Protesters clash with NOM supporters at R.I. State House

by Joe Siegel

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday July 20, 2010

Supporters of nuptials for gays and lesbians clashed with members of the National Organization for Marriage at the Rhode Island State House in Providence on Sunday, July 18.

After making stops in Maine and New Hampshire last week, the New Jersey-based organization brought their "Summer for Marriage Tour" to the Ocean State. The message: marriage should remain a union between only a man and a woman.

Other stops on the 19 state, 23 city tour include Indiana, Ohio, Maryland, Washington, New York and New Jersey.

Republican Gubernatorial candidate Victor Moffitt and roughly 100 others listened to NOM President Brian Brown; Christopher Plante, director of the organization's Rhode Island chapter; attorney Scott Spear; Dr. Jennifer Roback-Morse, and the Rev. John Codega of St. Brendan Church in East Providence, who represented the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence.

More than 150 LGBT activists and allies, wearing red shirts and waving rainbow flags and banners, marched up the State House's stairs and stood as the NOM speakers addressed their supporters.

"Get your hate out of our state," they chanted, along with "Homophobia has got to go."

As Brown spoke, Capitol Police ushered some activists away after they shouted in his face. Brown claimed marriage supporters were the real bigots.

"They're the face of intolerance," he said. "They think its okay to deprive us of our civil rights," noting LGBT activists were trying to silence marriage opponents.

As the protesters' chants became louder and more impassioned, NOM supporters grew louder, shouting "One man, one woman."

"Same-sex marriage will redefine parenthood," said Roback-Morse, explaining children belonged with a mother and a father, not parents of the same-sex.

Roback-Morse founded the Ruth Institute, which describes itself as "an inter-faith non-profit organization using the best of academic research and legal analysis to promote the Judeo-Christian view of marriage." After the rally ended, Plante said he believes marriage supporters had damaged their own cause.

"It makes our case," Plante said. "We can't say 'one man, one woman' without being shouted down."

Brown blasted the protesters in a blog post on NOM's Web site titled "Gay Activists embarrass themselves in Providence."

"The hatred was palpable," wrote Brown. "It was an embarrassment to their cause - I only hope the word gets out, so people can see how nuts they were. These activists simply embarrassed themselves and their cause today. Mocking religion. Mocking children. I mean, what kind of adult goes up to a 7-year-old child and sneers, "Mommy raising you to be a good little bigot?"

For the state's LGBT activists, the NOM counter-protest represented a metaphorical breaking point. Rhode Island remains the only New England state where lawmakers have not approved marriage for same-sex couples. And Gov. Don Carcieri has repeatedly thwarted any attempts to advance this and other LGBT-specific issues.

"We wanted to make sure that they saw us," explained Susan Heroux of Queer Action of RI.

Heroux added NOM supporters were able to get their message across to their followers, but she noted the demonstrators did nothing wrong.

"People expressed themselves in a respectful manner," added Heroux.

NOM's next local event is their second annual Celebrate Marriage and Family Day at the Aldrich Mansion in Warwick on Aug. 15. As EDGE previously reported, the event will feature keynote speaker Glenn Stanton from Focus on the Family.

Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.

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