On March 26 and 27, the U.S. Supreme Court will begin hearing oral arguments for two cases that will decide the fate of same-sex marriage.
On the eve of those cases, the Sunshine Cathedral community in Fort Lauderdale is getting together to pray for an LGBT victory, and they want everyone who believes in equality and justice to come.
“We can accommodate hundreds and we’re hoping for a good turnout,” says Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins, Sunshine’s senior minister. “We want to raise awareness about it, affirm LGBT relationships and families, unite the community, and stand for equality.”
“It’s a statement people will be making all over the country, and maybe it will tip the scales in the direction of justice,” he added.
The date March 25 is a timely choice, but has other significance. On that day nearly 50 years ago, equal rights protesters from Selma, Ala. completed their 54-mile, five-day march to the State Capitol in Montgomery. That’s the day Martin Luther King Jr. gave one of his most famous speeches, in which he spoke the words, “How long? Not long, because no lie can live forever.”
“This is a historic justice-seeking day, and also the first day of Passover, of moving out of oppression. It’s a perfect convergence of symbolism,” Watkins says.
The Defense of Marriage Act is a federal law defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman, enacted in 1996 under former president Bill Clinton.
Under DOMA, same-sex couples are ineligible for spousal government insurance benefits and Social Security survivor benefits, cannot sponsor each other for immigration, and cannot file joint tax returns.
One of the two cases, United States v. Windsor, will decide whether Edith Windsor was properly forced to pay more than $363,000 in federal estate taxes on her dead wife’s property. Had she married a man instead of Thea Spyer, the case argues, she would have owed nothing.
The other case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, is the enduring challenge to Proposition 8, the California constitutional amendment which in 2008 banned gay marriage and left many same-sex couples in legal limbo.
In a recent Washington Post editorial, former President Clinton argued that the country has evolved, and that the law he signed was discriminatory and should be thrown out. “ understand that, while our laws may at times lag behind our best natures, in the end they catch up to our core values,” Clinton wrote.
“I understand, at least in hindsight, that he was actually trying to prevent something worse,” Watkins says. “We all make mistakes along the way.” He’s grateful for Clinton’s evolution – and the current president’s.
In his inaugural speech earlier this year, Barack Obama said, “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”
“We can argue about whether he could’ve promoted more legislation, executive orders, that kind of stuff. But it is very powerful when the president names an issue and speaks in favor of it,” Watkins says. “Since he’s done it, entire organizations have become bolder: Clergy have come out in larger numbers, even the NAACP has made positive statements.”
Sunshine Cathedral is an all-inclusive church affiliated with Metropolitan Community Churches and The Center for Progressive Christianity.If You Go
What:Call to prayer for the Supreme Court to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act
When: Monday, March 25, 7 p.m.
Where: Sunshine Cathedral, 1480 S.W. Ninth Ave., Fort Lauderdale
How much: Free