Capitol is arena for dueling rallies over gay marriage
The Capitol was a color-coded battleground Tuesday evening as those for and against gay marriage made impassioned calls for supporters to get loud and active in making their voices heard.
Several hundred people gathered at 5 p.m. on the south steps of the Capitol for the rainbow-hued "Rally for Equality." Two hours later, the Rotunda was awash in pink and blue as more than 1,000 people gathered for the "Stand for Marriage" rally.
Pro-gay rights supporters at times attempted to disrupt the second gathering by holding aloft their signs and shouting over speakers. Some marched down an aisle during Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes' remarks while shouting "Equality now" as he explained court proceedings aimed at upholding the state's ban on same-sex marriage.
Reyes carried on, telling the crowd that "with all due respect" for naysayers, "I do not believe that this is a losing cause."
Speakers at both rallies called for civility as well as action in a dispute described as about love, children and family.
Mark Lawrence, founder of the organization that brought the lawsuit challenging Utah's gay marriage ban, said that what's at stake isn't access to "special rights" but to "human rights." He said gay and lesbian families are seeking the same recognition, respect and dignity that opposite-sex families receive.
"Diversity is something to celebrate, not to fear," he said.
Charles Lynn Frost, famed for his Sister Dottie persona, brought a broom he said symbolized the need to sweep away fear, old mind-sets and ignorance from the "dark corners of narrow minds." He called those who attended the rally "change agents" and challenged them to "be the broom."
Kelly Neal of Centerville made it to Tuesday's event to show his support for civil rights.
"The opposition to what we're standing up for is playing the religious card," he said. "I have morals and standards as well that aren't based on what the Bible or the Book of Mormon says."
Yet, he added, "because of my sexual orientation I could lose my job or lose my housing. That's not fair."
One goal of the rally was to show support for a bill proposed by Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, barring job and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation. That bill may be stalled because of a legislative leaders' moratorium on proposals related to the same-sex marriage ruling.
"That's the kind of discussion we'd like to maybe postpone until we know further what's going to happen with our appeal to the 10th Circuit and perhaps the Supreme Court," said Sen. President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy.
Niederhauser was one of three lawmakers who spoke at the second rally in defense of the state's same-sex marriage ban. The others were Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, and Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, who authored Amendment 3.
Niederhauser told the crowd that "when we decide to change that definition that ought to be done here in the state of Utah and not by a federal judge."
Reid urged the crowd to not be intimidated by opponents and to "help protect Utah from the gathering storm sweeping over this nation."
The crowd heard a similar message from Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, who urged them to "stand up for what you know is true in your heart, that there is something unique and special and irreplaceable about having a mother and father. Stand up for the truth about marriage anyway you want and know there are many others like you."
"If you have to be called a few names, don't worry about it, brush it off, treat those attacking you with love," Brown said.
Doug Mainwaring, a gay man who left an opposite-sex marriage and later rejoined his wife, drew repeated applause as he told the crowd that "it is very wise to maintain marriage as it has always been" and the children "need and deserve" both a mom and a dad.
"Same-sex marriage will not define marriage," Mainwaring said. "It will undefine it, unravel it" and that will harm children.
Those messages were in line with Adelaide Andra's views.
The Salt Lake resident attended the rally to show support for limiting marriage to one man and one woman because "that's the right thing. It's been that for ages."
"We did vote already and we won," she said. "I don't think a judge has a right to do what he did, overrule the people's wish."
Robert Gehrke contributed to this story.