LGBT rights supporters counter anti-gay marriage demonstration

A pro-LGBT counter protester. Photo: Tony Merevick.

A pro-LGBT counter protester. Photo: Tony Merevick.

LGBT rights advocates and anti-gay marriage demonstrators faced off on the city’s Northwest Side Saturday morning.

Conservative religious demonstrators rallying against same-sex marriage outside a Logan Square church were met by dozens of LGBT rights supporters who appeared to counter what they allege is an effort to pit local Latino communities against pending marriage equality legislation in the Illinois House.

LGBT rights activists from the Gay Liberation Network and other groups chanted demands for equal rights — “derechos para todos,” or “rights for all” — into loud speakers, while anti-gay demonstrators led by a local church and the Illinois Family Institute shouted back, “one woman, one man.”

“This is a very cynical divide and conquer strategy,” said Andy Thayer, co-founder of GLN, who alleges the IFI is rallying Latino congregations against the bill. The groups held a similar demonstration outside the Aurora district office of Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia last Saturday.

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“We’ve seen this strategy from the IFI before,” Thayer said. “It’s important that we call out the opposition to equal rights as bigotry as opposed to more moderate responses.”

The two sides shouted over each other in Palmer Square near 2200 N. Sacramento Ave. until the anti-gay demonstrators marched south on Humboldt Boulevard toward Humboldt Park. Pro-marriage equality counter protesters quickly surrounded the group, sandwiching them at the front and back and temporarily blocking them from marching.

At one point, tempers flared when LGBT rights activists and an a pastor shouted in each other’s faces.

“Your bigotry is killing young queer people,” an LGBT rights supporter yelled at the man.

Rev. Luis Ruiz of the Christian Assembly Rios de Agua Viva near Midway on the city’s South Side, denied that he and other demonstrators were in favor of discrimination and decried accusations of bigotry.

“We are in favor of [peoples’ rights] as prescribed by God,” Ruiz said. “We are not against anyone’s rights. We are praying for the city … We all need prayer …”

In addition, Ruiz denied that the demonstration specifically targeted the same-sex marriage legislation languishing in the Illinois House of Representatives. A vote on the bill — its final hurdle before it can become law — is expected at any point in the coming weeks.

“We are praying for the gun legislation, we are praying for immigration,” he said. “Show me one sign that says we’re against equal rights. We are not against equal rights — equal rights for everyone.”

Meanwhile, passing cars honked in support of what appeared to be a largely pro-marriage equality march — as the anti-gay demonstrators were shrouded by rainbow flags. One driver pumped his fist and cheered out his window as he passed and high-fived a protester.

But even some demonstrators recognized the tension between the opposing groups, which at times, marched alongside one another.

“We’ve got people on this side sort of being antagonistic to them,” said Shelley DeHosse of Hyde Park, who marched on behalf of marriage equality. “Minorities should be on the same side — for equality, immigration rights — just on the side of humanity.”

The march ended near Humboldt Park in the 1200 block of South Sacramento Avenue as the religious congregation poured into a community center for another rally with live music. Pro-gay demonstrators and press were not permitted to enter.

The IFI and its religious organization partners plan to hold several more demonstrations against marriage equality in the coming weeks. The next will take place outside of the Downers Grove district office of Rep. Ron Sandack at 633 Rogers St. on May 4.