On Saturday, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) once again held a “March for Marriage” on the National Mall, rallying opponents of marriage equality before marching them to the Supreme Court. Given the Court’s expected ruling in favor of nationwide marriage equality in the coming months, it may have been the last march of its kind — or at least the last with any semblance of political implication.
Organizers claimed that there were 10,000 people in attendance, though ThinkProgress estimated closer to 6,000. As in years past, New York City was overrepresented at the rally, specifically individuals from various conservative Hispanic church communities in Brooklyn and the Bronx. They rode buses to Washington, DC thanks to organizing efforts from New York State Sen. Ruben Diaz (D) and other religious leaders from those neighborhoods, like Rev. Erick Salgado.
Diaz was the only elected lawmaker who spoke, and he didn’t hesitate to brag that he was also a Democrat — the only Democrat who opposed marriage equality in the New York Senate. His outspoken opposition to LGBT equality is well documented.
ThinkProgress spoke with some of the attendees about their motivations for being there. Three high school seniors from southern Indiana were on a class trip and had wandered over to the rally during their free time. Two of them were actually supporters of marriage equality who didn’t understand the rally’s intentions. The third explained that she wants everyone to be happy, but still has reservations about allowing same-sex couples to marry.
Religion was the overwhelming influence for the rally both onstage and off. Two Catholic women from the DC area in their late 20’s explained that the government “can’t redefine” marriage because there absolute rights and absolute wrongs. Same-sex unions “don’t fit together” and violate “natural law.” Ellen, 27, explained that people should not engage in behaviors just because they are inclined to. Referring to a childhood gay friend who had elected for a life of celibacy, she offered the metaphor that just because she could eat chocolate cake for dessert every night doesn’t mean that she should. She shared her own commitment to these principles, explaining that she has not had sex her with boyfriend yet and is still a virgin.
Several people highlighted “religious freedom” as one of their concerns, news of the $135,000 judgment against the Oregon bakery that discriminated against a same-sex couple fresh on their minds. Bill and Mary Jo, a couple in their late 50s from Connecticut, told ThinkProgress that such bakers should be free to refuse the same services for a same-sex couple’s “so-called marriage” that they provide for other couples’ weddings.
Many attendees also cited the stories of the adult children who have expressed their bitterness about having a gay parent to support their opposition to marriage equality. These narratives, they explained, added to the evidence that there are consequences to same-sex couples raising children. None of the individuals who referred to these stories was aware of the fact that not only were all of those children raised decades before same-sex marriage was a legal possibility, but all of them experienced their parents’ divorce before being raised by a same-sex couple.
Here are some of the images ThinkProgress captured from the march:
CREDIT: ThinkProgress/Zack Ford
Participants were greeted by the red banners and capes of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP), a conservative Catholic organization. TFP’s troupe included many young teenage boys — no women. In a brochure they distributed at the rally, they argue that “human nature cannot be both ‘straight’ and ‘homosexual’ at the same time.” They believe that this is the case based on “logic,” what they call the “principle of non-contradiction.” They also claim that psychologically, “same-sex affection is friendship,” thus, “to seek conjugal love with a person of the same sex is an abnormality, a psychological deviation.”
The official mass-produced signs, printed in English on one side and Spanish on another, claimed that this was a march “for truth.” Other common signs insisted that “a child needs a mother and a father.”
There were some more extreme signs brought by specific individuals. Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality was also on-hand.
Perhaps referencing NOM’s work opposing LGBT rights in Russia, the Orthodox Church had a more visible presence at the march compared to previous years. NOM confirmed this week its intention to expand its role globally.
Opponents of a woman’s right to choose were also in attendance.
NOM’s Brian Brown and Sen. Diaz led the march to from the Mall to the Supreme Court.
Stretched out in the march, the crowd looked bigger than it did clumped at the rally on the Mall. Volunteers from the New York Hispanic Clergy Organization helped organize the exodus.
At the Supreme Court, LGBT activists, including some members of the Sisters for Perpetual Indulgence, silently awaited the march’s arrival. Diaz claimed at the podium that they were somehow interfering with the march’s ability to demonstrate.
When the march arrived at the Supreme Court, the front stopped there while the rest of followers attempted to fill in. As speakers took the podium there, participants struggled to find room, with many remaining stuck up the street.
Off to the side, dozens were already camped out awaiting seats for Tuesday’s oral arguments. Among them were Frank Colasonti Jr. and James Ryder, the first same-sex couple to legally marry in Oakland County, Michigan.