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Small but dedicated 'March for Marriage' crowd occupies patch of Capitol grounds

Published: Thursday, June 19 2014 5:10 p.m. MDT

Demonstrators walk from the Capitol lawn to the Supreme Court on Thursday during second annual March for Marriage in Washington, D.C.

Heather Adams, Religion News Service

WASHINGTON — Rita Alderete is single, but she values the idea of marriage being a relationship between one man and one woman.

That's why the young, diminutive pastor of the Kingdom Tabernacle of Worship church in Paterson, New Jersey, stood under overcast skies in hot, humid weather Thursday, preparing to "March for Marriage," a now-annual rally sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage and other groups.

"We're proclaiming Jesus and offering a choice of changing your life and experiencing what God can do," she said.

The several thousand people present was small compared to the hundreds of thousands who braved the bitter cold of January earlier this year to participate in the annual anti-abortion March for Life.

But Rick Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania and a 2012 Republican presidential hopeful, believes that even a modest turnout can influence policymakers.

"It's a process. You've got to keep fighting," he said. "I'm encouraged that in an environment which is a very threatening one for people who stand up and fight on this issue, that people are willing to come out and voice their support."

Though critics slammed the march as being "anti-gay," speakers from Santorum to National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown to New York state Sen. Ruben Diaz, D-Bronx, to San Francisco Roman Catholic Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, each emphasized that the march wasn't opposed to anyone, but was in favor of society's traditional definition of marriage.

"This isn't about hating anybody or any thing," Santorum told the crowd in a speech simultaneously translated into Spanish from the platform. "This is about loving truth and what's best for men, women and children."

Shifting attitudes

For her part, Alderete was less concerned with turnout than the admonition of scripture. Traditional marriage is "clearly in the Bible, even though some people don't like to hear it," she said, referencing Jesus' words about marriage in Matthew 19:5: "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."

Alderete added, "It didn't say a man would leave his 'father and father' or 'mother and mother.’ ”

The rally and march took place as the ground underneath traditional marriage continues to shift. Meeting in Detroit on Thursday, leaders of the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted by a margin of 76 percent to 24 percent to allow clergy to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies, Religion News Service reported.

The change in PCUSA rules still has to be ratified by the group's 172 regional districts, and applied only in those states where same-sex marriage is legal, RNS reported, adding that PCUSA pastors who do not wish to perform the ceremonies do not have to do so.

On the civil front, however, a recent slew of federal and state court decisions as well as legislative and electoral victories have reflected what supporters say is a growing national momentum in favor of same-sex marriage.

Such victories apparently seemed distant to Ellen Taylor from Washington, D.C., who described herself as "an activist" while being one of six people holding or standing near a banner labeled "Love Not Hate — Stop Killing Us" and holding the rainbow flag that has come to symbolize the gay rights movement.

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