LGBT rights groups rally Tuesday as Supreme Court hears arguments
At the direction of Ryan Wilson, executive director of S.C. Equality, protesters stormed the stairs of the Statehouse Tuesday and claimed the building as their own.
“This is our legislature too, y’all,” Wilson said.
The protesters wore red and chanted in support of same-sex marriage at a critical time for the hot-button issue.
This week, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments on two cases related to same-sex marriage.
One is a challenge to Proposition 8, a 2008 California referendum that bans such marriages. The second contests the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law passed in 1996 that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
Both laws were challenged at the rally, as protesters and speakers highlighted their opinions of what “equality” should mean in the American judicial system.
“We cannot confuse fairness and equality, just as we cannot confuse tolerance with acceptance,” read a letter penned by Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott. “This talk of equality under the law has us looking a little closer. ... Regardless of the outcome, we must work together to not lose the progress we have already made.”
That was a belief echoed by a group of clergy members, who expressed religious support of same-sex marriage.
Representing the clergymen was Carl Evans, professor emeritus of religious studies at USC. A retired Methodist minister, Evans promoted unity and support among those of different religions.
“The time has come for all of God’s children to enjoy the same rights and privileges of marriage,” he said. “My apologies to Bob Dylan, but ‘How many years can some people exist before they’re allowed to be free?’”
The sentiment was poignant for many in the crowd, including those personally affected by Proposition 8 and DOMA.
“I’m passionate about this subject because I was raised by two moms,” said Laura Engel, a first-year criminal justice student. “They’ve been together for 15 years, and I don’t know why they can’t be married.”
That question was repeated constantly during the rally, with protestors carrying banners that added some humor to the debate: “Liz Taylor had 8 marriages, my friends just want one” and “Defend Dumbledore’s Rights.”
Representing USC’s chapter of Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Straight Alliance was Zac Baker, its former president, who spoke about the university’s accomplishments in supporting gay rights, including its “It Gets Better” video and an upcoming “Queer Prom.”
“We’ve done so much, but we have even more work to do at USC,” Baker said.
The crowd comprised a mixture of race, religion and gender and featured a range of ages, including Kimberly Cockrell, who spoke about why her middle school-age son decided to attend.
“He asked to come because he understood that this is so his Uncle Nick can get married,” Cockrell said. “I didn’t push him; he just adores his godfather.”