On the south lawn of the state Capitol more than 50 people rallied against convening a Constitutional Convention, while thousands gathered on the north side of the Capitol in support of a convention, with the ultimate goal of banning gay marriage in the state.
More than 2,000 people traveled to Hartford Sunday to let lawmakers and judges know they are opposed to gay marriage.
“We are here today to send a message to the court to say, ‘Hands off marriage, let the people decide’,” Peter Wolfgang, executive director of The Family Institute of Connecticut, said.
The state Supreme Court heard arguments in a marriage equality lawsuit filed by eight same-sex couples 16 months ago and has yet to issue a decision. Lawmakers postponed voting on a marriage equality bill in 2007 because the court was expected to make a decision on the matter.
Wolfgang said while the delay is not unprecedented many suspect, “the court is deliberately delaying its ruling until after the election.” He said his supporters are not going to wait until after the election to take action. He said the question of whether or not the state should hold a Constitutional Convention comes every 20 years.
Wolfgang and his supporters see “this as our one shot to take back self-governance and let the people decide.”
The Family Institute of Connecticut is just one of the groups hoping to use the Constitutional Convention as a way to get ballot initiatives and referendums on issues like same-sex marriage onto future ballots as a way to let the masses decide public policy in the state.
The Connecticut Civil Rights Defense Coalition, which was formed two weeks ago, is urging voters not to convene a Constitutional Convention. The group sees ballot initiative and referendum, a possible outcome of the convention, as a tool for special interest groups to destroy civil rights currently protected by the constitution.
Jerimarie Liesegang said “We do need a way to directly petition our government, but this is not the vehicle.”
Frank O’Gorman, from the group People of Faith CT, said, “Human rights are not up for popular vote.” He said the group was gathered Sunday to say, “Hands off the constitution.”
LaResse Harvey, of A Better Way Foundation, said ballot initiative and referendum could take away hard fought civil liberties. While holding her grandson in her arms, she said he’s cute now, but by third or fourth grade they will fear him because he will be a Black man. “Today he has some rights, let’s make sure he keeps his rights,” Harvey said.
Harvey, who is training to become a minister, said her Bible teaches her that Jesus loves everybody and accepts everybody, which makes it hard to understand how ministers and people of faith could speak against a specific group of people.
Bishop Jeremiah Torres from the Restoration House in Hartford said “We need to bring America back to its true values.”
“We love every human being in the world, but we don’t approve of the lifestyles some have chosen,” he said. “Where are the rights for church folks?”
In an emailed statement Anne Stanback, executive director of Loves Makes a Family, a said, “A majority of Connecticut voters support marriage for gay and lesbian couples because they believe we should do everything we can to help these couples take care of each other.”
“The Family Institute of Connecticut is simply out of touch with what the average Connecticut citizen believes,” she said. “Fortunately, the intolerant message of today’s rally represents a minority view that is continually shrinking.”
Father Christopher Leighton from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Darien said while it’s popular to say love makes a family, “it’s god that makes a family.”
“Marriage is a gift from God and it is God who makes a family,” he said.
Click the play arrow below to listen to Pastor George Chien from the Metropolitan Community Church in Hartford talk about religious freedom and why he doesn’t support a Constitutional Convention.