Local groups plan marriage equality rally

DOMA, Prop 8 to go before Supreme Court on March 26

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Next week, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear arguments regarding two laws dealing with marriage equality: the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8. Whatever the court's decision, it will have an impact same-sex couples in Charleston and across the country. So on Mon. March 26 at 6 p.m., the Alliance for Full Acceptance, along with other local organizations, will host a civil demonstration in support of marriage equality on the steps of the U.S. Custom House. The event is part of a national effort, as more than 100 cities across the country (including Columbia) host rallies, vigils, and other public presentations on the eve of what could be a historical decision.

"The idea was to have a public display so that people will begin to understand that there is this really large groundswell of support for marriage equality," AFFA executive director Warren Redman-Gress says. "Many people don't really pay attention to stories that come out about the support for marriage equality, and after the last election they did a poll of bipartisan voters and they showed that 75 percent of the people who were polled believed that a person should have a right to marry whom they love and that that's a constitutional right." Just last week, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican, very publicly flipped his opposition to gay marriage.

Should the Supreme Court rule in favor of equality, that means marriages like Redman-Gress' would be recognized by the federal government — despite South Carolina's own constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage and civil unions. "Even when it comes to state-level issues, with DOMA repealed, the state may be forced to look more carefully at issues around marriage and custody of children and things like that," Redman-Gress says. "Couples who are married in other places will have federal recognition, but the other piece really is it's a step along the way for all states to begin to recognize marriage equality. And states are going to be on different points along that journey."

A number of other local groups and organization are also sponsoring the event, from LGBT groups like Charleston Area Transgender Support and the S.C. Log Cabin Republicans to the American Civil Liberties Union and the Charleston Green Party. And, as Redman-Gress points out, a number of local churches have pledged their support, including the Circular Congregational Church, St. Padre Pio Old Catholic Church, St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, and more. "In other cities, we're not seeing that," he says. "We're seeing a lot of civic organizations ... but we have a fair number of church communities that have said they want to be a part of this call for marriage equality. And I think that just shows us that the support for marriage equality has gotten much further along in faith communities than many people presume."

Redman-Gress hopes the event will be an encouraging moment, and a chance for the greater Charleston community to make a statement. "The communities in which we live know that there is a large support for marriage equality in our own town, regardless of what people think about South Carolina being forwards or backwards on issues," he says. "We're going to have religious people there and not-so-religious people there. We'll have liberals and conservatives there — folks who believe that individuals have the right to marry the person they love."

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