Gays across the United States were urged to skip work on Wednesday as part of the latest protest against recent votes outlawing same-sex marriage in several regions.
The "Day Without A Gay" protest appeared to have had little economic impact but organizers said they had accomplished their main goal of raising awareness of their campaign without shutting down businesses.
Activists had encouraged people across the United States both gay and straight to call in gay for work and spend the day doing volunteer tasks. They also asked gays and lesbians to avoid shopping as a way of showing the economic power of the gay community.
But merchants in the Castro, the heart of San Francisco's large gay community, said it was mostly business as usual on a chilly Wednesday morning.
"It seems to be about the same. The cold weather has brought about a little bit of slowness on the streets, but it's mostly normal," said Don Forfang, a barber at Louie's Barber Shop.
The Day Without a Gay protest was created by Sean Hetherington, a personal trainer and stand-up comedian in Los Angeles, as a reaction to the November 4 passage of Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California. Florida, Arizona and Arkansas also approved bans on gay marriage last month. It was timed to coincide with Wednesday's celebration of International Human Rights Day, and took its inspiration from the 2006 immigrants rights protests that shut down schools and businesses from California to Texas.
Hetherington said the main goal of the protest was to increase awareness of the gay community, not to undermine businesses.
He encouraged people to discuss the issue, or write to politicians, during their lunch hour and to volunteer at another time.
This isn't just about people not going into work. We realize in this economic situation it is tough, he told AFP in a phone interview.
We think the reason why Prop. 8 passed is because there wasn't enough visibility.
Hetherington said he received dozens of e-mails from Europeans expressing support for the protest.
Cat Kim of Join the Impact SF, a group supporting Day Without a Gay, said calling in gay was intended to give some people the chance to openly declare their sexual orientation for the first time.
That's important, she said, because people who know a gay whether it's a co-worker, or the guy at Starbucks who just served them a latte will be less threatened by same-sex marriage.
Being queer, it's easy to pass as being straight. Since this is nationwide, it will give people who are not out of the closet some courage, she said. This will start the conversation when people notice a co-worker is not there.
Marches and rallies were planned Wednesday in San Francisco, as well as in the nearby cities of Berkeley and Oakland.
Mark Leno, the first openly gay member of the California state Senate, said he supported the protest but could not skip the day at work because of the state's financial crisis.
The choice of whether to participate in Day Without a Gay is a deeply personal one, he said.
While the state budget crisis demands my full attention this week, I am confident that all of our collective efforts will continue to educate people as to the great danger of having anyone's equal protection under the law undermined.
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