“Charleston believes in marriage equality!” A small but mighty group of students, faculty, and community members sang out this chant on Tuesday, April 16 in the Cistern Yard at a marriage equality rally. The group included the rally’s organizer, senior Dan Klein, as well as special speakers Dr. Leigh Moscowitz from the communication department and Tom Holcomb from Safe Zone. The Gay-Straight Alliance also collaborated with the event.
Klein organized the rally in hopes of reminding the community that marriage equality is an urgent topic. “It’s a really important issue and people should remember that there are people in our country who are not living with their constitutional rights,” he said.
Holcomb touched on the disputed unconstitutionality of denying homosexual people the right to marry, as well, citing a denial of the pursuit of happiness. In addition, rights regarding hospital visitations, child custody, taxes and more are denied to unmarried homosexual couples. Marriage also has intrinsic value as an aspect of American culture.
Moscowitz compared the benefits and arguments supporting gay marriage to a familiar battle ground fought 50 years ago – interracial marriage. “Those of us who are committed to social justice causes see that there is a connection between these two things,” she said.
The comparison between civil rights and gay rights was especially poignant because the rally fell on the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail. Moscowitz reminded the group of the lesson learned from Letter from Birmingham Jail, saying, “We have a moral obligation to break unjust laws.”
Some of the legal battles have already been fought and won, beginning with Massachusetts’ legalization of gay marriage in 2004. Since then, eight other states have legalized gay marriage, and two court cases contesting the illegitimacy of gay marriages are currently before the Supreme Court. “We’ve come a long way maybe,” Holcomb said. “but we still have a long way to go.”
Isabel Williams, secretary of the Gay-Straight Alliance, shared her perspective on the gay community at the College after the other speakers finished. “This campus I think is extremely inclusive and everyone can feel happy here no matter who you are,” she said. “I think it’s really exciting for all of us that we can be a part of this movement right now.”
She echoed Klein’s original reason for creating the rally, saying, “We’re here today to say that we haven’t forgotten yet – that [marriage equality] wasn’t something that just popped up in the news…We might have a long way to go, so this is a great moment.”