Marching Against Marriage Equality

Jamelle Bouie

A group from New Jersey marches in the National Organization for Marriage's "March for Marriage."

This morning's gathering at the Supreme Court in favor of marriage equality was matched—in numbers if not intensity—by a march against marriage quality on the National Mall organized by the National Organization for Marriage. A long line of people, two columns deep, walked from one end of the Mall to the other, and then made their way to the steps of the Supreme Court, where they demonstrated against the push for same-sex marriage.

The crowd was large—at least a thousand people, if not several—and surprisingly diverse, with an even mix of young people, African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, whites and others. And while they had come together to oppose same-sex marriage, these were not hateful protesters of Westboro Baptist Church. They were friendly and happy to be outside. Parents brought their children (often holding signs that said "Kids need a mom and a dad"), and one school—attending from Pennsylvania—brought its marching band. For a group that wants to block legal recognition for same-sex couples and families, it was a sunny event.

"I'm here to support the idea that marriage is one man and one woman," said Mary Sprague, a student at Pope John Paul the Great Catholic High School in nearby Dumfries, Virginia. The problem with gay marriage, she explained, was that the "pieces didn't fit"—there was no "point" to the sex act.

A good number of attendees came from several churches in the New York area. One demonstrator, a young Latino man from the Bronx, told me that he was just here to "support what God established." "We're not here to show hate," he said, "Hate would be causing bodily harm. Me and you can disagree, but that doesn't mean I hate you." Sharone Campbell, a young African American mother from Harlem, had a similar take, "God made Adam and Eve—two men and two women can't produce children. This isn't about hate—in God's eyes, this is just not a right."

This was a big crowd, however, and a few of the marchers held more ideological views. "Biblical principles aren't being demonstrated at the Supreme Court," said David Clark, who came up from Alleghany County, Virginia, located in the central portion of the state. He runs a welding company that's doing well enough to allow him to come to Washington and stand in defense of California's Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, "One judge shouldn't be able to strike down a law from the majority of voters," he said.

Given the size of the anti-marriage equality group and its diversity, you might assume it represents a cross-section of America—or even a majority. One marcher complained that a minority was forcing America to accept same-sex marriage, which was—he said—an "unjust" move to take.

The fact of the matter, however, is that support for same-sex marriage is deeper than opposition. A recent Washington Post poll, for example, found significant support for marriage equality, with 58 percent of Americans saying it should be legal for gay and lesbian couples to get married. And a new poll from CNN and ORC International found that 53 percent of Americans now support same-sex marriage, up from 40 percent in 2007.

"We're labeled bigots," said John Paul Lechner, an attendee from the Washington D.C. area who has also attended pro-life demonstrations, "and there's consternation directed toward us." Even if the Court upholds Prop 8 and DOMA, there's no escaping this judgment—Lechner, and the many others like him on the Mall this morning, have been left behind as the country gives its embrace to marriage equality.