Multiple signs stating, "Marriage is about love, not gender" and "Love is not sexist" decorated Old Town Square Saturday for National Freedom to Marry Day.
The celebration included a variety of performances and speakers who took the stage in front of more than 200 supporters; everyone focused on the rights of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community (GLBT), and more specifically, the community's right to marriage.
Much of the discussion and speeches at the event focused on laws and legislation that affect, or will affect, the GLBT community. This legislation is specific to marriage rights, along with laws and legislation that affect their lives outside of marriage.
Ken Hoole, 69, and Tim Sagen, 62, are two community members who have been committed to each other for almost 38 years and spoke briefly at the rally. They felt that rallies like Saturday's help to unite the community together against groups that are trying to deny the GLBT basic rights.
"Legislation in Colorado today is focused on denying not just some, but all rights for our community," Sagen said. "Legislation on the issues surrounding employment, equal access, just general discrimination, is all focused on denying equal rights to the families and individuals in the GLBT community. When we meet like this, we raise awareness about these issues, and that can only help."
"There are groups who want to push us completely out of sight, groups who wish we would just turn into dust and blow away," Hoole said. "Gatherings like this help to fight against these groups, and make sure we do not disappear off the map."
Along with legislation, both men feel that there are other issues that must be dealt with concerning GLBT rights, especially discrimination.
"There is so much hatred in the world, and it has been proven that ignorance leads to a lot of it. We have to raise awareness and educate those who hate and discriminate against others," Hoole said. "We can change people's way of thinking if we can get them to see beyond labels and introduce them to us as individuals."
Keynote speaker Dani Newsome, a former civil rights attorney and a current political science professor at the University of Colorado at Denver, shifted the focus of the rally from marriage rights to general rights that she feels the GLBT community is being denied.
"Francis Bellamy penned the original 'Pledge of Allegiance' to read: One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all," Newsome said to the crowd. "The key there is liberty and justice for all. …. When it comes to equality, moderation is not a virtue. Everyone deserves equal protection under the law."
Newsome's speech focused on the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and its declaration that every U.S. citizen must be granted equal protection under the law.
"(Fifty-one years ago) Brown v. Board of Education focused the 14th Amendment on our nation's schoolrooms," Newsome said in her speech. "Now, the 14th Amendment once again is under attack, and the subject is the nation's bedrooms. The focus is different, but the principle is the same."
After her speech, Newsome continued to speak about the importance of raising awareness about GLBT civil rights.
"Rallies like this are one piece of the puzzle, because they help to get folks involved in the issues," Newsome said. "To tell you the truth, the people who really need to hear this stuff is not the GLBT community, but the straight community. I personally feel that denying rights to the GLBT community is a straight-person problem, not a GLBT problem. Straight people have to stand up to other straight people to fix this problem."