WASHINGTON—Advocates for and against same-sex marriage showed up in force outside the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday, as justices inside weighed the fate of California’s Proposition 8—a 2008 voter-approved prohibition on homosexual marriage in the state.
Thousands on both sides of the issue sought to have their voices heard through opposing demonstrations: the conservative March for Marriage and the pro-homosexual United for Marriage rally.
The two sides appeared to have roughly the same number of supporters, who were mostly peaceful, although the groups did meet briefly at the same location. When that happened, tensions rose. Gay marriage advocates assembled for their 8:30 a.m. rally in front of the Supreme Court, and representatives of Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church were virtually the only opposition present in the early hours. Meanwhile, proponents of traditional marriage gathered on the National Mall and headed toward the Supreme Court at 9:30 a.m.
As the March for Marriage began to move up the street, some homosexual advocates began obstructing the procession. Police at first refused to stop the obstruction, so marchers sang “Amazing Grace” and knelt in prayer in the middle of the street until they could pass by the court building.
After more than 20 minutes of little movement, authorities formed a line between the homosexual activists in the front to push them forward and ahead of the March for Marriage participants. But as traditional marriage proponents marched through, homosexual activists continued to spill off the sidewalks to oppose them and create breaks in the procession. After almost 90 minutes, police moved all protestors to the sidewalks and reopened the street to traffic, causing some in the March for Marriage to turn back toward the National Mall instead of crossing in front of the Supreme Court.
Emily Zender, 25, drove from Chicago for the event and said it was no surprise that gay activists made efforts to thwart the march, since “they’ve done it before.” She said such intimidation leads to there being a silent majority opposing same-sex marriage. “People aren’t speaking out because they are afraid of being labeled haters and bigots, and that’s not what we are,” she said. “The other side means well, but they’re just poorly misguided.”
The Family Research Council, the National Organization for Marriage, Focus on the Family, and many other conservative groups sponsored the march, which drew a large number of immigrants, including large numbers of Hispanics and Chinese. “We want to be a part of defending biblical marriage,” said Damin Luo, a 50-year-old Chinese immigrant who lives in Virginia.
New York, led by Democratic state Sen. Ruben Diaz, who is a Puerto Rican immigrant, had one of the largest contingents at the march. Diaz, the only Democrat to vote against the New York’s same-sex marriage legislation, brought 32 buses to the event and addressed the March for Marriage participants in Spanish.
Patrick Wooden, who led the fight to defeat same-sex marriage in North Carolina last year, brought two buses from his church and several more from the state. Wooden, pastor of Upper Room Church of God in Christ in Raleigh, told me they came “to say to the Supreme Court: ‘Stay out of marriage.’”
Not all faith leaders agree with Wooden: Early Tuesday morning, a group of liberal religious leaders held an interfaith service at a nearby Lutheran church, which included Buddhist, Christian, Wiccan, and prayers of other faiths. Several invoked the name of Jesus, and one prayed that “our churches, synagogues, and mosques” would repent for opposing gay marriage.
They also quoted Scripture, including passages from 1 John 4, 1 Corinthians 13, and Amos 5:24: “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
A few hours later, the same verse was quoted at the March for Marriage rally, which included appearances by Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles; Gary Bauer, president of American Values; Jim Garlo, pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in La Mesa, Calif.; Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage; Eric Teetsel, executive director of the Manhattan Declaration; and Bishop Harry Jackson, founder and president of the High Impact Leadership Coalition.
“When a man and a woman are in the house, there is health, there is healing, there is peace, there is joy, there is security, there is the rule and reign of God in the house,” Jackson told the cheering crowd.
Doug Mainwaring, a homosexual father and cofounder of the National Capital Tea Party Patriots, was one of the final speakers. He told the crowd, “As a gay man, I can say categorically it is not homophobic to oppose gay marriage.” He urged the crowd to ignore “the media’s manufactured urgency” to legalize same-sex marriage and instead think about what’s best for children, who need both a mother and a father.
The March for Marriage made children a central theme to their event, which was attended by hundreds of minors. Less than five children could be seen among those demonstrating in favor of same-sex marriage.