The Equal Civil Rights Rally was about more than same-sex marriage

FILE0017-for-web Published Nov. 19, 2009
About 130 LGBT-rights activists took to the streets of downtown Sarasota last Saturday afternoon to make their voices heard at the Equal Civil Rights Rally. The attendees met up at Five Points and marched to the bayfront with banners waving and rainbows flying. After a few speakers, some rally chants and plenty of honking cars, they continued their march through the downtown farmers’ market where they were greeted with an outpouring of support from local vendors and shoppers. “They all walked out of the booths clapping as we walked. It was such an amazing feeling,” says Shannon Fortner, head organizer for the event. “I felt Sarasota is that open minded that equal rights was a great reason to be marching for.” Fighting to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to allow same-sex couples the right to marry was a major push at the rally, but Fortner says it was about a broader range of civil rights issues, such as repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and ensuring adoption rights for all. “The focus of the Rally was really to do with UAFA (Uniting American Families Act) as well as Repeal DOMA, because nothing can happen until it is removed,” says Fortner. “But I am not fighting for same-sex marriage, I think until DOMA is repealed that is impossible. The separation of church and state is the real issue. No religion should keep American citizens from having the same set of laws.” Fortner and her fellow gay-rights advocates are involved in a letter campaign to get co-sponsors for UAFA, and they have also started an online petition in support of civil unions. She believes President Obama has been a strong voice for the rights of the LGBT community: “He supports full civil unions and federal rights for LGBT couples and opposes a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. He supports repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in a sensible way that strengthens our armed forces and our national security, and also believes that we must ensure adoption rights for all couples and individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation. Obama cannot step on his own toes.” The real goal of the Equal Civil Rights Rally was to fight for equality for all Americans, including equal access to health care, education, culture and all other basic rights, as well as protection from discrimination based on gender, religion, race or sexual orientation. “This needs to be known as a civil rights issue,” says Fortner. “I think people are trying to make it prettier than it really is, hence the huge push for the words ‘Civil Rights’ to be used. It is something everyone downplays.” Here is a collection of pictures from last Saturday’s Equal Civil Rights Rally courtesy of photographer Taylor Prather: Gay-Rally25-for-webFILE0005-for-webGay-Rally2-for-webGay-Rally30-for-webGay-Rally27-for-webGay-Rally5-for-webGay-Rally17-for-web

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