Chicago joins nationwide gay rights rallies before Supreme Court deliberations

Sat. March 23, 2013 9:33 AM by Anthony Morgano

marriage equality rally in downtown chicago, jan., 2013

Chicago rally, Mon., March 25 at 5:30 p.m., Federal Plaza

Chicago, IL - On Mon., March 25th, gay rights activists and supporters of marriage equality are taking to the streets for rallies in over 160 cities in all 50 states, including Chicago, where the rally will be held at 5:30 p.m. at Federal Plaza and is sponsored by the Gay Liberation Network (GLN) and The Civil Rights Agenda (TCRA). These rallies come on the eve of the Supreme Court's considering two cases that challenge the constitutionality of both Prop 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and could determine much in the way of marriage equality on the national stage.

"Even if Illinois legalizes same-sex marriage, more than 1100 federal rights and responsibilities associated with marriage would still be denied gay couples here," GLN reported in a March 22 press release, citing statistics from a General Accounting Office study. "The primary legislative barrier to this equality is the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)... which denies legal equality at the federal level even in states which have legalized same sex marriage, and allows states which do not recognize same-sex marriage to deny recognition of such marriages made in states that do."

On Wed., March 27, Judges will hear arguments from United States v. Windsor, a case involving a provision of DOMA related to federal benefits. While normally a person's estate can pass to their surviving spouse tax-free, DOMA limits this benefit to heterosexual couples. This prompted 83 year-old widow Edith Windsor to sue and challenge the $363,000 federal estate tax bill she received after her partner of 44 years died in 2009, leaving Windsor everything. A 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled that the provision deprived Windsor of the constitutional guarantee of equal protection.

The hearings open the previous day, Tue., March 26, with arguments on Hollingsworth vs. Perry, the Proposition 8 Case in which a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco struck down California's ban on gay marriage. While they ruled on the rather narrow grounds that the state couldn't later take away the right to marry that it had already given gay Californians, the hearing of this case will present the Court with questions on the larger constitutional issue of gay marriage and whether LGBT Americans are entitled to the same rights as their hetereosexual conterparts.

According to an Associated Press report from December that discussed the scheduled hearings of the two marriage equality cases "a decision in favor of gay marriage could set a national rule and overturn every state constitutional provision and law banning same-sex marriages." This would have dramatic effects for all 31 states that have amended their constitutions to ban same-sex marriage, including our neighbors to the north, Wisconsin.

With Illinois on the verge of becoming the 10th state to legalize marriage equality and events such as Minnesota recently overturning an attempt make them the 32nd state to ban gay marriage, general opinion seems to be shifting. This is further reflected in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, in which 58% of people answered that it should be legal for gay and lesbian couples to get married. 64% of poll takers also stated that the issue of same-sex marriage "should be decided for all states on the basis of the U.S. constitution," with a majority of voters believing that homosexuality is an immutable trait and not a matter of choice.

"Today, with a massive swing in public opinion in favor of equality, our aim through these marches and rallies is to force the Court to live up to its Constitutional obligations that it heretofore has botched," GLN co-founder Andy Thayer said. "Increasingly, institutions that oppose legal equality for LGBT people are seen as out of step with modern society, if not downright bigoted. Our challenge to the Court is that it can either join such relics, or it can keep in touch with modern society."

Chicago's march is set for 5:30 p.m. on Mon., March 25 at Federal Plaza, located downtown at Adams and Dearborn Streets, followed by a candlelight march to Pioneer Court, by the Tribune Tower. GLN and TCRA remind everyone to bring a candle and spread the word. Visit the event's Facebook page for more information and to RSVP.

View United for Marriage: Light the Way to Justice! in a larger map

Read more on the two cases being considered next week on the Huffington Post.