“It’s so appropriate that we’re here today,” said Haverhill businessman Tim Coco at a rally for marriage equality at Boston City Hall Plaza March 26.
Gesturing toward Boston City Hall, Coco noted that he and his husband Genesio de Oliveira, who is Brazilian, received their certificate of marriage in 2005. Then pointing to the JFK Federal Building across the plaza, Coco said that that was where his marriage certificate was torn apart. Because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Coco was unable to sponsor de Oliveira for permanent residency, and de Oliveira was forced to leave the country in 2007.
The rally was held the same day the United States Supreme Court heard arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the challenge to California’s Proposition 8, an amendment to that state’s constitution that rescinded the freedom to marry for same-sex couples, and the day before the Court will hear arguments in United States v. Windsor, a case challenging Section 3 of DOMA, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing the legal marriages of same-sex couples for the purposes of federal benefits and programs.
Organized by MassEquality, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, Family Equality Council and many others, the event drew more than 500 people who filled Boston City Hall Plaza near Government Center. It was one of hundreds held around the country yesterday in support of marriage equality.
The rally was attended by state and local politicians, plaintiffs in theGoodridge lawsuit that brought the right to marry to Massachusetts in 2004, as well as plaintiffs in Gill v. Office of Personnel Managementlawsuit, which also challenged Section 3 of DOMA.
Boston Mayor Tom Menino asked the crowd if they remembered the historic rally for marriage equality in 2004 that filled City Hall Plaza. “Gay couples getting married here and across the country deserve the same recognition as straight couples,” said Menino, a long-time supporter of LGBTQ equality. He also prodded politicians still opposed to marriage equality to “get off the fence” and support marriage equality as well as federal recognition of the marriages of same-sex couples.
Other speakers included US Rep. Ed Markey, who is running for the US Senate seat vacated when former US Sen. John Kerry was confirmed as US Secretary of State. Markey was one of just 67 members of Congress who voted against DOMA in 1996. State Rep. Carl Sciortino, who has announced that he will run for the Fifth Congressional District if Markey succeeds in his bid to become the Commonwealth’s next junior senator, told the crowd in an emotional speech that he was soon looking forward to exercising his right to marry. Rep. Dan Winslow told the crowd that he was “proud to be a Republican and proud to support equality.” State Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry, who is running for state senate, noted that just a few short decades ago her own marriage would not have been legal because she is black and her husband is white. Julie Goodridge, one-half of the lead plaintiff couple in the historic lawsuit that resulted in the recognition of the marriages of same-sex couples in Massachusetts said she was “thankful” that so much change had occurred in her daughter’s lifetime.
Ed Horgan and Mike Balmelli, who, along with Goodridge were plaintiffs in the marriage lawsuit, attended the rally as did Dean Hara, widower of former Congressman Gerry Studds, who is a plaintiff in Gill.
Kara Suffredini, executive director of MassEquality, emceed the rally and urged the crowd to stand their moral ground when confronted by those who oppose marriage equality. “Our love is equal, and it is moral,” she said.
Lee Swislow, executive director of GLAD, remarked on the amazing progress the marriage equality movement has made in a relatively short time. “Who would have thought that when Massachusetts got marriage equality that in less than 10 years we would get in front of the Supreme Court? Mary did,” said Swislow, referred to Mary Bonauto, who argued theGoodridge case before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and is one of the legal architects of the marriage equality movement.
Sarah Wunsch, an attorney with the Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, described what Edith Windsor, the plaintiff in the lawsuit that will be argued before the US Supreme Court March 27, endured after her wife died: the federal government assessed with a $360,000 estate tax that she would not have faced if it weren’t for the Defense of Marriage Act.
“What does marriage need to be defended from?” Wunsch asked. “The only thing it needs to be defended from is discriminatory laws.”
Alejandra St. Guillen, Executive Director of ¿Oiste?, recalled how she and her wife, Josiane Martinez, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Office for Refugees and Immigrants, had to cajole their families into accepting their marriage. That was fine, St. Guillen said, adding that that’s what you have to do with families sometimes. “But it’s not okay” to have to cajole the federal government into accepting you, she added. “The federal government was founded on the principle of equal rights for all and we all are equal.”