Gay rights rally in Nashville draws more than 200 people

Tennessee may be one of the nation's most red states politically, but all the colors of the rainbow were important Nov. 15 at a gay rights rally, where more than 200 people convened for a peaceful protest outside the Nashville Metro Courthouse.

The event was part of a nationwide protest against the passing of California's Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage earlier this month. The protestors received no negative backlash from local conservative groups or passers by, but police were on hand in case an incident was to occur.

A small crowd began to assemble at noon Saturday and grew quickly as event organizers handed out "Stop the H8" pins. A nearly equal number of GLBT people and their heterosexual allies joined forces to demand equality for all.

Protesters carried gay pride flags and picket signs, some of which read "H8 is easy, Love takes courage" and "Focus on your own family," as they walked the circle walkway on the courthouse lawn then lined Union Street to chant in unison. A continuous stream of car horns honked in support as drivers passed by.

Representatives and members of several gay rights groups were in attendance including the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP), the Tennessee Transgender Poilitical Coalition and Metro Nashville Softball Association.

"This exceeded my greatest expectations," said TEP President Christopher Sanders. "There were so many new activists who showed up today and I hope they will help fuel a change in Tennessee."

Others in attendance included Angie Schleicher and Macey Biddlecombe, of Lavergne. The women, who wed in Canada in April 2007, said they were protesting against marriage inequality in America.

"We are legally married in 19 countries, but not in the U.S.," Biddlecombe said. "It isn't fair and we're here because we deserve the same rights as straight married couples."

As the crowd gathered together off Union Street, several protestors took the bull horn to share their stories and voice their opinions.

Nashville residents Curtis and Desmond Child attended the rally with their young sons Roman and Nyro. The men moved together to Nashville from California about a year and a half ago.

"We wanted to come to Nashville to bring our story and help make a change," Desmond Child said during the rally. "This has to go all the way to the Supreme Court."

Tom Horton, a Nashville native, said he has watched injustice toward the GLBT community in Nashville and nationwide his entire life and attended the rally in hope of being part of a change.

"It was wrong 50 years ago to stop the black civil rights movement and it's wrong today to stop the gay civil rights movement," Horton said during the rally.

Event organizers across the country expect the final count of participants to show the nationwide movement to be the largest since the Civil Rights Movement. GLBT activists, including Molly McKay, media director of Marriage Equality USA, are already touting the day as a momentous tipping point.

"History will look back on this day as the day that the national LGBTI community rose up and said 'We are not going back.' We will insist on being treated equally under the law..." McKay said.

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