NEW YORK CITY — Hundreds of same-sex couples seeking to wed were turned away from marriage-license counters around the United States last Thursday, part of an annual protest that took on renewed urgency in light of recent setbacks in the gay-marriage movement.
Activists in Manhattan wearing signs that said “Just Not Married” were part of a wave of demonstrations expected throughout the day at marriage bureaus or county clerks’ offices from New York City to California, in communities large and small.
Matt Flanders, 37, of Brooklyn, participated with his 29-year-old partner, Will Jennings. Both wore gold engagement rings.
When he was denied a marriage license, Flanders said he told officials: “‘I should be able to marry the person I love.’ And they said, ‘We can only offer you a domestic partnership.’”
Micah Stanek, 23, stood outside in a floor-length wedding veil after he and his partner were rejected. He said he moved to New York from San Francisco after gay marriage was outlawed in California on the November ballot.
“New York is especially important because the rest of the country follows what happens here,” he said.
Outside the bureau, protesters chanted, “What do we want? Marriage! When do we want it? Now!” One man held a sign that read: “Love your husband? Let me love mine!”
The protests, part of the 12th annual Freedom to Marry Week, were considered especially important this year because they came in the wake of California’s Proposition 8 vote that overturned gay marriage. The protests also came just as New Yorkers look to their state Senate to pass legislation that could lead to legalized gay marriage.
In Augusta, Maine, last Thursday, dozens of proponents of gay marriage gathered outside the Maine House and Senate to distribute Valentine’s Day cards while urging support for a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the state.
Nicki Drumb and her partner, Rachel Gardiner, headed to the county courthouse in Orlando, Fla., that day to apply for a license along with dozens of other couples.
Drumb, a 39-year-old graphic artist, also was organizing 100 people who had planned to form a heart with their bodies in Orlando’s Lochhaven Park for Valentine’s Day.
“It will point out what we all have in common — we all have a heart and we all love and need to be loved,” Drumb said.
About 15 people gathered last Thursday outside the marriage bureau in downtown Las Vegas carrying signs that read “Don’t hate my love” and “No laws on love.” In St. Paul, Minn., where a same-sex marriage bill is making its way through the legislature, dozens of people rallied at the state capitol on Thursday to show their support for the effort.
Some of the largest gatherings were expected in California, where the state’s Supreme Court will hear arguments March 5 over whether to restore the state’s same-sex marriages. The court could render a decision as early as June.
In New York, same-sex marriages cannot legally be performed. However, Gov. David Paterson has issued a directive requiring that all state agencies recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. Massachusetts and Connecticut are the only U.S. states that allow gay marriage.
Freedom to Marry events around the country are listed on Web sites, including those run by two major organizations behind the protests — Join The Impact and the national grassroots organization Marriage Equality USA.