Brian Brown will preside over the second March for Marriage on Thursday, hoping that increased attendance and a demonstration of broad support for marriage between one man and one woman will send a strong signal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
It was as the court was hearing arguments in two key marriage cases last year that Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, led the first March for Marriage in March of 2013. After several thousand people walked from the National Mall to the steps of the Supreme Court, where they were met by crowds demonstrating in favor of same-sex “marriage,” participants returned to the Mall to hear a slate of speakers.
One of them was Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, who heads a committee of the U.S. Bishops Conference that was established in the face of growing popularity for same-sex “marriage.” Archbishop Cordileone, who had recently begun his tenure as archbishop of San Francisco, a city known for being “gay-friendly,” emphasized in his speech that he spoke out of love for fellow human beings, not out of any kind of hatred for people who hold different views.
“There are probably a lot of people watching us who disagree with us on this issue,” he said at the 2013 rally. “We say to you: ‘We love you. We are your neighbors and we want to be your friends, and we want you to be happy. … Please try to listen to us fairly and calmly.’”
Archbishop Cordileone plans to speak at the march again this year, in spite of calls from political and religious figures for him to boycott an event that they allege fosters hatred of homosexuals. Nancy Pelosi, the congresswoman from San Francisco, characterized the event as "venom masquerading as virtue."
Aleteia spoke to Brian Brown this week about the controversy and other issues related to the defense of marriage.
What do you think about Nancy Pelosi and others trying to talk Archbishop Cordileone out of speaking at your rally?
Standing up for the traditional definition of marriage is not hateful, and unfortunately politicians like Nancy Pelosi and [California Lt. Gov.] Gavin Newsom are now at a point of actually thinking that groups like NOM and the Family Research Council and anyone who stands up to defend traditional marriage, let alone speak about homosexuality, should somehow be banished from the public square, and it sort of proves our point that this movement is not really—at least for some—about having an open, fruitful dialogue or a public debate but it’s about shutting down one side of the debate.
So I think it’s unfortunate and I think that just factually, some of the claims that they’re making are simply untrue. We always worked to affirm the dignity of all human beings, but that does not mean that somehow supporting traditional marriage is against the dignity of all human beings, but that is what they are now trying to say, even going so far as to say that Catholic bishops shouldn’t stand together with people of other faiths to proclaim the truth about marriage.
But I have no doubt—it never crossed my mind that the archbishop won’t be there. Of course he’ll be there. He stands up for the truth, and we’ve gotten support from a number of bishops and archbishops around the country who are sending buses, sending out fliers in the dioceses. I’m very happy with the diverse ecumenical and interreligious support that we have. I don’t think anyone’s going to be scared out of standing up for what they know to be true.
This year it seems like every week there’s been a court overturning a state’s law restricting marriage to one man and one woman. Why has marriage been losing so much lately?
The reality is that we have a legal system in which the judges, even before this year, have been working to do what they can to redefine marriage. But they felt that before the Windsor case [in which the Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act] there was some impediment to that. With the new and false interpretation of the Windsor case, which is that somehow the Supreme Court is going to support the constitutionalization of same sex marriage nationwide, a lot of lower courts feel like they can just take the mask off and do what they’ve always wanted to do.
So once you get a few courts proclaiming that "this is what the Supreme Court says,” it’s much easier for a number of courts to do that. But make no mistake. This is not a new fight. Going all the way back to Proposition 8 in California we had a state supreme court redefine marriage. We’ve see this in Massachusetts, we’ve seen it in Connecticut. It’s now trickled up to the federal courts.
What can be done or what is being done to reverse course?
Our focus is, number one, doing everything we can to highlight to the Supreme Court that the people of this country are not going to stand for another Roe v Wade type of decision. You look back at Roe v Wade, the Supreme Court itself and many court observers thought that once the court decided on the abortion issue, it would be a dead debate. They couldn’t have been more wrong. And you recently have Justice Ginsburg even saying that Roe v Wade, because the court decided this key decision it launched a culture war…. The same thing will happen if the court was to create out of thin air a right to redefine marriage.
So we want to highlight to the court, and that’s why we’re having a march for Marriage. We also need to fight in all the states we can—we will get a victory in one of these federal courts. Most of the courts that have heard these cases are more liberal courts. You haven’t heard yet from Louisiana and some other districts. So we will get a win there, I believe, in one of the other courts—and then this will all head to the Supreme Court, and that’s where the real decision will lie. It doesn’t really matter—I mean, it’s important because it creates public perception, but ultimately these lower courts aren’t going to be deciding the future of marriage; that’s going to go to the Supreme court.
Number 2 is to be realistic about what the court will do. The media wants to make it seem inevitable that the Supreme Court is going to rule to launch another Roe. That’s just not the case, and you can look at some very concrete reasons why not. The Supreme Court has issued stays in all the key decisions, the key decision that got to it, which was the Utah case, overturning two lower court decisions. Why is the Supreme Court issuing a stay, an important event? Because there are two reasons why the Supreme Court could issue a stay that has to be fulfilled: 1, that it’s likely that the court will grant review of the case, and 2, there’s a likelihood the lower court decision will be overturned by the full court granting a stay is itself saying there’s a likelihood that at least in the Utah case the lower court decision to create same-sex marriage in Utah will be overturned. That’s a very big deal.
So I think there’s real hope that the court will do the right thing here. Why is that important? Because what the other side wants to convince us is that nothing we can do is going to change what’s about to happen and that we might as well give it up now. Well, no, we’re not going to give up now, and even if the court does launch a Roe, we’re not giving up. The truth about marriage doesn’t change; we’ll just be in the same position of the pro-life movement after Roe, and we’ll have a decades-long fight to make sure the law mirrors the truth about marriage.
What’s the March for Marriage looking like? What are you hoping will come out of it?
I don’t know what the numbers will end up being. We’ll clearly have over 10,000 people there, maybe more. It’s hard to judge. We’ll see. Again, to look back at the pro-life movement, the first March for life, you were looking at 10,000 to 15,000 people there and it grew to what it is today. We’re in the long haul if we get 15,000 people or we get 50,000 people. We’re going to be ecstatic because it shows that people are still willing to stand up for the truth about marriage.
I’m also very happy about the speakers who will be there: Gov. [Mike] Huckabee, Sen. [Rick] Santorum, Archbishop Cordileone, the African-American Church: Bishop Harry Jackson, Bishop Felton Smith of the Church of God in Christ. State Sen. Ruben Diaz, a Democrat from New York, is going to speak.
So I think the march is going to highlight the diversity of the movement to protect marriage—people from different walks of life, different political parties, different religions, different ethnic backgrounds, all coming together to proclaim the truth about marriage.