Originally published: March 26, 2013, 10:12 p.m.
Updated: March 26, 2013, 10:16 p.m.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Hundreds of community members in Charlotte attended a vigil tonight to mark the beginning of this week’s historic U.S. Supreme Court cases challenging anti-gay marriage laws. The court heard oral arguments today challenging California’s Proposition 8, a 2008 anti-LGBT constitutional amendment banning gay couples from marriage. The court will hear arguments on Wednesday challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
The Charlotte vigil, held in Uptown’s Marshall Park, was one of nine events held Tuesday evening across the Carolinas. Organizers say as many as 375 people attended the event. Other events included vigils in Raleigh, Columbia and Greensboro, among others, each held in conjunction with hundreds of vigils across the nation. Reportedly, the Raleigh vigil, held at the Wake County Courthouse, attracted as many as 150 people.
Speakers at the Charlotte event included the Rev. Catherine Houchins of the Metropolitan Community Church of Charlotte and Bishop Tonyia Rawls of Unity Fellowship Church Charlotte.
Rawls quoted from sections of the Declaration of Independence, pausing to reiterate its points to the audience.
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“[The founders] went on to state that ‘to secure these rights governments are instituted among men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,'” Rawls said, “and what that means is what you say and what you think when you stand matters and our government has to line up with those beliefs of the people.”
Rawls called on the government to honor the rights of its citizens. She said her and her wife of 13 years were married in California because her own home state didn’t recognize it. Such unequal treatment must end, she said.
“We stand here today, some praying, some cheering, some jeering for our [Supreme Court] justices, for our nation, for California, that must once again look at a population of people that have been deemed by some unworthy of the privileges afforded others,” Rawls said.
Charlotte vigil organizer Sarah Demarest, who worked to plan the vigil with the statewide LGBT advocacy group Equality North Carolina, said it was important for local community members to organize and speak out.
“We need to be heard just as much as every other city,” Demarest said. “We wanted to be a part of that national movement for equality, but also in our community we still struggle with this issue. It is critical to bring together everybody, and not just LGBT people, who support marriage equality and make sure that their voices are heard and that we are visible here and that people in Charlotte know we live here.”
Regardless of how the court rules — decisions could come as early as June — Demarest feels it is important to increase LGBT visibility on other crucial issues.
“It is greater than just a marriage equality discussion,” she said. “Here in Charlotte, a lot of LGBT people lack employment protections. A lot of our transgender community lacks protections and access to medical care and employment as well. The more visible we are on every issue, the more we can bring our allies out to support us.”
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