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Freedom Plaza briefly found itself this morning at the center of the culture wars, when about 150 folks gathered to protest the D.C. Council’s recent vote to recognize same-sex marriages in other states.
Bishop Harry Jackson, a D.C.-resident minister who leads a Bowie, Md.-based flock, assembled the group with the help of the Family Research Council, whose president Tony Perkins appeared today with a group of ministers on the stone expanse across from the John A. Wilson Building.
Protesters carried a variety of neatly made signs bearing such epigrams as, “If We Change Marriage, What Will Be Next?”; “Say No 2 Same-Sex Marriage in D.C.”; “Kids Deserve a Mom and a Dad”; and “Think About the Children.”
Jackson read a message from evangelical firebrand James Dobson, who urged followers in his statement to “create a Defense of Marriage Act for the District of Columbia.”
Cindy Jacobs, “a respected prophet” and frequent 700 Club guest from the Dallas area, took the microphone to tie the day’s rally to a debate on hate crimes currently taking place on Capitol Hill. The protest is a civil-right issue, she said, claiming that the federal legislation threatened the ability to oppose gay marriage. She went on to namecheck Martin Luther King‘s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. “We’re not going to give Satan any rest,” she cried. “We’re not going to give city councils any rest. We’re not going to give legislatures any rest.”
LL spoke to ten individuals after the 90-minute rally ended. None were current residents of the District of Columbia.
One, a youth minister from Bowie, Md., was taking time off of work to join the rally. “It think it’s important that whenever people are taking a stand, we need to support people taking a stand,” he said. While he personally doesn’t like in the District, he said “friends and relatives will be affected by it.”
Another, the Rev. John Hardy of Stafford, Va., came with his wife and a congregant from his flock at Covenant Family Worship Center after getting a call from Jackson. He says he plans to tell the rest of his flock about his event and pray for local politicos. “We believe that prayer does things,” he says.
A couple from Chevy Chase, Md., Jim and Joan Schnabel, came after getting an e-mail alert from the FRC. Jim pointed out that he was a native Washingtonian. “Probably the only one here,” he cracked. Joan pointed out that D.C. isn’t quite the same as other places: “It is the center of the nation. It influences the world.”
Another minister, Rev. Derek McCoy, also claimed native Washingtonian-ness, though he now lives in suburban Maryland. “I think it’s important to know this is the nation’s capital,” he said, noting that he’s been “privy to” poll results showing 60 percent of D.C. Afriacan-Americans against same-sex marriage.
LL heard the nation’s-capital bit a lot. “We don’t see this as a protest,” said Mike Jacobs, husband of the aforementioned Cindy. “We’re not here to protest something. We’re here to support something.” He went on to take issue with LL’s focus on residency. “I’m a natural born citizen of the United States of America, and this is my capital. Your capital,” he said. He said he had “standing” to rally here that, he says, he wouldn’t have in, say, Vermont, where the legislature recently passed a same-sex marriage bill.
At the conclusion of the rally, Jackson had attendees raise their hands to the Wilson Building and pray for the councilmembers. “Washington, D.C., we call you into alignment with the word of God,” he cried. Earlier, he had vowed to return next week and keep returning while the gay marriage measure was under consideration.
Afterward, LL ran into At-Large Councilmember Kwame R. Brown. He declined to address the substance of the protest, but did say this: “I appreciate all the prayers.”
UPDATE, 2:15 P.M.: According to two accounts, Marion Barry addressed the crowd at the rally before LL showed, telling them he would have voted against the gay-marriage recognition amendment had he been in attendance earlier this month. He led them in a chant of “No to same-sex marriage.” LL was present last summer when Barry told the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club that he supported gay marriage in the District.
Gay activist Rick Rosendall, who was in attendance, says Barry appealed to morality in explaining his stand. “I find it somewhat strange that someone who has had four failed marriages and has lived somewhat swinishly is using morality to keep me from getting married.”