Gay employees urged to skip work, volunteer

— -- Denver artist Courtney Gray, 32, is taking off work today to volunteer at a food drive organized by the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Community Center of Colorado.

He's doing it as part of the national "Day Without a Gay," intended to show the impact of gays by asking them to skip work and spend the day volunteering and refraining from spending money.

The day, which coincides with International Human Rights Day, "gives us all a great opportunity to participate in our community and to bring awareness on the fact that we are contributing members of the society," Gray said.

The idea for Day Without a Gay grew after a column by Joel Stein in the Los Angeles Times last month called for a boycott similar to the 2006 Great American Boycott organized by Latino immigrants, event co-founder Sean Hetherington said.

Hetherington, 30, a personal trainer and stand-up comedian in California, and his partner, Aaron Hartzler, 33, an actor and writer, wanted to expand on the work stoppage idea and do something positive.

"There was still a lot of anger around Proposition 8," Hetherington said, referring to the statewide vote Nov. 4 to ban same-sex marriage. "That's why we stepped in. We decided to shift the focus of the inevitable boycott from anger to the good feelings of giving service."

Organizations across the USA, including the Valdosta (Ga.) Humane Society chapter and Seattle's Northwest Women's Law Center, have posted volunteer opportunities on — the website Hetherington and Hartzler created. About 300,000 people have visited the website since mid-November, Hetherington said.

The Sacramento Gay and Lesbian Center is hosting a volunteer action day dedicated to outreach, cleaning and gardening. Spokeswoman Bonnie Osborn said about 50 people had called to participate.

"People had a lot of grief and emotion around the passing of Proposition 8 and now they want a positive way to use that energy," Osborn said.

Hetherington said he hopes Day Without a Gay becomes an annual event.