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Shepard Marchers Rally for Marriage

By Tracy Baim

Windy City Times

Oct. 8, 2003

The right-wing movement to pass a Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage was the rallying cry for the 5th annual Matthew Shepard March sponsored by the Chicago Anti-Bashing Network.

"This is a connection between marriage and violence," said CABN's Andy Thayer to the crowd of about 200 people gathered at the corner of Roscoe and Halsted in Boys Town.

"As long as our community does not have full and equal rights, we are targeted," Thayer said.

The rally was held just blocks from Wrigley Field as the Cubs game was letting out at 8 p.m. Saturday. The rally soon became a march, with signs, buttons and chants calling for equal rights to marriage, trans rights, and more.

One male taxi passenger shouted "Faggots!" from the safety of his vehicle, despite dozens of police lined up to guard the rally. CABN's Bob Schwartz, who had the microphone at the time, shouted back "If you don't like it, get out of this area."

Among the speakers were Rich Halperin of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, National Organization for Women of Chicago Lesbian Rights Leader Meghan Streit, and Church of the Open Door co-pastor Thom Ford, in addition to Thayer and Schwartz.

Halperin emphasized the upcoming Oct. 12-18 "Marriage Protection Week," and what groups are doing to counter the anti-gay attacks. PFLAG has passed a resolution in favor of same-sex marriage, and they are telling members to attend their churches Oct. 12-18 to fight against the proposed Constitutional Amendment banning gay and lesbian marriage.

Ford spoke passionately about the connections between Dr. Martin Luther King's movements and the fight for LGBT rights.

"[We must have] active participation in the fight to have the larger community's policies regulations and laws reflect the legitimate needs, wants and desires of the people it represents," Ford said.

"Achieving these results means moving from our comfort zones to 'carefronting' zones where we can make a difference just be being who we are," Ford said. "The issue of same-gender-loving marriage is not the issue as used by this [presidential] administration. What it actually is, is a call to rally by those in power. It is a diversion tactic. To divert attention from the real issues affecting us locally and globally, to rally support and votes from the apathetic constituents who will passionately respond to a perceived personal threat to their comfortable lifestyles and fundamental safe mental paradigms."

"Five years ago, Matthew Shepard was assaulted, beaten, and humiliated by Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, and then left to die alone in one of the most dehumanizing displays ever witnessed in this country," said Chicago NOW's Meghan Streit. "That night, a 20-year-old boy's dreams for his future vanished, a family was destroyed, and a community was shaken. …On Oct. 6, 1998, we all learned that 'things like that happen here.' If Matthew's murder, this crime of hate perpetrated by two monsters in Wyoming, was an isolated incident, we might be able to find some solace. But as we all know, it was not an isolated incident, and it is not a thing of the past.

"These are not special privileges that we are asking for," Streit continued. "We're asking for the right to have joint custody of our children, for their protection and our peace of mind. We're asking for the guarantee that our assets will be transferred to the person we have spent our life with when we die. We're asking that our committed relationships with people who are not American citizens be recognized under U.S. immigration laws. We're asking that our employers be required to provide health insurance to our partners, so that we have the freedom to raise our children in a manner that we choose-not dependent on the benevolence of a particular company. We're asking for the right to sit in a hospital room when our life partner is sick or dying. We are asking that the United States join the 13 other civilized nations around the world and legalize marriage for all people in this country. It's a basic right, it's fundamental to how adult people in this society structure their lives, and we should not have to be asking for the privilege to marry anymore."

The Associated Press last week reported that "Organizers from more than two dozen groups, including the Southern Baptist Convention, the American Family Association and the Christian Coalition, say they want to make gay marriage the No. 1 social issue in the 2004 election."

"The reality is that these groups are cynically using gay marriage as a 'wedge issue' to divert people's attention from the failings of the Bush administration," said Bob Schwartz. "Whether it's the economy, Iraq, or now, the CIA scandal, they are desperate to change the subject."



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