From One Civil Rights Movement To Another, A Same-Sex Kiss-In At Rosa Parks Plaza

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Patrick Michels
Check out this photo set for more photos from the kiss-in.

It wasn't quite the complete and total kiss-o-rama the posters suggested, but toss in the pecks on the cheek, the hugs and the still-awkward bro-pats between strangers, and there was plenty of same-sex affection out in the open at Queer Liberaction's downtown "kiss-in" this afternoon. The event was just one of dozens of kiss-ins held nationwide on Saturday -- responses to the Rainbow Lounge raid in Fort Worth and, more recently, two men detained by a security guard for kissing in a Salt Lake City plaza.

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While DART riders got on and off buses and waited in the shaded benches lining Rosa Parks Plaza, about 60 people gathered in the middle, many wearing "Kiss Me I'm Queer" stickers, waving rainbow flags or holding "Free Queer Hugs" signs. Over a megaphone, organizers told the crowd to find a neighbor of the same sex to kiss, and tried to set the mood with a mouth-to-mouth pass-the-Lifesaver race (passed between toothpicks contestants held in their mouths).

"We want to do what anyone else can do in public," said local TV-radio veteran Rick Vanderslice. "When homosexuals [kiss], with many people there's an uneasiness. After a while, though, it's like a black woman sitting at the front of the bus." The downtown event drew a more diverse crowd than June's Million Gay March in Oak Lawn, and organizers on the megaphone repeatedly drew parallels between the black Civil Rights movement of the '60s and the gay rights movement.

Latisha McDaniel, who works with Queer Liberaction, said she'd turned up to support the organization, and was encouraged by a new diversity in the crowd. "More than any of our other events, this is more LGBT African-Americans than I've seen," she said.

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Still, after scenes like a photo op with the group sitting on the Rosa Parks Statue, kissing the civil rights icon's bronze forehead, McDaniel said she felt conflicted, and had been against using the plaza as a backdrop for the kiss-in. "As an African-American, I thought it was a little disrespectful," McDaniel said. "Within the African-American community, she's like our Mother Teresa. For anyone to be making out around her, that's a lack of respect for her."

A small handful of protesters who stormed into the crowd seemed less conflicted about the whole thing. One took a stance in the middle of the flags, interrupting things with a quiet thumbs-down. "I have just as much right to be here as you," he said, as police guided him away. Five others who police removed earlier watched from a parking lot across Lamar Street; every so often, one waved his Bible and yelled at the crowd to repent.

Around 2 p.m., the kiss-in began to thin out. Over the megaphone, Queer Liberaction founder Blake Wilkinson said he hoped the event would be a prelude to a time when same-sex shows of affection were less of an issue, when "you're not going to get haters across the street for showing that you love somebody."


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