Steps from our nation’s Capitol, I was approached by Morton, a youthful-looking 68-year-old Virginia native with artificially blond hair and a fistful of fliers that read, “Gay Greed” and “Gay Sex Leads to Adult Diapers.”
“They’re not born with it, you know,” Morton offered, unprompted. “If anybody opens the back door unnaturally from outside, you end up having open-door syndrome. You can’t close the door. Anal sex harms [gays]. It reduces their life by, on average, 25 years—anal or oral sex.” Asked if such sex could harm women the same way it harms gay men, Morton thought for a moment. “Uh, it also has an impact—a strong impact. I’m not certain the exact statistics there.”
Welcome to the second annual March for Marriage, a friendly gathering of a few thousand concerned Americans, that is, according to its website, “poised to become an essential and indispensable vehicle for voicing the values of pro-marriage Americans in a way that cuts through the biased media narrative and demands hearing in the halls of power.”
With temperatures in the high 80s and skies on the verge of storming, a diverse choir of “traditional marriage” supporters sprawled across a lush field facing the Capitol to hear religious-right darlings preach.
Rick Santorum, former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania and former presidential candidate, took the stage and told the enchanted crowd (although, it might have just been heat exhaustion) that it was their responsibility, together, to “reclaim” the institution of marriage. “That’s on us,” he said.
In between speakers, some attendees walked around wielding signs and some prayed—with their arms stretched toward the sky. Others clutched rosary beads. Actual priests (and a few rabbis) circled, holding religious texts and offering wisdom to passersby.
Former Arkansas governor and perpetual presidential prospect Mike Huckabee kicked off his remarks with a dig at President Obama, who infamously “evolved” on gay marriage. “I’m surprised there’s something with which I actually agree with President Obama,” he snarked. “I agree with what he said in August of 2008 regarding marriage… I agree with what you said then, it’s what you say now that I have to take issue with.”
Huckabee, as he’s prone to do, turned evangelical, noting that “Government does not give us our rights,” but God does. Huckabee made repeat references to the “nine people in black robes” (those would be the members of the Supreme Court) who “believe that they are superior” to regular Americans.
Also in attendance was San Francisco’s Catholic archbishop, Salvatore Cardileone, who was urged by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi not to attend the event, which she dismissed as “venom masquerading as virtue.” Several attendees noted with glee Cardileone’s letter responding to Pelosi, where he wrote that the event was “not ‘anti-LGBT’ (as some have described it)” but a “pro-marriage” event.
As reported by The Daily Beast’s David Freedlander, many who oppose same-sex marriage have—as public opinion increasingly sides against them—begun to express their concern that they are being victimized by its proponents—Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council went as far as to liken it to McCarthyism. And that sentiment was palpable at the March for Marriage.
“I feel bullied,” said Jim Kerr, of Virginia. “Bullied because I’m trying to express myself like any other American has the right to express themselves, and to suppress that I don’t think is fair. So, I’m here to make a statement here…This is my God-given right, not government-given right.” As Kerr spoke, he was often drowned out by fellow-marchers who shouted “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!”
Kerr sported a tie with a family of gorillas on it, which he said, “really represents family. It’s natural, it’s nature, and nature understands family, and nature understands how family works—it’s about a mom, and a dad, and babies. It’s a statement tie.” Kerr was adamant that the gorilla tie was not a statement about evolution, but “about life.”
In front of the Supreme Court stood Jim Griffin, who identifies as “The True Captain America.” Griffin wore a Captain America costume, complete with a mask, which he was nearly unbearable in the sweltering heat. Attached to Griffin’s belt was a flag pole (he said it weighed 100 pounds) and a very large flag which repeatedly hit me in the face as I spoke to him.
Griffin asked if The Daily Beast is run by Glenn Beck. Informed that it is very much not run by Glenn Beck, Griffin’s eyes squinted skeptically.
He was at the march, he said, because “the family’s fallen apart… Foreign governments are laughing and we’re on the precipice of something very, very, very bad.” Griffin advised people “study history. Just find out the facts, find out the truth,” to prepare for that very, very, very bad something that is coming soon. Griffin said the March for Marriage was about telling the Supreme Court, “We want to take our country back to founding principles.”
Surrounding Griffin was an eclectic group of traditional-marriage supporters, including a father of 10 and grandfather of 13 who drove all night from Louisiana—with a three-foot-tall wooden cross—to attend the march; a preacher who handed me a CD labeled “‘No,’ to fornication,” and advised me to find a Baptist church in New York; and a woman named Gwendolyn, who told me that she saw angels fly down into the Supreme Court. Gwendolyn wore an angel pin on her breast, which she explained was an actual angel and sent to her directly from God.
In the fray stood a young boy, accompanied by his mother. He held a sign that read “I’m not afraid of gays… I’m afraid for them.”