10th Annual Witness For Love Turns from Protest To Celebration
One of the worst storms of the year didn’t stop same-sex marriage advocates from showing up to the John Marshall Courthouse building in downtown Richmond for the annual Witness for Love Event.
In its 10th year, Witness for Love aims to shine a light on the inequality in Virginia’s marriage law. About 90 people showed up this year, a slightly larger group than last year’s.
The events take place around the state at different court houses. Same-sex couples walk up to the county clerks office and ask for marriage licenses which they are then denied.
This years event was all the more important because of the announcement made yesterday by District Judge Allen Wright which struck down Virginia’s 2006 voter-approved constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
“The courts are doing important work… The lawyers do the law, but we have to inspire them, and that’s what we’re doing,” said event organizer and President of People of Faith for Equality in Virginia Rev. Dr. Robin H. Gorsline.
“Even when we have this wonderful victory, it’s not done yet,” said Gorsline. “We have to then make sure Virginia is ready for this, for equality, and that means changing a lot of hearts and minds.”
Folks from around the city came out to show support for the issue. Deena Ferguson came out with her 2-year-old son Kieran and her husband Colin. They’ve attended the event since the marriage amendment passed in 2006. “It’s wonderful to see this turn from a protest day into a celebration day,” she said as little Kieran fidgeted in Colin’s lap.
One of the couples attempted to receive a marriage license was Shirley Lesser and her long time partner India Lipton. “We got the answer we expected, which is no. We also hope that next year we’ll get a yes,” said Lesser. The couple has been trying to get married at these events since last year, but they promised to keep coming back until it happens.
“Justice will prevail.” said Lesser, “We will be married!’
“Soon,” added Lipton, with their son Dillon in their arms. “We need it.”
Virginia ACLU Executive Direction Clair Gastanaga was also in attendance. While much of the recent attention has been placed on the Bostic v. Rainey case in VA’s Eastern District which the judge ruled on yesterday, the second case challenging the state ban is happening in VA’s Western District and being led by Gastanaga and her team.
“We have a class action and every single one of those couples that’s going in there today to ask for a marriage license in our class of plaintiffs that we represent,” said Gastanaga. “I’m here to support my friends and our clients as they seek to get what everyone deserves, which on Valentine’s Day, is the right to be with the person they love.”
Gastanaga couldn’t comment as to whether yesterday’s decision would affect her case, but she hoped it would help the Judge with the process. “Judges are independent folk. I don’t make a habit of predicting what judges will do,” she joked.
Members of the local Unitarian Universalist churches made up many of the attendees. Sam War, from Glen Allen UU, led other members in a drum circle before and after the event. Clad in gold shirts with “witness for love” written on them, Ward said he was active in social justice work and he believed “that all Americans are equal, everybody.”
“Our country is in need of refocusing on its real values, and it supposed to be about equality for everyone,” said Ward.
I am originally from a small town in North Carolina and have recently moved to Richmond. Meaning I am a novice to the ways of Richmond life, but from what I have seen it is a culturally rich environment that I look forward to diving into. My daily hustle consists of playing bass, reading, and hunting for new music. This summer I will be interning with RVA Magazine and GayRVA.com. In the fall I will be transferring to Virginia Commonwealth University where I will major in journalism.
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