Same-Sex-Marriage Fight Hits The Road

Brian Brown, head of the National Organization for Marriage, speaks to an Atlanta news station. i i

hide captionAt a rally against same-sex marriage in Atlanta on Saturday, Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, speaks to a local news station. The group organized rallies in 17 states called Summer for Marriage Tour: One Man, One Woman.

Jim Burress for NPR
Brian Brown, head of the National Organization for Marriage, speaks to an Atlanta news station.

At a rally against same-sex marriage in Atlanta on Saturday, Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, speaks to a local news station. The group organized rallies in 17 states called Summer for Marriage Tour: One Man, One Woman.

Jim Burress for NPR

A federal judge has overturned California's same-sex-marriage ban known as Proposition 8, but debate over the issue has hardly let up. While the case wends its way through the federal court system, advocacy groups are trying to influence the court of public opinion.

In Atlanta, about 20 people gathered outside the state capitol building Saturday to protest same-sex marriage. It was the most recent stop on a 17-state bus tourput together by the National Organization for Marriage. Brian Brown, the president of the group, blasted the ruling last week by U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker overturning Proposition 8.

"There is something wrong when one judge with the stroke of a pen can strike down your civil right to vote," Brown said.

The handful of attendees was outnumbered tenfold by counterprotesters across the street, but Brown said this rally would be the start of something big. "Each and every one of you here, what you have heard, take back into your community," he said. "Ask people to sign up because we're building an army of 2 million activists throughout this country. We're already at 750,000."

Maggie Gallagher, the chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, says the group is working to elect candidates sympathetic to its cause in New Hampshire, Iowa, Minnesota and other states.

"We will certainly raise and spend $10 million this year, which kind of blows my mind 'cause I never expected to be in a position to raise and spend that much money, but I'm not going to promise that it won't be more, especially after this ruling," Gallagher says.

On the other side of the issue, a group called the Courage Campaign is using technology to rally supporters.

"The only way that we know in the modern age to replicate the town square is through the Internet," says Rick Jacobs, the group's founder.

Like the National Organization for Marriage, the Courage Campaign also claims about 750,000 members. So when the Supreme Court refused to allow the Proposition 8 trial to be televised, the Courage Campaign got some of its supporters to read trial transcripts and post them on the Internet. The effort started with some star power, including Marisa Tomei, who read the courtroom testimony of plaintiff Kris Perry.

Oscar Hdez and Luke Robuck of Atlanta, who support same-sex marriage, at a silent protest

hide captionOscar Hdez and Luke Robuck of Atlanta were among the supporters of same-sex marriage who gathered for a silent protest across the street from the National Organization for Marriage's rally.

Chris Dunn/AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The next phase of the campaign, says Jacobs, is to get same-sex couples and their friends and family to flood the Internet with videotapes of their personal stories. In one such video posted to the group's Web site, New Jersey teenager Madison Gallucio sits beside her younger siblings and their adoptive fathers.

"This is my family and I don't understand why some people think it's wrong or that it's bad, because we're a loving family and we love each other and I don't understand what could possibly be wrong with that," Gallucio says.

Last week the Courage Campaign raised nearly $150,000 in a couple of days to back this new effort. Jacobs maintains that over time, the project will have a much greater impact than just friends sharing videos with friends.

"Imagine hundreds of thousands of these stories for the next two years," he says.

At that point, the Proposition 8 case might be before the Supreme Court.

"As the court of law considers what Judge Walker has ruled, so the court of public opinion has to consider it," Jacobs says.

And both sides of the marriage issue are working to win in that court — hoping it can sway the ones that actually decide the law.

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