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How about No Gays for a Day?

November 14, 2008|JOEL STEIN

You wouldn't think gay people would need tips on staging a splashy event from Mexican immigrants. Yet since they lost the right to marry in California, gays appear to have no game plan, marching around West Hollywood and Silver Lake with their old "No on 8" signs, which makes about as much sense as holding a John McCain rally next month at John McCain's house.

That's why I'm declaring Dec. 5 No Gays for a Day day. Patterned after the 2006 Great American Boycott organized by Latino immigrants, on that Friday, gays should stay home from work, school and do no shopping, to prove how crucial they are to American society. No Gays for a Day will demonstrate what it would be like if -- as so much of the non-coastal U.S. seems to desire -- gays just disappeared. You may not even know who all your daily gays are, so there's no predicting the impact. It probably won't shut down the restaurant industry like the immigrants did, but know this for certain: Dec. 5 will be a day that fashion does not move forward.

To gauge this strategy's effectiveness, I called Sonja Eddings Brown, the spokesperson for the Protect Marriage coalition that put Proposition 8 -- which defined marriage as exclusively heterosexual -- on the ballot. Brown, to my surprise, sounded defeated. I reminded her that Proposition 8 passed, so maybe she should pep up a bit. "Did we win?" she asked. "It doesn't feel like it." When I ran No Gays for a Day by her, Brown said, "I have so many dear friends who are such invaluable parts of this city and California who are gay." It was the boldest use of "some of my best friends are ... " I had ever heard.

My main concern about enacting my plan is that I'm not gay. And my previous attempt as an outsider to rally folks to a cause was a miserable failure: Right before I applied to college, I suggested Asian students protest being stereotyped as overachievers by skipping the SAT.

Also, I'm really lazy. So I called Amy Balliett for help. Balliett is a lesbian in Seattle who, just last Friday, created JoinTheImpact.com, which has organized an expected 250,000 people nationwide to march Saturday in protest of Proposition 8. Balliett immediately embraced No Gays for a Day as JoinTheImpact's second event. We worked out some kinks, like "pretending you are sick" for people who aren't out of the closet at work. For economic impact, we picked a Friday -- one of the big shopping days before Christmas and the day People, Us Weekly and Star usually sell out at newsstands. We also decided that because this is a general strike, not a directed boycott, even gay-owned, gay-patronized businesses should shut down. "I hate to say this, but we should even say, 'Don't even go out to the bars,' " she said. "I just don't know if the community can stick to that."

To get media attention, Balliett -- a search-engine marketer -- is going to use the social networking sites she used for Saturday's march. Although that sounded promising, I decided to hunt for a No Gays for a Day celebrity spokesperson. I chose Kathy Griffin because she's so well connected to the gay community and because it's hard to get Ellen DeGeneres on the phone at 10 p.m. when you're drinking and coming up with ideas like No Gays for a Day.

Griffin -- who is a spokesperson for the Foundation for AIDS Research, AIDS Project Los Angeles, Aid for AIDS and, I'm guessing, AIDS, AIDS, AIDS -- was thrilled to get the official celebrity spokesperson job. And she thought our impact would be significant. "Forget Pinkberry. It's over for them. They could go under in one day," she said. "If you do two days without gays, Bravo would go under too." People, we figure, will have no assistance at libraries or gym class and will madly butcher their hair. Subaru dealerships shouldn't bother opening. Entertainment journalism will take such a hit, TMZ will have to report hockey scores.

Griffin was getting more excited about our plan until I mentioned this might slow up the remodel of her house. "My remodel? What about the audience for my shows? The only reason I'm doing this is on Dec. 5, I don't have a show. I'd never do this if I had a show that day in Palm Desert," she said. Then -- and you'll have to trust me that this actually happened -- Griffin got quiet for a few seconds. "If my assistants don't go to work," she said, "who's going to go to the bathroom for me? I'm screwed on a day without gays. I've made a huge error in judgment. Me, Cher and Bette Midler are going to be the three most screwed Americans. We all might actually die that day. And what if Ryan Seacrest doesn't go to work? The state will collapse. This will wake up California."

But Griffin decided No Gays for a Day is a cause worthy of her suffering. Now the rest of the world will find out what Griffin has known all along: We need our gays. If it turns out I'm wrong, and we don't miss them, then as a married man, I can tell you this: The best way to keep them at home is to let them get married.

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jstein@latimescolumnists.com

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