National Marriage Ride

Spouses’ arrival in Washington coincides with National Coming Out Day

This Columbus Day, October 11, Washington, D.C. was the final stop for the Marriage Equality Caravan’s ten-city tour that began a week earlier in Oakland, California.

The “caravan” was mainly comprised of 44 same-sex spouses, who were married in San Francisco or Massachusetts, riding a bus across the country to promote the right to marry of gays and lesbians. The rally coincided with National Coming Out Day, and was meant to draw attention to the various measures taken up by Congress in the past year to ban same-sex marriage.

“Our goal is to get on the road and change the hearts and minds of America, so that we are fully accepted as human beings,” said Davina Kotulski, the trip’s chief organizer, and author of “Why You Should Give a Damn About Gay Marriage.”

She also said that she was surprised that more Americans weren’t outraged by recent Republican attempts to pass a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, and thought a bus trip that allowed local people to meet those affected by gay-marriage bans would change hearts and minds.

The principle sponsors of the cross-country trip and Capitol rally were Equality California, that state’s gay lobby, and DontAmend.com, a group created to fight the amendment’s passage.

The bus made stops in ten cities, including Laramie, Wyoming, scene of the 1998 murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard, and St. Louis, Missouri, right in the nation’s heartland. The riders agreed that the most unexpected part of the trip was the overwhelmingly positive reactions they received.

“It was so positive it was hard to believe,” said Joe Alfano of San Francisco, who married his partner of more than four years, Frank Capley, during February’s city hall marriages authorized by Mayor Gavin Newsom.

“Most Americans believe in equality and justice for everyone, despite what their religion tells them,” Kotulski said about the support from the people they met.

About 60 people attended the rally, held in front of the massive domed Capitol on a clear autumn day. The speakers ranged from couples married in Massachusetts to local government officials to individuals fighting for immigration rights for their partners. Acoustical duo Tuck and Patti even provided entertainment.

Diane Linn, the county board chairwoman of Multnomah County in Oregon, told the audience how her family had to stop answering the phone because of a stream of death threats and harassing calls they received after she gave the order that allowed same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses in Portland, Oregon.

Wendy Daw and Belinda Ryan, together for seven years, spoke about the need for either gay marriage or passage of the Permanent Partners Immigration Act (PPIA). Ryan, who is from Wales, will have to leave the U.S. next year unless she marries Daw or protective legislation becomes law.

“It seems outrageous that a straight man can open a newspaper, order a mail-order bride he’s never met and sponsor her into this country by marrying her,” Daw said.

The PPIA, a bill introduced in 2000 by Jerrold Nadler, a Manhattan Democrat, would provide same-sex partners all the immigration rights that married heterosexual couples enjoy.

If Ryan cannot remain in the country, Daw will have to choose between caring for her aging parents in the U.S. or moving to Europe to stay with Belinda.

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