A roving marriage equality rally made its way north from Indianapolis to Chicago on Monday, stopping several times along the way to decry what supporters say is unfair treatment of GLBT couples.
The rally is in preparation for tomorrow’s oral arguments in the lawsuit challenging Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals is hearing Indiana’s case, which it combined with a similar lawsuit out of Wisconsin. Attorneys general from both states argue only state governments can set marriage laws.
The arguments come after a federal judge ruled in June that Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.
The rally began at City Market in Indianapolis.
The event organizers say the event, in part, is a way to highlight churches, synagogues and other religious institutions who support marriage rights for same sex couples.
“For me personally as a follower of Jesus, I believe that Jesus was all about love, embrace and justice, and equality for all people. So, I want to model that the best way that I can,” said Rev. Melody Merida, pastor of Life Journey Church in Indianapolis.
For Carmel residents Henry Greene and Glenn Funkhouser, who have been together 23 years, say the lawsuit is about the future of their family.
Greene and Funkhouser have chosen not to get married, either in another state or in Indiana during the brief period of time when it was legal after U.S. District Judge Richard Young struck down Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage.
“Why would we, because Indiana wouldn’t recognize it anyway,” said Greene. “Going to another state would just relegate us to second-class citizenship. That’s not acceptable.”
Their adopted son, Casey Greene, is now 12 and has been with Green and Funkhouser for 10 years.
Casey is traveling to Chicago for the hearing, too.
“I have to do this,” he said. “I don’t know what it’s like [to be raised] by a straight couple. But I’d rather have a gay couple.”
In Lafayette a few hours later, a crowd of more than 50 people wiped perspiration from their brows in the midday sun as they waited for Indiana marriage advocates to address them.
But one of the case’s plaintiffs, Melody Betterman-Layne, said it was only the late summer weather that was causing them to sweat – they weren’t sweating the 7th Circuit’s decision.
“Today we’re heading to Chicago because tomorrow the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals is hearing our case,” she said. “And we feel really good about that. We feel calm. We feel like the right is on our side. And that pretty soon none of us are going to have to play that little game where you go from state to state and you say ‘Are we married here?’ None of us are going to have to do that very much longer, we hope.”
Betterman-Layne and her wife Tara were initially worried employees of their company might blanch at the thought of being tangential to the marriage suit and its resulting publicity, but she says employees supported the move.
West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis, a Republican, says he has gotten push back, including from other leaders in his party.
“Actually, it was another elected official. I was in conversation with another male and this elected official walked by and said ‘What are you guys doing – planning your marriage?” he said.
Still, Dennis told the crowd his two decades as a Lafayette police officer formed his views on the subject when he saw gay couples unable to vouch for each other in hospitals and saw drunks amble out of downtown bars late at night, heading for inevitable confrontations with GLBT individuals who’d congregate near the Tippecanoe County courthouse.
“On midnight dates, the bars would generally let out between two or three and that’s when the folks that had drank their courage would decide to go to the courthouse and confront our gay community,” he says. “And that would oftentimes end up in physical violence. And I obviously would be called, it was my district. So that happened very routinely. It would happen several times a week.”
After the Lafayette rally, the group continued their trip up to Chicago where they held another rally Monday evening.