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Special Report - Georgia Marriage Amendment Rally
Monday, March 01, 2004
I went downtown to the Georgia State Capitol today to watch the event in support of the bill to codify into the state Constitution the definition of marriage to be between a man and a woman. SR 595 didn't pass the state House but did pass the Senate. The vote today was in the House to reconsider the bill and send it back to committee. The rally was planned by those in favor of its ultimate passage, but there was also a counter-demonstration. I brought my trusty Olympus E-10 digital camera along and played photojournalist for a day. (You can click on most of the images to get a larger version of the picture.) There was reasonable protest from both sides, and unreasonable as well. My intention was to show (or at least relate) both types from both sides even though, if you've read anything at all that I've written, you'd have a safe bet guessing that I was in favor of the amendment.
I got there about 20 minutes late. Gov. Sonny Perdue was listed as a guest and I imagined he'd be speaking. I asked someone who had been there since noon if he'd spoken already, and they said he hadn't. But I never saw him speak outside, nor did I notice him standing on the outdoor stage. Additionally, when I got there I'd expected to go inside since I was told the rally would be in the Capitol rotunda. So perhaps there was something going on inside, and so many folks were anticipated to come that they also held an outdoor rally. Unfortunately, the amplification system they used was pitiful and as close as I got I could never hear a word anyone said. Thus I can't really comment on what was said from the podium
The first person I saw that had something to do with the demonstrations was this guy. His sign was simple ("Outlaw Divorce, Not Love") and he was shouting about how, if Christians believe that marriage is sacred, then divorce should be outlawed, not same-sex marriage. He roamed around near the corner, instead of the middle of the block where the main group was, I imagine so that his voice would actually be heard instead of competing with the crowd.
For the anti-SR-595 group, I'd consider him semi-reasonable on the face but unreasonable once you thought about it. He was reasonable because he did have a point about the divorce issue; Geroge Barna's research group (a Christian-oriented one, no less) has pointed out that the divorce rate among Christians is no better, and in places worse, than the population in general. If marriage is sacred to Christians, these numbers shouldn't even be close. So yes, this guy does have a point. On the other hand, he is wrong on two counts. First, the amendment does not outlaw love, as much as he'd like to paint that picture. If two gays say they love each other, this amendment wouldn't affect that in any way whatsoever (regardless of what I or anyone else would think about their particular definition of "love"). But on the second count especially, his redirection of the question falls apart when you consider that what he's proposing would be decried for "shoving morality down people's throats" as much if not more than the current same-sex marriage issue. It could never pass. So were we to follow this man's suggestion, we'd have both gay marriage and no-fault divorce. And this is better? It's a classic straw-man argument; a little truth on the surface, but in the end it falls apart if we believe it. In the end, this is unreasonable.
The media was out in full force, capturing the whole spectacle. In general, I didn't see any actions by the media that I could find fault with. They certainly allowed both sides to get their point across, with probably a bit more emphasis on the pro-amendment side since this was their rally (although I didn't catch much of the afternoon news coverage to see what video they ran and how it was edited). There were, of course those people and incidents that they rushed to, as perhaps media ought to do, but personally I think they probably did a good job.
I thought one of the signs in this picture was interesting, "If this law passes, who in America can afford insurance?" Gauging by the fact that this sign is surrounded by pro-amendment signs on the pro-amendment side of the street, I'm assuming this is a pro-amendment one as well, but I didn't quite understand it. The pro-amendment side wants the amendment (the "law" I assume the sign mentions) to pass, so I think there's a bit of a typo here. But the connection to insurance rates, should homosexuals be allowed to marry, escapes me, unless they're tying it to AIDS and since one can get insurance for a spouse through employment benefits.... I don't know. Like I said, I didn't quite understand it, but I guess it does make you think.
Here are some crowd pictures from the anti-amendment crowd:
And from the pro-amendment crowd:
One of the signs in the first anti-amendment picture above says, "Resist the evil temptations of the theater. Reject drugs & alcohol. Avoid the promiscuity that drive your children to run away from home." All very reasonable advice, but I didn't really understand what the point of that sign was in a crowd that thought gays should be able to get married. On the contrary, one could have easily have seen such sentiments coming from the pro-amendment side of the street. In my picture, the last line is washed out by the sunlight, and I don't remember who it was it said that one should ask questions of on those subjects, but regardless of who it was the sentiment remains a non-sequiter. File this one under "reasonable, but what's your point?"
In the second picture, along with the signs asserting what rights they wanted, was a poster held by a man that said, "Isn't it LOVE thy NEIGHBOR? --My Wife" To that I'd answer, "Why, yes it is. You're wife is quite correct." The implication seems to be that if I really loved my neighbor, I'd not care what gender of person he or she wanted to marry. But then, let's go to the next step and suggest that if I really loved my neighbor, I'd not care what number of people he or she wanted to marry at the same time, which, as Francis Beckwith noted, would cause many of these folks, who are protesting the imposition of values upon them, to impose their values on other. See this post on National Review's "The Corner", and realize that the same-sex marriage advocates seek to do exactly what they're accusing traditional family advocates of. Further, they wish to violate a line already drawn, but naively think that the new line they draw will be inviolate. File this sign right behind the last one.
