Rally Planned Ahead of Supreme Court Hearings
At a Castro church, the organizers of March4Equality stood in a circle holding hands below red mesh hearts made from contorted Hula Hoops and, in a meditative trance, vocally imagined themselves rallying for same-sex marriage amid a lively evening at Castro and Market streets.
The organizers mostly have no prior LGBT activism experience and are working with no funds. But at their first public meeting, the impassioned group of some 20 activists strategized for the Monday, March 25 rally that they are organizing in advance of oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court in two same-sex marriage cases.
The court will hear arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry , the federal challenge to Proposition 8, California’s same-sex marriage ban, on Tuesday, March 26. The next day, the court will hear arguments in a case challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act, U.S. v. Windsor.
Last month, activists Cleve Jones and David Mixner called on local LGBT folks to organize rallies or marches in their communities timed to coincide with the arguments at the Supreme Court.
The local group planning the March 25 event formed just weeks ago and dovetails with President Barack Obama’s recent reiteration of support for same-sex marriage and the friend-of-the-court brief signed by dozens of prominent Republicans in support of marriage equality that was submitted to the high court.
"It’s our chance to stand with Obama and to stand for equality," said 54-year-old organizer Gregg Cassin as the group held hands.
By the meeting’s end, all positions were filled by people who attended the meeting after hearing about it on Facebook, being invited by roommates or as members of Metropolitan Community Church-San Francisco at 150 Eureka Street, where the meeting was held.
Heather Akers-Healy, 35, a member of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission’s LGBT advisory committee, said she heard about the meeting online and will work on event promotion, like distributing leaflets in Dolores Park during the weekend preceding the rally.
The organizers displayed fliers designed by Madeleine Maguire, 21, a student studying graphic design at the California College of the Arts. One flier reads, "Seneca Falls, Selma, Stonewall, San Francisco" in bold characters featuring protest images from the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City, widely credited as the birth of the modern gay rights movement.
Most of those at the meeting have never worked in LGBT activism, if any activism at all. Cassin and co-organizer Aaron Baldwin know each other through years of both being HIV-positive, and Cassin met Emanuel Yekutiel, 23, while Yekutiel was visiting Cassin’s apartment building for afternoon tea.
"I love this state and I don’t have the same rights as other Californians, and it’s an inequity," Yekutiel said. A real estate consultant, Yekutiel’s only prior experience in organizing political actions was during Obama’s 2012 campaign.
The group is interested in securing support from state or national organizations such as Equality California and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
An early evening rally in favor of marriage equality at the corner of Castro and Market streets will doubtless meet a positive reception - but the group sought to expand that interest. Baldwin said this week that they want to march to City Hall if there is enough turnout. If there are too few people in attendance, the group will stay in Harvey Milk Plaza, he said.
The Reverend Victor Floyd, who began pastoring at MCC-SF six months ago, said that his predominately LGBT congregation strongly supports marriage equality and he’d start Holy Week with the references to the protest this year.
"Everyone comes for Holy Week and complains that we do the same songs. I think we’ll start Holy Week with this," Floyd said.
Last month saw a deluge of bipartisan support for overturning both Prop 8 and DOMA, which exempts same-sex couples from federal benefits granted to heterosexual married couples. As previously reported, the president submitted a brief asking the Supreme Court to overturn Prop 8, deeming it unconstitutional.
And last month also saw a legal brief signed by prominent Republicans like former top advisers to former President George W. Bush, governors, and members of Congress, arguing that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right.
"Let’s visualize people jumping on their bikes, getting on the train and getting in their cars on March 25, and us making a change," Cassin said to the attendees as they closed their meeting and meditated.
The March4Equality will begin at the corner of Castro and Market streets on March 25 at 6:30 p.m.