that specializes in the gay and lesbian consumer market. This is a declaration that we take our rights seriously and demand full equality.

Our Facebook site has had a million visitors, and more than 225,000 people indicate that they will or might participate. There are also more than 17,000 postings from participants who have taken the time to debate, support and/or deride these issues.

There is still much to do. Thirty states have passed bans on same-sex marriage. Thirty states allow employers to fire someone based on sexual orientation, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Some states have instituted or are considering bans that directly or indirectly prevent gays and lesbians from adopting or fostering children.

In addition, the passage of the Defense of Marriage Act by Congress in 1996 denies civil unions what Barack Obama's campaign described as the more than 1,100 benefits of marriage including immigration, taxation, Social Security and veteran's benefits.

A recent Newsweek poll reflects that, for the first time, a majority of Americans now believe that gay and lesbian couples deserve recognition, with 55 percent supporting legally sanctioned unions. It found increased backing for inheritance and other rights and found that 39 percent favor gay marriage.

The tide is clearly turning in our favor, and I believe that love, equality and support for all families will triumph. In the words of Tony Kushner, "We will be citizens. The time has come."

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of David Craig.

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