This is not to say that the pro-amendment side of the street was wholly reasonable, however. When you have an issue that touches religion, you have folks show up that run the gamut. The media loves this, of course, because it's so much more entertaining to watch some fellow with a 5-foot high banner and a bullhorn than a calm spectator applauding a speaker. Again, it's hard to fault them for that, but frustrating sometimes.
The difficult thing is, how do you react when, in principle, you agree with the message, but have an issue with its presentation. I heard a great line once, "The Bible is called the Sword of the Spirit, not the Club." When the apostle Paul went to Athens, Greece, he didn't shout sayings of Jesus at the folks there, he reasoned with them. He didn't start out by condemning their sin, but by simply pointing to them to the one who could save them. To me, the large banner that said "Homo sex is sin" just doesn't come off that way. In this picture, the sign itself is reasonable from a Christian standpoint, but when placed in a context that you know is going to be confrontational, it just doesn't seem like it's all the productive (and could be counter-productive). What you don't see in the picture is the guy with the bullhorn standing next to the guy with the banner condemning homosexuality over and over. Again (and for the record), I believe homosexual behavior is a sin, and I also believe that God should be proclaimed in the marketplace. Yes Jesus was confrontational, but in the vast majority of cases it was aimed at those religious leaders who were supposedly acting on behalf of God when clearly they were not. Given this, however, I think a modicum of tact would have helped their cause, especially for the guy standing up on the Capitol lawn who would occasionally yell over and over at the other side of the street, "Hell will be your home!" Can God use this for good? I certainly wouldn't want to say "No" to that, but, like trying to get my daily dose of water from sucking on blades of grass, I'm sure there's a better way to do it.
Here's a sign (on the left) that I thought made a good point. It says, "Like Jim Crow? Discrimination? God never called any race an abomination", referring to Leviticus 18:22. I think that's a very reasonable sign, considering how the same-sex marriage folks like to compare this situation to the civil rights movement. Indeed, some even compare it to women's' suffrage when asking for "equal rights" (in which case the sign could be modified to note that God never called any gender an abomination, either). In contrast to this was the sign on the right that proclaimed the holder "Gay & Godly". One has to wonder, if one is going to invoke God, what biblical passage would allow one to juxtapose those two terms in the sign on the right in light of point made by the sign on the left. This would also go for the chant "Practice what you preach!" aimed at the pro-amendment crowd, when indeed that's very likely what they were doing. (And in this instance, perhaps the "Obey the Bible" banner serves to make a point, albeit far more simplistically and with more room for misinterpretation.)
There were a few "special interests", if you will, represented as well. The two here are Hispanics advocating for the amendment, and a couple of Boy Scouts with posters, again on the pro-amendment side of the street. I'm not sure why these Hispanics would want to point out that they were specifically participating, although there's certainly nothing wrong with it, and they were as welcome as anyone. But unless there was some particularly large group of Hispanics nationally or locally that are advocating for same-sex marriage (and I'm ignorant on that matter if that's true), I'm not sure why it was worth calling attention to it. Still, it was good to have their support.
I didn't get the impression that the Scouts were there to officially represent their organization, but the boys probably thought that their stance was in keeping with the Boy Scout tradition (and I'd agree) so I would imagine they felt it perfectly good to come in uniform. Sadly, some folks on the anti-amendment side were more than ready with the Hitler references. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's blog:
Two Boy Scouts held signs railing against gay marriage. "Look at them," said Robert Janssen, of Atlanta. "They look like Hitler Youth."
And speaking of the AJC's blog entry, there's something I'd take issue with regarding opinions expressed by folks in the crowd. This sentiment seemed to miss the point entirely:
"This is not just a gay issue. It’s about amending a constitution. That is a drastic action and shouldn’t be taken lightly," said Beth Kirch, a placement director at the University of Georgia Law School. "It shouldn’t be taken lightly. It shouldn’t be a symbolic act. It shouldn’t be a political strategy to bring out a certain group of people to vote."
To which I could respond that unilateral action by Massachusetts judges or San Francisco mayors are drastic actions and shouldn't be taken lightly or used as a political strategy to circumvent want couldn't be won at the ballot box. For all the "will of the people" the left chanted during the 2000 election, they certainly have thrown out that ideal when it suits them. When the fight was based on the passage of laws, the battleground was the legislature. But the left has usurped the legislature now, preferring activists judges to impose their views on the country, and so the only recourse to the inventing of constitutional law is to amend the Constitution. When you change the rules of the game, don't whine when your opposition adjusts.
I'm just adding this picture because, well, wouldn't you? >grin< He called himself a farmer, and I couldn't say otherwise. His issue was the Georgia state flag and he did manage to get a group of legislators to listen to him. (Well, wouldn't you?)
Since I couldn't really hear any of the speakers, my impressions come mostly from the signs and the chants. It was really my first time attending a rally where there was some across-the-street shouting and chanting, so it was rather exciting to be there regardless of which side I was on. I did discover what I'm sure real photojournalists already knew; if you have no identifying markings showing which side you're on, and you have a camera, you're generally welcome on both sides.
Thanks for reading. In closing, here are some miscellaneous pictures.