"What do we want? EQUAL RIGHTS! When do we want them? NOW!" Imagine that chant from a group of more than 50 proponents of same-sex marriage equality while "Ave Marie" was being sung in the background. That was the dramatic scene today in front of the Thompson Center in the Loop as anti-gay activists rallied for "traditional marriage" in front of the Loop's St. Peter's Catholic Church May 27.
A group of nearly 150 individuals representing Americans for Life, Americans for Truth, the Pro-Life Action League and various evangelical, protestant and Roman Catholic Church congregations rallied against the Illinois civil-unions law, which goes into effect June 1.
The anti-gay coalition gathered in front of the church before marching down Dearborn to the Thompson Center. Michael Ramos, a public-safety official for the church, reported that some participants showed up the previous Friday in error and that it was the only way that he had been made aware that there were any protestors coming at all. The Chicago Police Department was on hand with ATVs to escort the rally participants to the Thompson Center.
The Gay Liberation Network's ( GLN's ) Bob Schwartz believed that the "civil unions bill was not the real target" for the rally but was "an organizing tool for an anti-gay marriage amendment." The website for Americans For Life strongly hints at such an objective, noting an Illinois Petition for Defense of Marriage Initiative. Peter LaBarbera, head of the Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, confirmed that the goal of the rally was to support a referendum for an Illinois constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and its equivalent.
Dick Walsh, head of Americans For Life, opened the rally by saying, "We will win! God is on our side." Walsh claimed, "We're here because God told us to be here." Walsh's flyer, posted on his website, claimed that "homosexual marriage is wrong because: it's not marriage because procreation is impossible, it violates the natural law of sexual purpose, it promotes the homosexual lifestyle, known to spread the deadly disease AIDS, it defeats the interest of government in promoting the family unit in society" and several other allegations.
Walsh added, "The real bullies are across the street"referring to the pro-LGBT activists. He said, "I am here in defense of my grandchildren. One man and one woman are incapable of sin when done in the bounds of traditional marriage." Walsh could not be contacted for further comment.
Also on hand was Rev. Hiram Crawford, Jr. ( Crawford's father was known for his support of the Daley Plaza Nativity display, and for opposing the Chicago gay-rights bill with pickets and newspaper ads in the 1980s. ) Crawford, Jr., invoked the late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., saying that he was "a family man" and that he was there, as were the others to "stand up for life and righteousness." Several bystanders not affiliated with either set of demonstrators began to boo. "Who are these people? Why are they in Chicago?," asked one woman.
Schwartz said that he was pleased with the turnout and support from the advocates of same-sex marriage equality. GLN was the catalyst for the counter-demonstration, which involved numerous other local pro-LGBT advocacy groups. "We will not them codify bigotry in the state constitution," Schwartz said. "Where ever they go, we will follow!"