Local musicians rally against gay marriage ban at the Varsity Thursday

Categories: Concert Preview
Photo by Jenn Barnett
Rogue Valley's Chris Koza is among the night's performers.
People often don't want their favorite artists to talk about politics: look at the Dixie Chicks. Despite this, Shayna Melgaard, the house manager at the Varsity Theater, and local singer-songwriter David Booth came up with the idea to hold an event to rally against the proposed gay marriage ban, which is currently a ballot initiative in Minnesota. This is the same measure that President Obama recently spoke out against.

On Thursday, Rogue Valley's Chris Koza, the 4onthefloor's Gabe Douglas, Chastity Brown, and a whole lot of other musicians will take part in an event at the Varsity Theater meant to raise awareness about this issue. 

Booth says, "The so-called marriage amendment is an unfair, unprincipled attempt to use our state's Constitution to permanently deny equal treatment under the law to one small group of our neighbors. The amendment basically says to thousands of loving, functional families headed by two moms or two dads, 'You don't count, you aren't real.' Their love is every bit as genuine. It's a matter of simple fairness and respect that their loves, families, and promises are recognized."

Shayna adds, "Some of my best friends are gay. Some of my favorite -- and the world's favorite -- musicians are gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Rufus Wainwright, Michael Stipe, Ani Difranco, Bob Mould, not to mention a bunch of other stuff I listened to when in middle school: Ricky Martin, Melissa Etherridge, Lance Bass, I mean, 'N Sync, right? Who doesn't love them? Denying equal rights to all citizens of this state is to deny the contributions that LGBTQ residents make to our communities. It renders them second-class citizens and resorts to a type of discrimination that should have been abolished long ago.

"Besides hosting live music, the Varsity Theater and Loring Pasta Bar host over 60 wedding receptions a year. We don't make distinctions between gay couples and straight couples when we're helping them plan their events. When a couple wants to celebrate their commitment to one another, who are we to stop them? Love is love. In addition to that, I have colleagues here who are gay or lesbian or bisexual. We're a family; we care about each other.

"I have faith that my fellow Minnesotans will come around and will eventually see the hurt that denying equal rights to their neighbors causes. It may not be this year, or next year, but when that time comes, it will be much harder to repeal a marriage amendment to the Constitution than to change a marriage law.

"I know that there are members of my own family who have a hard time with this issue. They didn't go to school or have never been close friends with anyone who was openly gay. They grew up in a place or in a time where a certain morality taught us that being gay was wrong or unnatural. I can understand that a paradigm shift is difficult, but from a most basic standpoint, this amendment takes freedoms away from people who live here, who pay taxes, and stimulate the economy. How is taking rights away from citizens going to help our state grow and prosper? It won't. People will leave. My own parents sort of chide me about when I'm going to get married. Here's some advice: use this as leverage. Tell them you're not getting hitched until everyone can get hitched. They'll either get off your back or vote 'no' on this amendment. It's a win-win situation."

Using her connections with artists from around the Cities, Shayna had a pretty strong hunch that these friends were on the side of inclusion and love, not on the side of exclusion and discrimination. "I knew some artists were in support of the cause already. For example, Ari Herstand has this song on his most recent EP entitled, 'Do Ask, Do Tell,' which is about having the right to tell people who you love, gay or straight, and not be afraid of the outcome. Last year when the 4onthefloor played at the Basilica Block Party, frontman Gabriel Douglas wore a purple shirt with the Human Rights Campaign-style equal sign on it. That was a pretty bold statement at that event. Other artists, you kind of just know, from listening to their lyrics. Those who have a capacity for love generally side with love."

The show at the Varsity on Thursday, April 12, 2012 will provide intimate, unplugged performances and comment from:

Chris Koza (Rogue Valley)
Alison Scott
Chastity Brown
Gabriel Douglas (The 4onthefloor)
Ari Herstand
DJ House and Danny O'Brien (The Farewell Circuit)
Joe Horton (No Bird Sing)
Kevin Bowe
David Booth
With a cocktail hour toast from Dessa (Doomtree) and a video message from Roster McCabe
MC: Dan Rodriquez


100% of ticket sales will go directly to Minnesotans United for All Families and can be purchased in advance via their website.
AA, $20 adv, $25 door, 6 pm

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