Rainbow flags and t-shirts, joyful songs and exuberant smiles were hallmarks of the crowd of protestors that marched through campus Saturday, protesting the passing of Proposition 8, which recently outlawed same-sex marriage in California.
The College of William and Mary’s Lambda Alliance and the Greater Williamsburg chapter of the Virginia
Organizing Project sponsored the demonstration, which was a part of a series of protests held nationwide Saturday.
The event attracted students, faculty and members of the community. As the group of protestors walked toward Confusion Corner, cars slowed down to watch the demonstration. Some drivers looked on in bewilderment while others rolled down their windows to cheer and honk in support.
The demonstrators cited a multitude of reasons for supporting the cause.
“I believe in this because God is love and nobody should stand in the way of that,” Cory Hitt ’11 said.
Hispanic studies professor George Greenia viewed the rally as an important step toward raising awareness for equal rights within the College administration.
“As a faculty member, I’m proud to see so many William and Mary students, faculty and staff gathered together in the cause of justice,” Greenia said. “It took [the College] so long to pass a non-discrimination law for all of us and we’re still working on full domestic partner benefits.”
A local couple, Leslie Ochsenhirt and Judith Tomlin, also spoke out against Proposition 8.
“We’ve been together for 14 years and it really affects us, because we have none of the benefits of being married,” Ochsenhirt said.
Her partner agreed.
“We’re like second class citizens,” Tomlin said.
Before the demonstration, the group gathered in front of the Crim Dell to listen to three speakers. First was Camilla Hill ’11, the daughter of Camilla Buchanan and Deborah Hill. Her mothers married this past summer
in San Francisco; the legality of their California marriage now hangs in the balance.
“I cannot describe to you how ecstatic it made me to be able to stand in an official state building and witness the marriage of my parents, who devoted their lives to one another,” Hill said.
She also expressed her anger about the proposition.
“Proposition 8 directly affects gay and lesbian families like mine, but should also offend every American,” Hill said. “We live in a country that prides itself upon our justice and equality when many people are denied their basic civil rights on a daily basis. I cannot live with this … I want answers, California. Why is my parents’ love so frightening to you? Why are we not entitled to all the civil rights and privileges that you are? We are not going to step aside while you brush away our rights in the name of God. Oh, how He must be weeping for his children taking the words of men and distorting them to mean what they want to justify human and ungodly hate.”
Buchanan spoke after her daughter and encouraged the crowd to develop “righteous anger” about Proposition 8.
“I call on you to step forward,” Buchanan said. “Every day each one of us, gay or straight, sees people who make stupid jokes about gays, who make disparaging remarks, and we choose sometimes to be silent. Be silent no more. Let everyone that you know understand either you’re gay and proud or you have friends and family members who are gay, and you are proud of them.”
As the demonstration wrapped up at Confusion Corner, several demonstrators, including 9-year-old Norah Peterson, gave short speeches. Peterson, the daughter of two same-sex parents, stood before the crowd and stated that her mothers “should be free to do whatever they want.”
Lambda Alliance co-President Kathy Middlesex ’09 expressed excitement over the turnout.
“Today was a wonderful demonstration,” Middlesex said. “We had 120 people at the rally and, throughout the demonstration, at least 200 people. To see that there is that much support on campus and in Williamsburg is wonderful.”