Arrests in Chi. Marriage Protest

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com February 14 2011 9:20 PM ET

Six Chicago LGBT activists have been charged with a misdemeanor offense of trespassing after being arrested Monday afternoon when they refused to leave a city marriage bureau after a same-sex couple was denied a marriage license.

Judy Heithmar and Danelle Wylder sought the license at the marriage bureau in the Richard J. Daley Center in downtown Chicago. They were arrested along with Cassandra Avenatti, Lindsey Dietzler, Corrine Mina, and Noa Francis Shayden, said Andrea Crain, a spokeswoman for their group.

The people arrested are affiliated with Join the Impact Chicago and Video Action League, which were responding to a call by Marriage Equality USA and GetEqual for coordinated actions across the country on Valentine's Day to raise awareness about the need for federal marriage equality. They were released from police custody around midnight Monday, Crain told The Advocate in an e-mail. They will appear in Cook County court March 17 on the trespassing charges, which carry a penalty of up to a year in jail and/or fines.

The activists are seeking to make a statement that civil unions, which Illinois will offer beginning June 1 under a bill recently signed into law, are insufficient and that marriage equality is needed nationally. “This is about equality,” Wylder said at the marriage bureau, according to a press release. “It’s about how we as queer couples deserve the same governmental rights and protections afforded to our heterosexual counterparts to legally protect our families.”

GetEqual’s Illinois chapter released a statement of appreciation for Gov. Pat Quinn’s backing of civil unions, but emphasized that civil unions do not go far enough, and called for repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and for President Barack Obama to endorse marriage equality, as he did earlier in his political career.

At the marriage bureau, the activists took turns reading from a list of more than 1,000 rights that come with marriage and are denied to same-sex couples. Video of the protest is available on the Video Action League’s YouTube channel.

Meanwhile, on Sunday another activist group drew about 60 people to demonstrate for marriage equality outside Holy Name Cathedral, seat of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Chicago, the Chicago Tribune reports. Cardinal Francis George, head of the archdiocese, and other Catholic leaders were outspoken opponents of the civil unions legislation.

“If we’re going to win marriage equality within this state, we’ll have to be out in the streets like we are today,” Andy Thayer, cofounder of the Chicago Gay Liberation Network, which organized the cathedral protest, told the Tribune. There were about a half-dozen counterprotesters present, the newspaper reported.