This week, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in two cases that could redefine marriage in this country. On Monday, supporters of gay marriage held rallies in all 50 states, including one at the Florida Capitol.
Drivers in front of Florida’s Old Historic Capitol building honked their horns to show support for people holding signs with slogans like “For My Son, Equal Rights” and “Love is Love is Love.”
Susan Gage, with the Tallahassee chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, took the microphone.
“Are we ready to recognize that the struggle for equal rights, from Seneca Falls to Selma to Stonewall, is a struggle borne by everyone? That the continued oppression of people is an oppression of all people? Are we ready to end discrimination in this country?” she asked.
The Tallahassee rally happened at the same time as others in every other state and Washington D.C. This Tuesday and Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage, and also the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which denies marital benefits to legally married gay couples.
Gage said, “So I guess if gay people are changing the definition of marriage, we’re changing it to finally be about the love shared between two people who want to spend their lives together and have the full legal and federal rights afforded to all citizens. What a novel concept.”
Two-thousand eight was the year California passed Proposition 8, and Florida voters also passed a constitutional amendment prohibiting any same-sex union that resembles marriage. Every year since then, state Sen. Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood) has introduced a bill that would allow domestic partnerships. This year is the first time the bill has been heard in committee. It would grant a handful of rights to any couple registering as domestic partners. Phoebe McFarlin, with the Episcopal Church of the United States, supports the bill.
“It’s a step in the right direction, but it does not go far enough. It means that the same-sex couples get, what? Eight, ten things? Not thousands of rights, so I am hoping and fighting for marriage,” she said.
McFarlin was among the sign wavers in front of the Capitol on Monday. The rally also attracted at least one gay marriage opponent, a man who quoted the Bible and urged the supporters to stop sinning. Heidi Haire, of Tallahassee held a sign that said “Taking Civil Rights Is UnAmerican.” She had this to say to the protester: “I love you. Why can’t you love people back?”
Opponents of gay marriage have argued it would negatively affect children raised by same-sex couples. But Leon High School student Emalee Schierman, one of the speakers at the rally, disagrees. “I think my two moms have done a pretty great job raising four children, but I’ll be sure to let you know if their lessons on unconditional love and acceptance ever affect me negatively.”
Schierman is president of her school’s gay-straight alliance.
“Even if gay marriage was legal in Florida, DOMA denies federal protections to our families, such as Social Security, health insurance and retirement savings,” she said. “They are denying us rights as if we are second-class citizens.”
National support for gay marriage is at an all-time high, at 58 percent. That’s according to a recent poll by the Washington Post and ABC News.
The Supreme Court is not expected to issue rulings in the two cases until late June.