Over 300 hold Wedding March in downtown Rochester
By Susan Jordan
New Yorkers are used to seeing hundreds of LGBT couples with rainbow umbrellas cross the Brooklyn Bridge every fall in a Wedding March organized by Marriage Equality New York (MENY). Now that tradition has come to Rochester and other upstate cities.
Rochester held its first Wedding March on Sept. 26. Over 300 people of all ages, most carrying rainbow umbrellas, rallied in front of the Monroe County office building and then marched across the river and back to Genesee Crossroads park for a festival, or Wedding Reception.
Several people spoke at the rally, including Harry Bronson, candidate for NYS Assembly, and Robin Wilt, candidate for NYS Senate. Young people from Civil Rights Front held signs up for passing motorists to see and cheered loudly when drivers honked to show support.
The Reverend Jim Mulcahy of Open Arms MCC led off the speakers, saying, “You don’t get rights by being silent.”
Robin Wilt stated that marriage equality is a civil rights issue. She drew parallels with the struggle over 40 years ago to legalize interracial marriages like hers. Said Wilt, “Change doesn’t always come from the top down. ‘Loving v. Virginia’ came about because of two people… who felt their rights had been violated. Individuals working together CAN create change.”
Harry Bronson proudly reaffirmed his identity as a gay man and said, “Despite the culture war, this is a civil rights issue… It’s time for inclusion, not exclusion. Every step you take today takes you closer to full equality.” He ridiculed the Republican claim that civil unions are an adequate substitute for legal marriage, noting “Separate is NOT equal!”
Longtime activist Rosemary Rivera gave a passionate speech about her experience and that of Sandra, her partner of 17 years. “I am Puerto Rican, she is African American,” Rivera said, “and we have lots of issues between us.”
She listed some of the issues, such as poverty, violence in the neighborhood, police brutality and racism, that affect LGBT people of color just as much as their queer issues. If the white LGBT community genuinely wishes to include LGBT people of color, rather than excluding or marginalizing them, Rivera said, there are solutions available to bridging communities.
“We can increase support for groups of color,” she said. “We can raise the visibility of leaders of color… we need to assess the needs of LGBT leaders of color… build media community infrastructure and publicize successes of LGBT people of color… and remember, every issue is a two-way street.”
Sarah of Civil Rights Front referred to her marriage in 2009 and to the fact that she and her partner have health issues. “If I weren’t legally married (out of state) and if my marriage weren’t recognized in New York, I wouldn’t be as secure as I am,” she said. “We have to remember we are fighting a national battle, not just in NYS.”
Molly Clifford from Mayor Duffy’s office said, “It’s great to work for an administration that supports civil rights.” She invited all to plan to celebrate their legal weddings at City Hall.
Union activist Tom Privitere noted, “Unions are at the forefront of human rights, people’s rights and workers’ rights. DOMA (the anti-gay federal Defense of Marriage Act) is an abomination to those of us who pay taxes and work every day. We’re sick and tired of being sick and tired.”