Supporters and opponents of marriage rights for same-sex couples gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday as the justices heard oral arguments in a case that challenges California’s Proposition 8.
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson, National Organization for Women President Terry O’Neill and gay retired New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson and his daughter Ella are among those who spoke at a rally in support of nuptials for gays and lesbians that drew a few thousand people.
Robinson also joined Rev. Dennis Wiley of Covenant Baptist Church of Christ in Southwest Washington, Rev. Abena McCray of Unity Fellowship Church in D.C., Sister Jeannine Gramick of New Ways Ministry in Mount Rainier, Md., Washington National Cathedral Dean Gary Hall and others at an interfaith service at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation near the Supreme Court earlier in the day.
“We all know that something special is happening here today,” Republican strategist Margaret Hoover said. “That’s why we are here in love to demonstrate that all Americans have the constitutional right and the freedom to marry the person they love.”
D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton pointed out nine states and the nation’s capital allow same-sex couples to marry.
“There are no second class citizens in America,” Norton said. “There are no second class marriages in America.
Jo-Ann Shain and Mary Jo Kennedy of Brooklyn, N.Y., and their daughter Aliya Shain held a poster with a picture of Edie Windsor outside the Supreme Court, Windsor is the New York City widow who challenged the Defense of Marriage Act after she paid $363,000 in estate taxes in 2009 when her partner of more than 40 years passed away. The couple, who has been together for 31 years, in 2004 challenged the Empire State’s same-sex marriage ban.
New York State Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan in 2005 ruled the law was unconstitutional.
“This is a watershed moment for our community,” Jo-Ann Shain told the Washington Blade before she, her wife whom she married in New York in 2011 after the state’s same-sex marriage law took effect and their daughter held up their signs to shield members of the Westboro Baptist Church who had gathered on the sidewalk. “This is history in the making and we wouldn’t miss it.”
Baltimore resident Lucas McCahill, who is an organizer with the American Humanist Association, said the claim the United States is “a free country” is “actually a blatant lie.” She told the Blade outside the Supreme Court the justices ruling in favor of marriage rights for same-sex couples would change that reality.
“It’s just a part of my basic values to uphold equality for everybody, no matter who you are, what you look like,” McCahill said.
David Pérez, president of the Latino GLBT History Project Board of Directors, agreed.
“We’re really excited to be out here to support marriage equality,” he said, noting his organization is among those that supported last year’s campaign in support of referenda on Maryland’s same-sex marriage law and DREAM Act that both passed. “We definitely want the justices to know the American people support marriage equality.”
Same-sex marriage opponents march to Supreme Court
As same-sex marriage supporters spoke outside the Supreme Court, an estimated 2,000 opponents of nuptials for gays and lesbians marched onto First Street, N.E. Some held a large banner that read “Let the people decide,” while others waved signs that said “Vote for holy matrimony” and “Children do better with a mom and a dad!” in Spanish.
Backers of nuptials for gays and lesbians gathered adjacent to the marchers and shouted slogans in support of the issue. Several of them held American, gay Pride and Human Rights Campaign flags as they squared off against the protesters.
“We’re here in order to defend civil society from one of the greatest assaults that it’s experienced in its history,” Father Johannes Smith of New York told the Blade outside the Supreme Court. “The whole idea of homosexual marriage is an assault on the foundations of a sound society.”
Christina Hughes, who traveled to D.C. from Miami to march against nuptials for gays and lesbians, said she feels marriage is “defined by God between a man and a woman.”
“Who are we to try and change that,” she said. “God is our creator and we should go by God’s laws.”
Roughly 1,000 same-sex marriage opponents attended a rally on the National Mall after they marched to the U.S. Supreme Court.
National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown; Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Concerned Women for America President Penny Nance; Ruth Institute President Jennifer Roback Morse; American Values President Gary Bauer; New York State Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr.; and Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, are among those who spoke.
The Family Leader CEO Bob Vander Plaats noted Rev. Billy Graham and newly elected Pope Francis’ opposition to same-sex marriage. He also spoke about the 2010 recall of the three Iowa Supreme Court justices who ruled a year earlier the Hawkeye State’s ban on nuptials for gays and lesbians was unconstitutional.
“We saw what happened when a court usurps the obvious will of the people,” Vander Plaats said. “What happened there is the people of Iowa listened and they responded and they responded with the historic ouster of all the judges in the 2010 election.”
Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church of Beltsville, Md., claimed marriage between a man and woman reduces poverty and rates of youth incarceration, domestic violence and sexual abuse.
“When a man and a woman are in the house, there is health, there is healing, there is peace, there is joy, there’s security,” he said. “There is the rule and reign of God in the house. One man, one woman is God’s architectural plan so the desert places of urban America will bloom and blossom like a rose.”
An ABC News/Washington Post poll released last week shows 58 percent of Americans support marriage rights for same-sex couples. The survey further indicates 52 percent of Republican and GOP-leaning independents between 18-49 back nuptials for gays and lesbians.
Brown and other same-sex marriage opponents sought to discredit polls that continue to show a majority of Americans now support the issue.
NOM Cultural Director Thomas Peters highlighted to the Blade a recent poll he did not identify that he said showed 60 percent of Americans “believe in the proposition that” marriage is between one man and one woman.
“In free and fair votes of the people in 31 states, we’ve won by over 60 percent,” he said. “Even in states like Rhode Island we are arguing for a public vote. Proponents of gay marriage don’t want the people to vote on it. I don’t think that gay marriage advocates even believe their own polls because even in deep blue states they don’t want to take the issue to the people.”
Jo-Ann Shain said she feels public opinion is one of the factors the justices should consider as they weigh the issue.
“Although we’re married in our state, we’re not whole unless the feds recognize our marriages,” she said.