Feb 122006
Authors: Sara Crocker

"Marriage is about love, not gender."

"Gay marriage does not threaten my marriage."

"Homosexuals like wedding cake, too."

These were just a few signs seen around Old Town Square on Saturday afternoon during the celebration of the seventh annual Freedom to Marry Day.

The day, meant to celebrate everyone's right to marriage, was filled with music and guest speakers supporting the event. But the many bills that could impact same-sex couples and their rights as partners were also a major focus of the day.

"Everyone should have the right to marry," said Emily Atherton, a sophomore anthropology major who attended the event with her sister.

During the event, organizers asked the crowd of about 300 people to come up if they are in a committed relationship and announce how many years they had been together.

Couples crowded onto the stage in the middle of the square, some announcing one year of commitment; one couple said they have been together for 38 years. Organizers said there was a total of 86 years of commitment on the stage.

Jim Rath and Stuart Anderson have been together for 7 years and will celebrate their second wedding anniversary in March. The couple married in Oregon, but after the decision to allow gay marriage there was overturned, their marriage license was no longer valid.

"Our marriage license may have been taken away, but Stuart and I are still married in our hearts," Rath said.

While celebration of love and marriage was the theme of the day, politics was a main focus.

"We will not bow down to heterosexism," said Alicia Forde, a member of the Namaqua Unitarian Universalist Congregation.

Many speakers expressed their concern about the Colorado Marriage Amendment, which would ask voters to define marriage within the state's constitution as that between a man and a woman.

Defining marriage in the constitution would make it harder to overturn the amendment. Right now, Colorado statutes define marriage the same way, but these can be overruled more easily by a judge. However, this amendment would not impact the creation of domestic partnerships or civil unions.

However, many on Saturday said adding that language to the constitution is discrimination. Many groups are working to defeat the amendment and push for equal marriage rights.

"It's great they're doing this," said Representative Tom Plant, D-Dist. 13, who spoke Saturday. Plant is also introducing the Colorado Domestic Partnership Act to the legislature this session, which would grant benefits to same sex couples. "I hope we can get support in the legislature."

Plant's bill, if it is supported within the legislature, will go to voters in November. The bill would grant same-sex couples the same benefits the state grants to married couples. However, it would not be able to extend federal benefits, such as social security.

Plant said in a telephone interview Thursday that he has introduced this bill before and will introduce it again this year in an attempt to protect his constituents' rights.

"I feel as a legislator, if I see something I believe is in violation of our basic civil rights I have an obligation to try and correct that," he said. "I'm confident (the bill) will pass by a comfortable margin."

While some people at Freedom to Marry Day said they were not very involved with the politics of gay marriage, most said they would be voting this November.

After the rally, supporters marched to Avogadro's Number, 605 S. Mason St., for a reception and wedding cake.

Bev Webber, a Fort Collins resident and treasurer of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) said this is the third year she and her husband attended the event, and they come in support of their son who came out to them a few years ago.

"We support equal rights," Webber said. She added that she and her husband were not too taken aback by their son coming out, like some parents are. She said they wanted to be supportive of their son. "His dad just said it's OK. We were very accepting."

Sara Crocker can be reached at regional@collegian.com

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