The NOH8 Campaign: Stay Silent, Be Heard

Plain white T-shirt. Duct-taped mouth. “NOH8” painted on one cheek. What does it mean?

In 2008, opponents of same-sex marriage had placed Proposition 8 on California’s November ballot. Its passage ended marriage equality in the state. In response, photographer Adam Bouska and his partner, Jeff Parshley, founded the NOH8 Campaign as a silent protest in 2009.

The imagery of NOH8 (pronounced “no hate”) is stylized similarly to Robert Indiana’s pop art image, LOVE, of the 1960s. The campaign has used this elegant icon to help spread awareness of marriage, gender and human equality across various media forms.

Although the initial goal of the NOH8 Campaign was marriage equality, the organization has expanded its mission to include fighting discrimination and bullying and to spread a “worldview of acceptance.” Operating as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the NOH8 Campaign has recorded more than 40,000 photographs.

In addition to everyday supporters of equality, politicians, athletes, artists and other celebrities have posed for the NOH8 Campaign. Among them are Larry King, Cindy McCain, Meghan McCain, Alan Cumming, Chris Kluwe, Josh Hutcherson, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Kathy Griffin, Idina Menzel, Chely Wright, Ricky Martin, Mayra Veronica, Nikki Sixx, Mark Hoppus and Jonathan Scott.

Addressing the perceived finality of a Supreme Court ruling that is expected this year regarding marriage equality, Bouska and Parshley said, “People have grown to make the meaning of NOH8 specific to them and their lives. We all have different reasons for supporting NOH8, and that’s what we love about it. There will always be a need for people to put their face to the fight for equality. Equality for ALL. Worldwide!”

To us in the Missouri-Kansas audience – where marriage equality is still non-existent or sporadic, at best – they offer this: “We would say that when NOH8 began in November of 2008, only two states in the U.S. had marriage equality. Today, just over six years later, 37 states (plus D.C.) have the freedom to marry, with a strong possibility of nationwide marriage equality coming as soon as June of this year. Regardless of whether it happens in a few short months or not, the change is inevitable. It’s hard to tell anyone to wait for human rights, because nobody should have to — but what we can do is continue showing support, continue putting our faces to the fight and continue to spark dialogue that changes hearts and minds. Doing all of those things will only help bring the day closer when all same-sex couples have the right to marry in this country. So be strong, and BE HEARD!”

Anyone can keep up with the campaign at its website, NOH8 Campaign. There you can view photos, offer support, read the blog or participate in the BE HEARD Project. “

Bradley Osborn

Brad has been writing for Camp since 2004. His beat is mostly local features and general LGBT news. Common topics have included youth, faith and community. Although he holds an M.A. in journalism, he primarily considers himself to be a chemist, having studied and worked in biochemistry, quantitative analysis, quality assurance and the production of educational science texts. He's laconic, unintentionally enigmatic and often facetious. He enjoys irony, as well as things – but not animals, apparently – that are simultaneously beautiful and utilitarian. He and his cat, Charlie Parker, reside in downtown Kansas City, Mo. If you have a story idea for Brad, send him a note at bosborn@campkc.com.

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