The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) hosted its second annual “March For Marriage” Thursday in front of the U.S. Capitol, a rally with speakers opposing same-sex marriage followed by a march to the Supreme Court. An estimated 2,000 people participated, many of whom had traveled by bus from New Jersey and New York City. After last year’s march, which was held in conjunction with the Supreme Court hearing on the Defense of Marriage Act, NOM attempted to inflate the numbers, but this year’s crowd was smaller than even the most conservative estimates from last year.
Both on the dais and in the crowd, religious beliefs were the driving force behind attendees’s opposition to same-sex marriage. ThinkProgress spoke with several members of the crowd to get a sense of why they were participating, and most cited their religious beliefs as their primary motivation. In particular, many were religious leaders themselves or specifically came to the march with a church group. Watch a compilation of ThinkProgress’ interviews from the March for Marriage:
Mary from Virginia Beach explained to ThinkProgress that she is a devout Catholic who believes that marriage is a covenant between a man, a woman, and God, and “we cannot change what the Bible defines.” She actually suggested that she would be okay with civil unions for same-sex couples, but she was also concerned that children would read books and learn that same-sex marriage is okay, even though it’s against their families’ beliefs: “Civil unions? What you do is your business, but what you teach my children is a whole different thing.” She added that if she learned that her own children were gay, she would be “disappointed,” and that it would “break her heart” if they got married, because she believes that acting on homosexuality is a sin.
Jasmine came to the march from New York City because she was asked to by her church: “I was told by my church ministry to come out here and support what we believe in, which is a man and a woman to get married and unite and have children… If a man and a man were to get married, that would violate that law.” Even though New York now has same-sex marriage, she believes in “repentance” for same-sex couples and that “God can still touch their hearts and turn them into His steps.”
Some said that they believe that there are consequences to legalizing same-sex marriage. A.J. from New Jersey told ThinkProgress that he believes God might flood the world like he did in the times of Noah as punishment for society’s sexual sins: “My rabbi in Brooklyn said that 20 years after the United States legitimizes same-sex marriage and different sexual sins, then the entire country will go into disarray.” He wasn’t sure when those 20 years start, but he was attending the march because he’s concerned the country is “going down the wrong path.”
For others, it was simply a matter of upholding tradition. “It’s not a matter of consequences,” Jack from Baltimore offered. “The problem is changing the definition of a word that has existed forever.” He told ThinkProgress that he defines marriage as “a man and a woman capable of having children” because “I think that’s the way God created us. I think that’s the way it’s been. It’s the way it is universally accepted.”
Emily came from Jersey City, New Jersey because she believes that “homosexual marriage” is “completely immoral and wrong.” She doesn’t want the kids she’ll eventually have to live through this because “you want your society to be the way you are.” Joe rode down to the march with his church from the Bronx. Since New York passed same-sex marriage, he has noticed same-sex couples holding hands in public more often, admitting, “It makes me uncomfortable.”
In addition to religious and moral reasons, some had concerns about health and children. Elsa brought her family from Leesburg, Virginia because she believes same-sex parenting is harmful to children. “Depending on the studies that you’re willing to admit to,” she said, “there have been studies that show how difficult children have it when they only have one mother, one father, or the same-gender. You end up with a misunderstanding of the human person and there’s gender confusion.” She went on to explain that “nature doesn’t agree” with homosexuality, which is why there are “wards full of HIV-positive people and people dying of serious diseases.”
One of the many pastors who attended the march, who preferred not to disclose his name, similarly suggested that “the gay lifestyle is not gay. It’s filled with drug abuse, and violence, and sadness, and unhappiness.” He expects that there will eventually be a backlash against “the gay agenda.”
Right Wing Watch has compiled many highlights from the march’s speakers. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) told the audience that “real men” need to stand up for marriage because “your woman, your wife, she needs you.” New York state Sen. Ruben Diaz (D) believes that Satan has run the public schools ever since the Supreme Court ruled that organized school prayer was unconstitutional. NOM’s chairman, John Eastman, drew a comparison between allowing marriage equality in all 50 states and the Dred Scott decision, in which the Supreme Court ruled that African Americans could not be American citizens. And echoing sentiments expressed in the Washington Times supplement promoting the march, Sam Rohrer of the American Pastors Network suggested that legalizing same-sex marriage will “destroy the very fabric of our nation.”
Shannon Greenwood is an intern at ThinkProgress.