“Voting for Clinton in order not to waste your vote is like putting a gun to your head and pulling the trigger,” says local gay activist Craig Teichen. Despite Clinton’s conservative stance on many issues of importance to lesbian and gay voters, he enjoys plenty of support from the gay community. His friend and adviser David Mixner has said that he continues to support the president because he’s more tolerant than Republicans. The Human Rights Campaign has endorsed Clinton, and a large local contingent marched in support of the Clinton-Gore ticket in this year’s lesbian and gay pride parade. But Teichen believes that what he calls “fuzzy sweater” lesbians and gays who support the president because he’s the lesser of two evils are selling out. The president, he says, went too far by supporting the Defense of Marriage Act, the antigay bill introduced by Republicans. “Our families are under attack,” he says.
It’s not that the 47-year-old Teichen is looking to tie the knot. “Right now I’m caught up in my writing and my work for social and civil change,” he says. Some of his recent poetry and fiction has been published in StreetWise and a local gay and lesbian anthology On the Rocks; he also contributes to Dial-a-Poem. But, he says, “Someday I’d love to get married.”
The fight for gay marriage has long been at the top of Teichen’s agenda. Energized by his involvement with Queer Nation, Teichen cofounded Citizens for Gay Action in the early 90s to deal specifically with the marriage issue. In addition to letter-writing and petition drives, the group staged several “marry-ins” at the Cook County marriage license bureau. But by the time the issue had become front-page news the group had burned out. “We didn’t think there would be another opportunity to stir up the energy,” Teichen says, “but the timing is right with the convention in town.”
The protest planned during the Democratic National Convention will be similar to the group’s previous actions. After a brief outdoor rally, same-sex pairs will convene on the bureau and request marriage licenses. (Singles and straights are encouraged to participate with friends.) Unlike the city’s restrictive involvement in protests outside the United Center, the bureau isn’t expected to stifle the spirit of activism. The bureau has agreed to set up a table for the group to distribute flyers and arrange a space for theatrical acts of protest. A flyer suggesting things to do after being turned down includes “leave quietly,” “start kissing at the window,” and “sit down and refuse to move until the police move you.” Teichen says he and the other protest planners aren’t sure what will happen. “We’re going to let the crowd take its own direction,” he says.
The demonstration takes place Monday at 11:30 AM outside the Cook County Building, 118 N. Clark. Call 271-1870 for more information.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of Craig Teichen, by Randy Tunnell.