Around 5,000 demonstrators, including over 25 U of C students, braved near freezing temperatures at Federal Plaza downtown Saturday to protest the passing of Proposition 8, a California ballot proposition that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Over a million people nationwide participated in similar events on Saturday, according to JoinTheImpact.org, the group which organized the rallies.
Most University students who attended got involved by word of mouth.
Fourth-year Evan Cudworth heard about the event through Facebook and immediately got in touch with organizers to see what he could do. He then sent an e-mail to his friends asking them to join him and stressing the importance of the rally.
“I’d never done anything like this before,” Cudworth said afterwards. “But this is taking away a constitutional right to equality. That’s what got on my nerves.”
University students were vocal participants at the rally and frequently initiated chants such as “Hey hey, ho ho, homophobia’s got to go.” Another, “Obama, Obama, let Mama marry Mama,” provoked laughter among the crowd of U of C students, who were skipping and jumping in rhythm.
Corrine Mina, one of the the Chicago organizers from JoinTheImpact.org, said the rally’s goal was “to stand in solidarity with protestors across the country and to raise awareness about gay marriage and civil unions in Illinois, as there is currently no state legislation, and most people don’t understand why it’s such a big deal.”
At the rally, protestors heard from speakers including Illinois State Representative Greg Harris, Reverend Sherry Lowry of the United Methodist Church, and recently married gay couples from California.
Counterprotestors from the Liberty Council of Lynchburg, VA, also attended the rally. According to one of its representatives, the Liberty Council views homosexuality as a physiological disorder.
“Marriage is what marriage is, which is the union of a man and a woman,” he said.
Cudworth opposed such a characterization of marriage.
“This man-and-woman definition always irks me, because there are transgender people out there who are excluded from the institution of marriage by their biology under this definition,” he said.
The thousands of protestors mostly ignored the small counterprotest. As enthusiasm swelled, the protestors took to the streets, starting a spontaneous march.
After one of the speakers mentioned that protestors in California turned their rally into a march, the crowd began chanting for a march, fourth-year Caroline Weisser said. The speaker then started explaining a route to the crowd, while looking for acknowledgement from city police, who gave her a sign of approval.
The protestors, snaking between South Michigan Avenue and South State Street, went all the way up to the Hancock tower before marching back to Federal Plaza. Along the route, onlookers were mostly supportive or bemused, with few outward displays of disapproval. A Grey Line tour bus driver honked his horn to the beat of the chanting as tourists on open roof-top seating cheered along. Drivers, stuck in traffic and swarmed by the crowds, rolled down their windows and high-fived marchers.
The organizers were fined for the march because their permit to protest had been confined to Federal Plaza, but no arrests were made.