Thousands of Arizonans converged Monday on the state Capitol, vowing to prevent the state from sanctioning gay marriages and urging lawmakers to back a constitutional amendment that would bar such unions.
The “Stand for Marriage” rally, one of the largest demonstrations in recent years at the Capitol, came on the day that same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts. It also came amid renewed efforts by some Valley pastors to publicly challenge Arizona rules banning gay marriage.
“We are here today in the name of love,” said organizer Len Munsil, executive director of Scottsdale-based Center for Arizona Policy, who added that the event was not intended to condemn homosexuals. “We are celebrating the love of God for his people for blessing us with the institution of marriage — the love of husbands for their wives and wives for their husbands.”
Munsil called Monday “a dark day” for the nation. “But your presence today is an important statement that we are hearing this important wake-up call, and we will not remain silent,” he told the crowd, many of whom were urged to attend by churches.
The group estimated nearly 8,000 supporters took part in the rally, based on its counts at the site. Other estimates placed attendance closer to 5,000.
Those on hand, many dressed head to toe in white as a sign of their support of traditional marriage, were urged to press the state Senate to pass a resolution urging Congress to approve an amendment to the U.S. Constitution limiting marriage to one male and one female. The Arizona House has approved the resolution by a 2-1 ratio, and President Bush has called for such an amendment.
Monday’s march, attended by a dozen state lawmakers as well, ended at the steps of the state Supreme Court with prayers that justices on May 25 will uphold a lower court’s ruling in a case challenging Arizona's 1996 law that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. The crowd held hundreds of “Protect Marriage” signs, along with other handmade signs bearing statements such as “Families create — gays deviate” and “Homosexuals and heterosexuals have equal rights to marry the opposite sex.”
Sally Story of Gilbert said she is “appalled” that marriage is being redefined by some. “After all, it started with Adam and Eve, and it has never been challenged like this before,” she said. Rhonda Carter came to the rally wearing the bridal veil from her wedding dress of 10 years ago. She wanted to wear her entire gown to strengthen her point that God created marriage for a man and a woman, “but I was afraid I might faint” in the 95-degree noon heat.
“We believe that God’s word is the truth, and we are taking a stand,” the Goodyear resident said.
“Marriage is about so much more than adults who are in love,” said Nancy Salmon, president of the state chapter of United Families International and wife of former Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Salmon. “It is the means by which the human race bridges the gender divide, creates mothers and fathers for children and makes the next generation happen.”
A Scottsdale pastor said humans can prolong the debate about homosexuality, but “God will work this out for his good.”
“Marriage is the gift of God’s design,” said the Rev. Darryl Delhousaye, senior pastor of Scottsdale Bible Church. “It is a gift given even before man began a culture, so this is not about changing a thing.”
The rally came after about 50 gay and lesbian couples gathered Saturday at a Valley resort where four pastors conducted individual “holy unions” during a daylong marriage marathon. Some couples had tried to seek Arizona marriage licenses from courts on Friday, but all were turned away. Those pastors and supporters intend to march at 9:30 a.m. today from Patriots Square Park in downtown Phoenix to the Clerk of Superior Courts service center, 601 W. Jackson St., where they will “demand that these marriages be recorded as civil marriages performed by duly authorized agents of the state,” said the Rev. Brad Wishon, pastor of Gentle Shepherd Metropolitan Community Church in Phoenix. “We will refused to leave until they are recorded,” he said.
Many in the crowd lashed out at the Massachusetts justices whose ruling in November gave way to the issuance of marriage licenses in that state, which began Monday.
“They don’t do their job, they do the lawmakers’,” said Marilyn Lindblom of Chandler. “Judges are not supposed to make laws.”
The Arizona Legislature has amended state law to specify that marriage is between a man and a woman. The law also specifies that the state will not recognize marriages between the same sex sanctioned by other states.
The U.S. Supreme Court has yet to rule on the issue.