By Mallory Jesperson
SALT LAKE CITY— Competing rallies – one supporting traditional marriage and one calling for marriage equality for same-sex couples – drew shouts, speeches and hundreds of people to the Utah Capitol Tuesday night, Jan 28.
Sarah Knight, 28 from Salt Lake City, attended the first rally which began as the lawmakers’ work day was ending. Knight came to support same-sex marriages.
“We want our voices to be heard,” she said.
Tears rolled down her cheeks as her friend, Carly Moffitt, a 33-year-old Salt Lake resident, spoke of her children saying, “I would want them to know that I was here now fighting for this, as opposed to just being silent and not using my voice.”
Same-sex marriage supporters converged outside the Capitol building on the front steps and ended their rally within 30 minutes, while the “Stand for Marriage” rally started two hours later inside the rotunda and Capitol interior, lasting more than 90 minutes.
The atmospheres of the two rallies was a study in contrasts. While the gathering of supporters of same-sex marriage kept it casual, free form with an air of spontaneity, traditional marriage proponents organized a structured agenda. They began and ended their rally with a prayer, the pledge of allegiance and the “Star Spangled Banner” was also performed.
At both rallies, speakers delivered passionate messages. They not only spoke of the dangers that could come if legislators ignored their cause, but appeared to speak from the heart and connect with listeners. Speakers on either side of the marriage debate spoke of love, respect, and dignity, while still demanding certain rights they said are vital to /progress in Utah and the United States
Joel Judd, Pleasant View, agreed it was important to travel from Weber County the Capitol to support traditional marriage. “I feel like there is so much noise made from the opponents that there’s not enough people to stand up for what really represents 66 percent of the state, so that’s why we’re here,” Judd said. “So that we can express that there are a lot of people who feel differently than what we’re hearing the opposition say all the time.”
During the rally for equality, Mark Lawrence, director of Restore Our Humanity, said, “Freedom of religion is meaningless unless it includes all religions, and there are many religions that embrace love and equality.”
A larger number of speakers appeared at traditional marriage rally, nine in all, including lawmakers and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes. Four people spoke at the pro same-sex marriage rally. Among their speaking points, traditional marriage supporters said that they do not have contempt for the gay community, but want to preserve the religious acts associated with marriage.
Rod Arquette, KNRS 105.7 FM radio talk show host and traditional marriage rally leader, spoke directly to the members of the LGBT community: “We do not hate you. We do not despise you. But, we want to stand up for what we believe in.”
Traditional marriage supporters focused on the well being of children. An usher for the rally, Pia Connors from Spanish Fork, said, “It’s a pivotal issue for children’s future and for our entire culture.”
The purpose of the pro-traditional marriage rally was not to demonize gay and lesbian persons, but to protect “people with conscience and religious conviction,” she said.
While there was no evidence of people supporting traditional marriage at the pro same-sex marriage rally, there were a large number of same-sex equality activists who stayed after their rally to witness the “Stand for Marriage” rally.
They were present and not silent. These same-sex marriage supporters interrupted Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes’ speech by running down the aisles yelling, “Equality now!” covering traditional marriage supporters in glitter. They also chanted and yelled during the rally’s closing prayer.