Organizers of a rally against same-sex marriage held in Washington Saturday said they believe several thousand people attended their demonstration, but law enforcement officials would not confirm that number. The National Organization for Marriage convened the March for Marriage ahead of Tuesday's same-sex marriage case arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court, which could validate gay marriage across the nation. A decision is expected before the court recesses for the summer.
The rally speakers said they oppose all attempts to stop states from defining marriage as a union solely between a man and a woman. Thirty-one states initially passed constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage. Of the 31 states that had bans, 26 have been struck down by U.S. courts. Eight of the 26 states where same-sex marriage bans were overturned by court order have appealed the ruling, keeping bans on the unions in place in 13 states total.
March for marriage participants traveled from Third Street, near the reflecting pool on Capitol Hill, to the front of the Supreme Court building, said NOM spokesman Paul Bothwell, who estimated the crowd at approximately 10,000. A dispatcher for the U.S. Capitol Police said officials were not releasing crowd size estimates to the public. Social media photos suggested attendance may have been decidedly lower than Bothwell's estimate.
— Zack Ford (@ZackFord) April 25, 2015
The Rev. Johannes Jacobse, an Orthodox priest from Florida, was one of more than a dozen speakers at the rally in front of the Supreme Court. He said marriage is a religious institution the government cannot redefine. “In the end, the state will be telling you how to live, and you will lose your freedom and the family will be weakened and the society will crumble and might even be destroyed,” Jacobse told the rally. “God created the family. In the beginning, in the beginning, it was Adam and Eve and not Adam and Steve.”
Other rally speakers included New York state Sen. Ruben Diaz, reality TV star Josh Duggar, and Janet Crouse of the World Congress of Families. Organizers said they had anticipated a large turnout because of the upcoming court arguments.
"The outpouring of support from the faith and pro-family communities has been amazing, and is a reflection of how important we see this opportunity to demand of the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court that they respect our values and our votes in support of preserving marriage as the union of one man and one woman," NOM President Brian Brown said in a statement before Saturday's march.
Although Brown promoted an appearance from "an official representative of Pope Francis," at least one Catholic Church archbishop announced Friday he would not attend the weekend rally. Earlier this week, gay rights advocates from the Human Rights Campaign sent an open letter to Pope Francis asking him to advise his bishops against participating.
“There is absolutely no room for an emissary of one of the world’s great religions at an event that will espouse hate and bigotry and promote outright discrimination against LGBT Americans and their families,” HRC spokesman Fred Sainz said in a statement Saturday. “Pope Francis has continually emphasized love and acceptance in his tenure, but this event stands for anything but.”