Metro Weekly

Anti-gay ad on DC Metro buses tests gay community’s definitions of free speech

bus.jpgPhoto by David Uy /

Let the People Vote on Marriage.

Content of an advertisement currently appearing on the side of DC’s WMATA buses. The ad carries the website of StandForMarriageDC, a religiously motivated, anti-gay group that seeks to roll back the District’s gay marriage law by forcing a voter referendum on the issue. The group’s leaders have been continually denied by the DC Board of Elections and Ethics, the DC Attorney General, and the DC City Council on the grounds that such a referendum directly conflicts with the City’s human rights ordinances. Councilmembers have repeatedly questioned why the members of StandForMarriageDC are insisting on a voter referendum on this particular council action when no referendum has occurred on legislative matters in a very long time. Councilman David Catania noted during a November hearing that the last Advisory Referendum that sought to “diminish the rights of a minority” was in 1865 when a near-unanimous vote opted to block the emerging rights of freed African-American males to vote in the District. (StandForMarriageDC)

An unrelated controversy has reemerged this year over WMATA ads for an atheist group, the American Humanist Association, which has placed some Christmas-themed ads that state: “No God?… No problem. Be good for goodness’ sake.” This past April, a number of ads for an online sexual health forum,, were defaced on Chicago buses. They contained the slogan, “gay, sexy, healthy.” And back in 2006, in Minneapolis, MN, a Muslim bus driver was allowed to avoid driving buses that carried an ad for Lavender magazine that bore the slogan, ”Unleash your inner gay.”

”The bus is a particularly painful place for these advertisements to be located, as they cannot be avoided. Because of these advertisements, countless LGBT citizens are forced to stare down discrimination as they board the bus to go somewhere or are even passed by an advertisement on the street. The irony is that public buses were the birthplace of another struggle for equality under law not too long ago. For LGBT citizens to have to experience discriminatory messages as they go about their daily life is unacceptable and must be stopped. For this reason, we demand that WMATA remove all advertisements posted by Stand for Marriage DC as soon as is possible.”

From a December 12 post on the Full Equality Now! DC website. The LGBT group (which evolved after the October 11 National Equality March on Washington) is objecting to large advertisements appearing on the side of the District’s Metro buses. The ads are part of a campaign by StandForMarriageDC to block the legalization of marriage equality for gay men and lesbians in the District. (FullEqualityNow)

”As supporters of civil marriage equality, we also embrace the principle of free speech enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which makes our own advocacy possible. Indeed, the then-named Gay Activists Alliance thirty years ago won a court battle against WMATA for the right to place educational posters in Metro buses with the message, ‘Someone In Your Life Is Gay.’ WMATA is a quasi-governmental body and is thus subject to the First Amendment. We, the undersigned, therefore urge you to reject the misguided censorship advocated by Full Equality Now DC.”

Letter posted on the GLAA website and signed by several prominent members of Washington, DC’s gay and lesbian community who worked for the passage of the city’s new same-sex marriage law. They are objecting to another gay group’s request to remove an offensive political ad from the side of WMATA buses. The City Council this month approved a same-sex marriage bill and it was signed by Mayor Adrian Fenty last week. But a number of loud, anti-gay, religious extremists like Harry Jackson, Anthony Evans, and Bob King are appealing to Congressional conservatives to halt the law before its review period is over. Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah said he is going to try to block gay marriage since he is the ranking Republican on a committee that has oversight of the District’s operations. (Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance)

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JD Uy has been a Metro Weekly webmaster, distribution manager, blogger and videographer since 2002.

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