The title of the post reflects a question that Craig Cady, at Dane101, is asking. Cady was at the Capitol yesterday, demonstrating with other gay rights supporters in response to the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage's "Summer of Marriage" tour, which was holding an event on the steps of the Capitol.
As a fervent supporter of my own equal rights, I was one of the people in the front line voicing the neglected LGBT minority's anger. We had just as much right to stand there and voice our opinion as they did in their group, which was closely monitored by police and surrounded by caution tape with their PA system. But upon further consideration, I wonder how much good my own shouts did for our struggle.
My question is simple: would a looming silence have actually said more than our words? If we had let them speak unimpeded, wouldn't their lack of logic have revealed itself and further painted them into the small corner that their overwhelmingly-debunked arguments have already done? Instead, I fear we gave them a platform to justify their hate by claiming it was ours. NOM supporters twisted our rightful anger to use it against us again and again.
I was pondering the same question myself yesterday. My conclusion is mixed. First, I think the chants were great. They articulated the protest and sent a powerful message to all those watching on TV or listening on the radio that gay rights are coming.
I don't know if people would have truly appreciated the overwhelming number of protestors if they hadn't been so loud if the speakers hadn't had to struggle to speak over what one might aptly term "the will of the people of Madison."
Silent protests can be very powerful, but they have to be very well organized, and be accompanied by a strong, articulate message. The protest Martin Luther King Jr. led for Memphis sanitation workers, in which many of the protestors wore signs that read "I am a man," comes to mind.
One problem with the continual chanting is that it prevented the crowd from responding to some of the specific claims of the speakers. While I was there, I thought there were a few opportunities in which a good ol' fashioned "nooo" could have been effective at displaying the opinion of those listening.
So my position: Chanting at various times, perhaps in between the speakers, as well as loud responses to various things the speakers say. And a more coherent message on signs that TV cameras will catch.
But Cady's contention that protestors were infringing upon the "first amendment rights" of the NOM speakers is puzzling. In no way does the first amendment guarantee a citizen the right to polite listeners. Just as you were not violating the first amendment rights of your mother when you stuck your fingers in your ears and shouted "la la la la" as she lectured you on table manners, gay rights activists were not committing constitutional offenses by interrupting Maggie Gallagher.