Community to rally ahead of Supreme Court same-sex marriage arguments

Photo: Tony Merevick

Photo: Tony Merevick

Local proponents of same-sex marriage will take to the streets Monday to demand the U.S. Supreme Court strike down a discriminatory provision of federal law that bans the recognition of gay and lesbian unions as well as a California statewide ban on same-sex marriage.

Chicago LGBT rights and political activists will rally and march through the Loop as over 170 cities across the country hold similar events ahead of the high court’s first-ever consideration of same-sex marriage laws March 26 and March 27, when it hears oral arguments in the cases of United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry.

The Chicago demonstration will begin with a rally at Federal Plaza at 5:30 p.m. Monday where community advocates, religious leaders and other supporters of LGBT rights will address the crowd. Organizers then plan to march from Federal Plaza to Pioneer Plaza — in front of Tribune Tower and NBC Tower — just north of the Michigan Avenue Bridge, the organizers said.

“We need to let the Supreme Court know that we’re watching,” said Richard Streetman, an advocate and organizer. “People from 170 communities from throughout the nation believe their constitution was created to guarantee basic human rights to everyone no matter who they love.”

Speaking before other demonstrators, Streetman will be joined by longtime LGBT rights advocates like Rick Garcia of The Civil Rights Agenda and Andy Thayer of the Gay Liberation Network. Other speakers may include elected officials and religious leaders, according to Streetman, who is finalizing the lineup.

Thayer, who has led countless direct action demonstrations, said it’s about forcing the Supreme Court to “do the right thing” and stay align with public opinion on the issue.

“We have forced the court to do the right thing,” Thayer said. “That’s what the women’s movement did in the ’70s with Roe v. Wade. If they get too far out of sync with public opinion, then they risk credibility as a democratic institution.

“We must force them to do the right thing,” Thayer added.

The demonstrations will fall on the the 48th anniversary of the end of the Selma to Montgomery, Ala. marches, which are often regarded as the peak of the American civil rights movement. Monday is also the first night of Passover, so Streetman decided to start the rally earlier than in other cities so that the Jewish community can be involved, he said.

Both cases argue that depriving gay and lesbian couples of the same rights afforded to heterosexual couples violates equal protections under the law as provided by the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution — with Windsor challenging the federal ban, the Defense of Marriage Act and Hollingsworth challenging the California statewide ban, Proposition 8.

In anticipation of the oral arguments, Thayer said the court could rule in one of three ways. It could rule in favor of the bans and leave them unchanged, it could narrowly rule against the bans and propose a state by state approach to the legalization of same-sex marriage or it could rule to uphold the equal protections clause and strike down both DOMA and Prop. 8, Thayer said.

“As a community, we have to send them the message that we won’t accept anything less than that.”