Ryane Herlihy believes no child should go to school each day and feel ashamed of their parents—whether that child has two mothers or two fathers.
“No one wants to go into a classroom and feel like they have to hide their family. Everybody should be proud of the families that they come from,” says Herlihy, a development associate for the Family Equality Council. “No children should ever feel ashamed of who their parents are.”
It was that message that Herlihy brought with her to the steps of Boston’s City Hall on Tuesday, along with more than 200 other supporters of marriage equality, all calling for federal recognition for same-sex couples. The rally, held under a large rainbow flag flying alongside the Massachusetts state flag, was hosted by the grassroots organization MassEquality in conjunction with Mayor Tom Menino’s office, and attended by dozens of local and state elected officials, many of whom took to a podium and spoke out against the Defense of Marriage Act.
The rally coincided with the Supreme Court’s schedule to hear arguments this week about Proposition 8, a ballot initiative that bans same-sex marriage in the state of California, and DOMA, which denies federal benefits to gay married couples nationwide.
“There are a lot of tough decisions I make every day as mayor,” Menino said during Tuesday’s rally at City Hall Plaza. “But supporting marriage equality has always been an easy call for me. It should be an easy call for the Supreme Court today, and tomorrow. Look at all the gains we have made in the past year or so … we shouldn’t let justices stop our momentum we have in America today.”
Menino said same-sex couples deserve the same federal recognition that straight couples receive, adding that he supports overturning DOMA, striking it down as unconstitutional. “America is about equality. This issue should be about equality also,” he said. “Not just for some of our people, but for all of our people.”
Several Boston City Council members, as well as Democratic Senate candidate Congressman Ed Markey, flanked Menino on the steps as hundreds of people held signs and waved flags, showing support for the message for equal rights.
“This is an historic day for everyone in our country,” Markey said, adding that the United States needs to end an era of discrimination marked by DOMA. “It is about basic freedoms…it’s time we guarantee that all Americans have the rights [to marriage].”
Markey’s opponent in the race for the Senate seat, Republican State Representative Dan Winslow, reiterated sentiments expressed by both Menino and members of several activist groups that spoke out against DOMA Tuesday. “I’m proud to be a Republican, and I’m proud to stand for equality,” he said, rousing cheers from attendees.
Winslow borrowed words from former President Abraham Lincoln, when he spoke out against slavery, saying “if denying equality is not wrong, then nothing is wrong … Without both freedom and equality, we have nothing,” Winslow said.
The Supreme Court justices’ discussions, and the oral arguments from both sides surrounding DOMA and Proposition 8, will be recorded over the next few days and posted online. In 2003, the state Supreme Judicial Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, making it the first state in the nation to recognize the nuptials.
But Carol Rose, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, says it shouldn’t end there.
“I think a lot of people in Massachusetts think the battle is done, when in fact it’s not. One of the reasons we are at the rally today, is so people understand it is their brothers and sisters here in Massachusetts who are looking for equal rights under the federal law … we need to make sure these marriages are respected and honored by the federal government, and that’s what this is about.”
Check out more photos from the MassEquality rally at City Hall below:
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