The court will hear oral arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry March 26 and U.S. v. Windsor the following day, the first time that the nation’s top court will take on marriage equality.
United For Marriage Coalition is organizing dozens of vigils across the country to mark the momentous occasion. As of presstime, 164 events were planned.
Communications co-chair Sean Carlson said the coalition came together to provide a platform for individuals who wanted to take part in the fight for marriage equality.
“In the next couple weeks, we want to demonstrate both locally and in Washington D.C. that the nation is ready for marriage equality,” he said. “We really think this is our moment to let that shine and take the stage.”
Brian Silva, executive director of Marriage Equality USA, said the effort stretches to all corners of the country and the evens will be diverse in size.
“The goal is to not just show that D.C. is ready, but in communities large and small, rural and urban, that people believe the time for marriage equality is now,” he said.
In 2008, voters in California approved Prop. 8, overturning the state’s marriage-equality law. Two same-sex couples subsequently sued, achieving victories in district and appellate courts. In this case, the Supreme Court could weigh in that gays and lesbians have an inherent right to marry, or could narrow its decision to California.
The Windsor case originated after New York widow Edie Windsor, 83, was forced to pay more than $360,000 in estate tax after her same-sex partner’s death because of DOMA, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage.
Philadelphia will host its own vigil on the eve of the hearings, from 5-7 p.m. March 25 at the James A. Byrne United States District Court, 601 Market St.
The local event is being planned by Delaware Valley Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Equality Pennsylvania, Marriage Equality for Pennsylvania, Metropolitan Community Church of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Family Pride, Philly Gay Lawyer, SafeGuards and Southern New Jersey Gay Pride.
Delaware Valley Americans United for Separation of Church and State vice president Janice Rael said the vigil was conceived by a small group of local LGBT leaders that was led by Philly Family Pride vice chair Wendy Forbes.
Rael said after the group’s first meeting, they learned of the national rallies, which originated with groups like GetEQUAL, Marriage Equality USA and Equality Beyond Gender.
“We are trying to spread the word of the importance of marriage equality,” she said. “And locally, people in the community wanted to do more, politically speaking, in Philly.”
The group has been putting fliers around Philadelphia and South Jersey to get the word out.
Rael said she is expecting a large turnout, with more than 130 people RSVPed on the Facebook event page so far.
“We want to get the word out and get a big, impressive crowd and see that there are people who support marriage equality,” she said. “It is our civil rights being affected here. We want to show that we care. Philadelphia is the birthplace of the nation and liberty and justice for all. It is part of being a Philadelphian.”
Participants are encouraged to wear red and bring signs of support. The first 150 attendees will get glow sticks.
Rael said she hopes the vigil will not only mobilize pro-LGBT supporters but also educate those who are not yet allies.
“We hope people see diversity of support for marriage and federal equality. I would love it if we could change some minds and win some hearts over. We are here and we want marriage.”
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/events/464606143605672/.