For gay-rights activists and their conservative opponents, last month's election was a call to arms. On November 9, the Reverend Jerry Falwell announced the formation of the Faith and Values Coalition, a 21st-century reincarnation of his now-defunct Christian activist organization the Moral Majority. According to the group's website, www.faithandvalues.us, Falwell, who once blamed the 9/11 terrorist attacks on feminists and gays, hopes to encourage the "evangelical revolution" and wage "a monumental battle for the soul of America."
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ideological divide, members of the Burlington-based Queer Liberation Army are about to declare war on Falwell and his ilk. The group, which met in the upstairs lounge of 135 Pearl on Sunday, has a home for its website -- www.queerlibarmy.org -- and is drafting a manifesto to post there. The QLA's roughly two-dozen members, who range in age from 18 to 58, plan to use direct action to spotlight homophobia, and oppose "the sex/gender apartheid that rules this country," according to a draft of the group's mission statement.
QLA "soldier" Eva Bielser says she helped found the group because getting involved makes her feel a little better about the election, in which Republican George W. Bush won a second term, and voters in 11 states passed constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage. "After the election we were really frustrated," she says, "and we felt a lot of it was based on homophobia. We just had to do something."
Most of the troops were AWOL from Sunday's meeting due to post-Thanksgiving travel plans. The five QLA members who showed up edited the manifesto; it declares war on not just Republicans but on Democrats, too, and "anyone else who blocks full equality for queers." They also decided to form a "Queerleader" squad, in which QLA members dressed as cheerleaders will practice queer-friendly cheers. They plan to deploy the squad in Burlington during the holiday season, and send them to a presidential inauguration demonstration in January.
The nascent brigade, which meets at 135 Pearl each Sunday at 4 p.m., has whipped up some T-shirts as a way to fundraise. "They make great Queer-mas presents," says QLA member Laurie Essig.
The fortysomething professor is a veteran of activist groups such as Queer Nation, ACT UP and the Lesbian Avengers. She says she's learned that resistance is useful, even if it's not necessarily productive. "Direct action may not have influenced AIDS funding," she says, "but it kept us alive."