After devastating blows Tuesday with a failed civil unions bill in Colorado and the passage of North Carolina’s Amendment One, the Dallas LGBT community celebrated President Barack Obama’s public endorsement of same-sex marriage at a rally Wednesday night.
Nearly 80 people gathered at the Legacy of Love Monument at Cedar Springs and Oak Lawn to protest the passage of North Carolina’s marriage ban, but also to rejoice in the victory of the first president to come out in favor of marriage equality.
The rally had been organized after the North Carolina vote to spur the LGBT community to action by calling on Obama and Mayor Mike Rawlings to end their silence on marriage equality, but became a celebratory gathering in light of Obama’s historic announcement.
Daniel Cates, North Texas regional coordinator for GetEQUAL, organized the rally. He opened the remarks to the crowd by quoting from Harvey Milk’s famous “Hope Speech” and encouraging the crowd to come out to everyone they know to bring attention to the number of LGBT people who deserve equality.
“Harvey Milk was right then and Harvey Milk is right today,” Cates said after reading the speech. “We must come out for what we believe and we must ask those that support us to come out.”
Poking at Mayor Rawlings, Cates called him and those like him — who support the LGBT community personally but refuse to take public stands — “closet cases.” Rawlings has refused to sign a pledge that hundreds of other mayors across the country have signed in support of same-sex marriage.
“Members of Congress, come out! Mayor Mike Rawlings, come out!” Cates shouted to the cheering crowd. “We need everyone to follow the example that the president set this morning.”
The Rev. Stephen Sprinkle, an openly gay professor at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, spoke about his upbringing in North Carolina. He grew up there and was ordained as a Baptist pastor in the state, he told the crowd. Sharing several phone calls he received after the vote was announced, he told the crowd that a majority of voters in North Carolina said no to marriage equality, but the majority of the residents don’t believe in the hateful ban on LGBT rights.
The Rev. Jo Hudson, senior pastor at Cathedral of Hope, spoke about how “history bent a little more toward justice” and encouraged the crowd to stand strong amid inevitable backlash from conservatives and Christians who will try to use the Bible against the LGBT community. She told the audience that the progress made Wednesday by Obama’s announcement would only continue and one day LGBT Texans would be able to marry here.
Omar Narvaez, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, said he was proud “to say that President Obama has evolved.”
“Today is a day to remember. It is the biggest day in the modern day movement and the in modern day history,” Narvaez said.
Narvaez told the crowd that the victory won Wednesday was just the beginning, saying the coming months and years would bring more acknowledgement for equal rights.
“Today is not the first day,” he said. “It’s the biggest day.”
Several other local activists spoke to honor Obama’s announcement and to urge the crowd to tell family, friends and co-workers to take their voices to the polls.
A handful of audience members also spoke in an open forum after the rally ended with those in attendance joining in a singing of “We Shall Overcome.” Many of them shared stories of losing loved ones and not having any rights to keep their things or claim their true relationship, while others shared stories of progress in uniting an anti-gay neighborhood and overcoming their own struggles for equality.