LGBT supporters gather at Cesar Chavez Plaza to rally for marriage equality

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“Light the Way to Justice” is the second event at the capitol in the past week to support marriage equality. Supporters gathered for a candlelight vigil Tuesday. (Annika Cline/DD)

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Audio story by Annika Cline

 

After the U.S. Supreme Court began its hearing on California’s Proposition 8 Tuesday, more than 100 people gathered at Cesar Chavez Memorial Plaza in support of marriage equality.

The “Light the Way to Justice” event brought a collection of Phoenix officials, religious leaders and community members downtown in a collaborative effort by 20 LGBT members and allied organizations. The rally was the second event in the past week to recognize marriage equality.

Phoenix Councilman Tom Simplot said it is important that the voices of all LGBT supporters be heard during the fight for civil rights. He said he looks forward to celebrating with the community in June when the expected Supreme Court decision will be announced.

“Thank you for not being silent,” Simplot said.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton’s senior policy advisor Brendan Mahoney said the mayor is a “solid ally” to the Phoenix LGBT community and is proud to support marriage equality.

“Cities that cultivate diversity are cities that cultivate creativity, which is good for all of us,” Mahoney said.

The Phoenix “Light the Way to Justice” was one of over 150 demonstrations taking place across the nation in support of marriage equality and took place just days after the Arizona March for Equality where marriage equality supporters marched to the State Capitol to make their voices heard. The Supreme Court’s hearing of the Defense of Marriage Act is planned to take place Wednesday.

ASU law student Daniel Rodriguez said he faces equality at two fronts by being both gay and an undocumented citizen.

“I’ve had to come out as a gay man and I’ve had to come out as a DREAMer,” he said.

Rodriguez said he hopes the Supreme Court’s decision will help those like “Light the Way to Justice” speaker and Phoenix resident Tom Mischnick, whose husband is ineligible to enter the U.S. because of current marriage laws. Mischnick said he has not seen his spouse for four years because his husband currently lives in Brazil.

“Our love cannot be separated by a line,” Rodriguez said.

Phoenix couple, Steven Rust and Linden Witt, said they plan to get married in November and hope to witness the end of the Defense of Marriage Act, allowing them to have access to spousal benefits.

Phoenix transgender woman and activist Erica Keppler said she describes DOMA as a law that was “so obviously unconstitutional since day one.”

The rally was followed by a march to the Sandra Day O’Connor U.S. Courthouse where supporters held a candlelight vigil and sang with one another.

“Tonight the arc is bending our way,” Phoenix LGBT activist Rev. Brad Wishon said.

Wishon said it is important the LGBT community does not lose their faith no matter the outcome of the Court’s ruling.

“Candles burn out, the light of justice never does,” he said. “Unless you let it.”

Contact the reporter at cody.m.larkin@asu.edu