Marching for marriage equality in New York

1,500 people gathered in lower Manhattan on Sunday to march for the legalization of gay marriage in New York.

The 7th Annual Wedding March, whose purpose is to find support for the marriage equality cause between local and state law makers, was organized by Marriage Equality New York, or MENY. Rob Zacchi, MENY’s founder and executive director, believes that marriage equality will be a pivotal step in gaining full equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender citizens.

“Without marriage, committed same-sex couples are denied over 1,138 federal rights and obligations including social security, hospital visitation, co-parenting rights, estate tax, and immigration, just to name a few,” said Zacchi.

Zacchi founded MENY in 1998 in order to form a coalition committed to helping all people enter into a legally recognized gender neutral civil marriage.

“Our mission is to educate the public by raising awareness.  Through education, the media, community partnerships, and political advocacy, we hope to gain marriage equality for all citizens in New York State,” Zacchi stated.

Rob Lassegue, the executive board secretary for MENY and the program director of the New York City and Long Island branches, said that the march “was able to bring this issue to light with the news media, our community businesses, and supporters.” 

“We were able to inform the community of the marriage issue.  Marriage is a civil right that should not be denied to anyone,” said Lassegue.

The Wedding March began with a rally downtown in Foley Square.  Speakers included Jerrold Nadler, a US Congress Representative, Leticia James, a New York City Council Member, and Christine Quinn, the

New York City Council Speaker.

Over a thousand marchers began their walk across the two-mile long Brooklyn Bridge around noon carrying signs and shouting about their cause.  “What do we want? Marriage Equality! When do we want it? Now!”

After the march, supporters filtered off the bridge into Brooklyn’s Cadman Plaza.  There they enjoyed a festival hosted by Blake Hayes, radio personality of 95.5 WPLJ-FM, Appolonia Cruz, a Puerto Rican Drag Show Diva from “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” and Tyra Allure-Ross, a top design model and recording artist.

The festival included informational exhibitions from community partners and performances by LGBT supportive artists.  The two dozen community partners included the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center and the Campaign to End AIDS.

The LGBT Community Center, located in Manhattan on West 13th Street, is the second largest LGBT Center in the world.  They pride themselves on providing groundbreaking social service, public policy, educational and cultural/recreational programs.

The Campaign to End AIDS told the marchers about their current study involving young men and

a new vaccine that may help stop the spread of HIV and AIDS.

Performers that entertained the marchers in Cadman Plaza included the cast of “My Big Gay Italian Wedding,” a current off-Broadway play, Jenn Newman, a solo vocalist and LGBT advocate, and Justin Utley, a gay singer and recording artist.

While 1,500 people were gathered in New York City supporting MENY’s cause, there were also marchers who held smaller events in Rochester and Buffalo.  About 300 people in Rochester and 150 people in Buffalo rallied to show local law makers their belief in marriage equality.

Even though the wedding march was a success, Zacchi knows that his fight is not over.  MENY is still holding monthly meetings at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center in Manhattan, and they are still looking for supporters.

“Our next big event will be Marriage Equality Day, where we’ll be heading straight to Albany to show the state government that this is a pressing issue that needs to be fixed immediately,” said Lassegue.

People can get involved by attending MENY meetings or visiting the website at www.meny.us