Monday, July 26, 2010

Marriage Rally and Counter-Protest: Some Thoughts

Once again, you can read my thoughts on Twitter to see what was going on during the rally.

The folks rallying for traditional marriage were from the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), which is sponsoring a bus tour across several states. They had several speakers, only one of whom I recognized. Micah Clark. Clark is the executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana and has lobbied the General Assembly of Indiana for several years for a state marriage amendment defining marriage as one man and one woman. Their rally took place on the east side of the State House.

The counter-demonstrators started on both the east side of the state house and another, possibly separate, group of demonstrators on the south side of the state house. While one of the people on the south side group told me their counter-demonstration was going to be in silence, it appears that it quickly changed once the group met with other groups that were already on the east side. A few demonstrators led the counter-protest in chants such as "What do we want? Equal rights! When do we want it now? Now!"

After the speakers finished, the counter-protesters marched up a few steps onto the State House and stood by the Morton statue. After NOM left, the counter-protest marched around the statue a few times, the gentleman with the loud speaker thanked everyone for coming out and then a lot of the group rushed to the Marriage Bus to have their picture taken.

Bil Browning, founder of The Bilerico Project, estimated the crowd at about 40 on the side of NOM and 250 counter-protesting. WIBC estimated at 50 and 80, respectfully. WIBC's story also notes that Indiana law already bans same-sex marriage

Most of the signs with the NOM crowd were manufactured by the organization. Among the home made signs, one protester had a sign that said "Sodom, Gomorrah,America, 3 of a kind; Genesis 18:20, Their Sin is very grievous." The gentleman, Larry Adams of the Baptist Ministry Alliance, had his name, organization, and phone number at the lower end of the sign. He had a second sign that he had showed earlier, but refused to show it to me when I asked to take a picture. The sign had two nooses, and quoted Leviticus, and started with "The solution to homosexuals" or something similar. I didn't have enough time to get the exact quote from Leviticus, but you can draw your own conclusions from it.

I try to speak to people who might have a unique perspective when I go to public forums, protests, and so on. I spoke to one woman who seemed like she attended alone. Her sign read "Another straight Christian for equal rights for all." She explained to me that she is a Republican but said that her fellow Christians and Republicans are missing the point. She framed it as a rights issue rather than a morality issue. She said that this issue will affect how she votes in upcoming elections.

As to how this plays in politics, there's a few ways to look at it.

The counter-demonstrators "win" the rally. Not only did they have more numbers, but organizers told me most were local citizens, though a select few from marriage equality organizations were in the crowd as well. Compared that to NOM's crowd, which besides Micah Clark and a handful of others, piled onto the Marriage Bus and left town.

But does the rally really mean anything? Some of the counter-protesters were wearing Democratic Party shirts, and I'd bet that most were at least center-left voters, if not solid Democratic/liberal votes. Compare that to the NOM crowd, and from who I talked to and who I saw, were mostly conservative and Republican. So it's not like either side at the rally has a lot of swing voters in it.

My take? Politically, it's an issue that will go nowhere at the state level. Republicans who run on passing the marriage amendment in the General Assembly won't be picking up votes, and might even alienate some center-right and center-left moderates and independents. And most of the people who don't want it passed are voting Democratic anyway.

On the federal level, it's got some legs. Congressman Brad Ellseworth (D-8th District), who is running for the United States Senate, was not endorsed by Indiana Stonewall Democrats at the party's nomination meeting. Ellsworth's campaign should take note of the crowd that came out to demonstrate against NOM's rally. All of the counter-demonstrators are potential Ellsworth campaign volunteers and donors, and all it would take to be more open to LGBT issues.

Likewise, Dan Coats (R), who is running for the same Senate seat, should note that very few were motivated enough to show up at the rally for NOM and it won't help him win campaign donors, volunteers, or votes. He can probably take the same route Governor Mitch Daniels has taken, and that is quietly support these efforts while not making it a central part of a campaign.

Anybody who has heard me talk about rights and benefits before knows that I want them applied equally to all people. It's sad that we even need to have this discussion to begin with, but even worse is that it doesn't seem that there is a political party or candidate out there who really wants equal rights for all. Especially when it comes to marriage. Even some of the most liberal members inside the United States Congress believe that marriage is between one man and one woman. Unfortunately, for marriage equality advocates, it looks like they will have to wait for a new generation of politicians to even begin to pull back the legislation and state constitutional amendments against marriage equality.

UPDATE: Media and blog reactions:

NOM Hate Bus Rolls Into Indianapolis from The Bilerico Project (also has a photo of some posters and interview with Larry Adams)


  1. Their Maryland rally was apparently unfriendly towards some people with cameras.

  2. DI, thanks for the link. I read that blog a few years ago while researching photography rights and police interaction. Across the country, it's pretty much the same. If you're in a public area, regular folk (and media and so on) can video tape you.

    Both "sides" had plenty of photos and video cameras, as well as some media. The state troopers had some issues with a couple of signs that were not being held by hand, but other than that, there wasn't any interaction by demonstrators or police.

  3. This is a simple issue. The separation between Church and State should be the talking point. The High Courts have upheld that there should be a separation, and thus there should be. Marriage is a Religious Ceremony, and thus the State "Government" should not be issuing Marriage Licenses. Civil Unions, conducted through contract law should be applied to two people wanting to spend their life together.

  4. Baloo, in an ideal world, that's what we should go with. But politics is the art of the possible. It's a more feasible goal for marriage to be allowed for same sex couples rather than throwing civil marriage out and replacing it with civil unions.

  5. IS,
    Brad Ellsworth is never going to support gay marriage. He is amenable to Civil Unions, and he is making major progress with the Stonewall Leadership. Just FYI


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