Activists in Tampa hold vigil for lesbian, gay, transgender rights

03/27/13 Samuel Johnson
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Some 200 advocates of marriage equality endured chilly temperatures Tuesday evening in downtown Tampa. They huddled together in front of the Sam Gibbons US Courthouse to listen to speakers and participate in what they called the Light the Way to Justice in Tampa Bay Vigil.

The Tampa Bay vigil was held in solidarity with numerous other communities around the US to coincide with the US Supreme Court hearings on two historic rights cases. Juan Sousa-Rodriguez, a community organizer for the Florida Immigrant Coalition, says if the Supreme Court upholds any part of the two cases it opens a floodgate of positive conflict.

”When you pass those orders it creates this controversy; this conflict with every other single state. You can't grant citizens equal rights within one state and deny them those same rights in another state. So immediately after these cases are resolved, they are going to have to figure out how resolve the patchwork of, you know, if someone goes on a road trip across the country their rights will change nine times. They won't be able to hold that up for more than a year. There will be so many lawsuits that the entire system will shut down.”

Most counties in Florida, including Hillsborough, still have not recognized domestic partnerships. Jarrod Scarbrough, the event organizer, is the state lead of GetEqual, a national LGBT grass roots advocacy organization. He said despite Florida’s low marks on some equality issues the future still looks positive.

”I would actually give it a C. I would give it a C because there are some definite damaging laws that we have; like a ban on same sex marriage that not all states have a lot states do. But I give it a C, a higher grade than I think a lot of people would because there is a lot of progressive movement within a lot of Florida cities and I think that’s beautiful.”

Some conservative clergy hope the federal Defense of Marriage Act will stand because of the Christian Bible’s stance on homosexuality. However, several members of the clergy at the vigil support marriage equality. Reverend John Paul Randsom, the pastor of Living Faith Community Church in Dunedin, said citing scripture as a means of oppressing the LGBT community is a misrepresentation of the Biblical message.

“Jesus himself never said anything about homosexuality. Not one word. And yet he reached out to all that were oppressed; all who needed healing. So, today I feel confidant that Jesus would run to homosexuals for the amount of oppression and putting down and marginalization that we've endured over the centuries.”

While the constitutional questions are under review by the US Supreme Court the supporters in Tampa pointed to more prosaic reasons. Kimmy Denny, a supporter of LGBT marriage equality, said it's time for acceptance.

”It a passion you know, to believe in. And I think with the publicity from the news and things like that. It'll get the word out that. I mean we're here we're everywhere. I mean we're working with you. We're, I mean we're your friends; your family. I mean, my God, we're everywhere.”

The Supreme Court is not expected to publish its opinions on the two cases until the summer.

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