by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
Valentine's Day means different things to different people. Some call it consumerism at its finest, while others mock the fact that lovers might treat one day out of the year as being more special than any other day. For LGBT activists, February 14 was an opportunity they couldn't pass up.
On that day, loving, committed same-sex couples, accompanied by their friends and supporters, asked for marriage licenses as part of Freedom to Marry Week. This is the 15th year in a row that couples have appeared at county clerks' offices to request marriage licenses - and thus render visible the harm that excluding them from marriage causes them and their families.
"I could have chosen to attend my children's Valentine events at their elementary school - but I chose instead to get arrested in an act of nonviolent civil disobedience to take a stand for LGBTQ equality," said Robin McGehee, director of GetEQUAL.
These annual actions, started by Marriage Equality USA in the mid-'90s, took place this year in 18 locations across the country, including Utah, Ohio, Florida, and West Virginia - states without marriage equality laws.
PROTESTING UNJUST LAWS
"As we head to the Supreme Court next month for hearings on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8, these actions are designed to show the impact that these laws have on the real lives of LGBTQ Americans," said Heather Cronk, managing director of GetEQUAL. "These laws are unjust and immoral, and we are confronting those laws head-on across the country, from Utah to West Virginia. Marriage is not a states' rights issue - it's a fundamental promise of the Constitution for all Americans."
"President Obama's inauguration speech included LGBTIQ Americans in a way that was inspiring, powerful, and timely. He tied Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall together with the same thread, forever binding the fabric of civil rights across all generations," stated Brian Silva, executive director of Marriage Equality USA. "For the first time in a presidential inauguration speech, we heard LGBTIQ people included in 'We the People.' However, same-sex couples still cannot marry the person they love in the majority of American states. To that end, we will once again gather at marriage counters on Valentine's Day and ask to be issued marriage licenses."
The 2013 events were sponsored by a coalition of diverse organizations including GetEQUAL, Marriage Equality USA, California Faith for Equality, the Foundation for Family and Marriage Equality (Texas), and the Coalition of Welcoming Congregations.
"Today we go to marriage license counters across the country to tell the stories of our LGBTIQ friends and family, to show that they live in every community and that we want to honor and protect their families just like everyone else," said the Rev. Rebecca Harrison, a Presbyterian pastor who led couples at San Francisco City Hall. "Love makes a marriage and the time for marriage equality is now."
A straight ally, Harrison comes by her inclusive views naturally. Her father was a Presbyterian minister who supported civil rights in the South during the long fight to integrate the region's public schools.
ALL EYES ON THE COURT
The annual Valentine's Day event has never been more important, as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear two landmark marriage equality cases next month.
"Same-sex couples will be asking for marriage licenses on Valentine's Day, just as briefs in the marriage cases are being filed with the United States Supreme Court. This year, couples will hold hands at the marriage counter with the hope that the Justices will rule on the side of love, so that the court cases can stop and the wedding plans can start," said John Lewis, legal director for Marriage Equality USA.
"I may be missing my children's Valentine parties today, but knowing that you will join me in this call to action makes missing that moment with them worth it," said Cronk. "In the end, if we can seize this moment now, the lessons my children will learn about their family's right to life, liberty, and justice will be invaluable."
"Find a way to get involved," urges Cronk. "We need you to mobilize during this 'movement moment' and to help us get equal!"
Share on Facebook
Share on Delicious
Share on StumbleUpon!