Several local and national LGBT civil rights groups are sponsoring a rally Sunday in Freedom Plaza to counter a separate rally at the U.S. Capitol where the National Organization for Marriage will speak out against same-sex marriage.
NOM’s event, scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday on the East Lawn of the Capitol, is being billed as the finale for the group’s summer-long series of “One Man, One Woman” marriage rallies in more than a dozen cites. The rallies have been sparsely attended, according to media reports, but NOM organizers have highlighted what they have called attempts by LGBT activists to disrupt the rallies and “intimidate” participants.
The group’s president, Brian Brown, has said the rallies are aimed at building opposition to same-sex marriage bills pending in several state legislatures.
Since a federal judge in California ruled last week that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, NOM has used its latest two rallies in Orlando, Fla., and Raleigh, N.C., to call on the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the decision.
LGBT organizers of the D.C. counter protest, which is being called the “Big Commit,” initially announced their event would take place on the West Lawn of the Capitol, raising the possibility of a confrontation between participants in opposing events.
But following a conference call, the pro-LGBT rally organizers decided Monday to drop the Capitol location and hold their rally at Freedom Plaza, located on Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., between 13th and 14th streets.
“[T]he founders of the Big Commit have always been clear that our vision for a counter protest is a peaceful gathering of LGBTQI organizations, activists, and allies, together with members of open and affirming faith communities in close proximity to the National Organization for Marriage,” said Aiyi’nah Ford, a spokesperson for the event. “Our mission clearly states that this provides the opportunity to appeal to the hearts and minds of our prospective allies nationwide.”
Some local D.C. groups, including the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance, called for a festive counter event that stresses D.C.’s success in passing a same-sex marriage law despite the opposition of groups such as NOM.
In an announcement on its website, NOM said the speakers at its rally at the Capitol would include Brown; Maggie Gallagher, the group’s founding chairperson; Bishop Harry Jackson, a minister who has led efforts to oppose same-sex marriage in D.C.; Rev. Walter Fauntroy, D.C.’s former delegate to Congress and a leading opponent of same-sex marriage; and Alveda King, niece of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage.
The event at Freedom Plaza is sponsored by the LGBT groups Equality Across America, Full Equality Now! D.C., and Talk About Equality. It’s scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. Sunday.