On March 24, to kick off the week in which the Supreme Court of the United States is to hear arguments in the anti-Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) cases of United States v. Windsor —New Yorker Edie Windsor’s case in which the Internal Revenue Service levied a $363,053 estate tax on her late spouse Thea Clara Spyer’s legacy to her—and Hollingsworth v. Perry—Kris Perry and Sandy Stier and Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo’s case in response to California’s anti-same sex marriage Proposition 8—which is to happen on March 26 and 27, the LGBT community and supporters, all across the country, held Light the Way to Justice actions, inspired by Marriage Equality USA and other organizations belonging to the United for Marriage Coalition.
The New York City march began before the historic Stonewall Inn and marchers, chanting “What do we want? Marriage Equality. When do we want it? Now” and “Strike Down DOMA,” and carrying posters with photos of Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer, with “We the People” inscribed below the pictures, followed a long American flag, held by Rainbow Flag creator Gilbert Baker and others, to nearby Washington Square Park for a rally. Catherine Marino-Thomas, President of Marriage Equality USA, introduced Middle Collegiate Church Gospel Choir, which sang a spirited “Stayin’ on Freedom.”
Congressman Jerrold Nadler, a force behind the Respect for Marriage Act and the Uniting American Families Act, said, “We’re here today to voice our unwavering support for Edie Windsor … Federal and State laws must catch up with the American people … The government should be in the business of supporting loving American families … not tearing them down … DOMA is so counter-productive to a healthy society … and so, so unconstitutional … We want the Supreme Court to do at least partially the right thing, maybe wholly the right thing.”
New York State Assemblymember Danny O’Donnell, who helped introduce the New York State same-sex marriage bill, passed into law on June 24, 2011, said that he told President Barack Obama that, at his wedding, “no heterosexual was harmed,” and the next day, Obama announced his own support for same-sex marriage. O’Donnell said that the Supreme Court would essentially be deciding for each of us, “Am I a full American or am I not?”
Councilmember Michael Sabatino, Yonkers’ first openly gay elected official, present with his husband Robert Voorhees, declared, “Edie Windsor is helping me, you, she is helping all of us.”
Joanne Shane and Mary Jo Kennedy, who were married on July 24, 2011, the first day it was legal in New York State, were there with their daughter and spoke about being among the plaintiffs in Hernandez v. Robles, the Marriage Equality New York case.
Lavi Soloway, from Immigration Equality, introduced couple Henry A. Velandia Ferreira, from Venezuela, and John Vandiver, from Colorado, who started a movement to stop the deportation of foreign-born same-sex spouses—“Don’t deport my husband,” was the sign that John carried outside Immigration and Naturalization Service at Foley Square,” and Henry maintained, “Peoples’ minds are changing about what love is!”
Openly gay New York City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, from Queens, and supportive Councilmembers Letitia James, from Brooklyn, and Gale Brewer, from Manhattan, spoke. Broadway (“The Little Mermaid”) and television’s (“30 Rock”) Tituss Burgess concluded the afternoon rally with a rousing a cappella “Star Spangled Banner.”
Among the sponsors of the march and rally, beside Marriage Equality USA were GLAAD, GMHC, Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, Stonewall Democrats of New York City, Lesbian & Gay Democratic Club of Queens, Democratic Leadership for the 21st Century, Equality Beyond Gender, New York State Democrats, NYC for Action, Dignity New York, Chelsea/West Village for Change, the Bronx LGBTQ Center, Heritage of Pride, Henrietta Hudson, the LGBT Community Center, Manhattan Young Democrats, Lambda Legal, Brooklyn Community Pride Center, Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn, Greater NYC for Change, Shelter of Peace, Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, Camp Highlight, Democracy for New York City, NYU Law Democrats, Democracy for America, Empire State Pride Agenda, the Queens Pride Center, the Anti-Violence Project, AM 1600 WWRL, the Imperial Court of New York, which was represented by Empress Witti Repartée, Montclair State University LGBT Center, Middle Collegiate Church, KQY, Love and Pride, the Global Gender and Sexuality Project at the New School, and the Stonewall Inn.