The threat of rain clouds and sweltering heat could not keep supporters from coming out in droves Thursday on Capitol Hill to defend the traditional definition of marriage, that is the union of a man and a woman.
At the March for Marriage rally, thousands of people cheered and waved signs reading “every child deserves a mom and dad,” and some picnicked while dozens of speakers delivered passionate speeches declaring natural marriage to be the best for the American people before marching down Constitution Avenue, ending their rally in front of the Supreme Court.
Many in attendance maintained the biblical standpoint that God created man and woman to complement each other.
“When you look at the biblical definition of marriage is that God created man and woman for them to be together, there’s a missing piece and God said it’s not good for man to be alone,” said Chase Jennings, radio producer at Family Research Council.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who spoke at the event, told The Washington Times and TellDC that without the traditional understanding of marriage, the foundation of American freedoms and government will begin to crumble.
“It’s not just conservatives, there was a time at one point in America where liberals and conservatives both agreed that marriage was foundational to the structure to the stability and to the longevity of society, Some of us just haven’t given up on that notion that families still matter and that a family is the most foundational form of any government,” Mr. Huckabee said.
“There are a lot of different forms of government but if the bottom foundation structure crumbles, everything around it will and a family is that foundation,” said Mr. Huckabee, a Baptist minister and the 2008 Republican presidential primary runner-up.
He added that Americans need to uphold the values of traditional marriage to reverse the negative effects of moral decay, which can been seen in the smallest displays of disrespect and rudeness people show each other.
“We treat some people as disposable and expendable, we ought to value every human life and treat everybody with dignity and respect and give them some sense of dignity that’s one of the ways in which we can be a more moral culture,” he said.
But protesters at the March, toting rainbow flags in defense of LGBT rights, argued that marriage defenders were disrespecting their right to choose their lifestyles.
One protester, Dan Mittereder, a 23-year-old self-proclaimed gay libertarian, said that he came to the event to show that not all LGBT rights advocates are Democrats.
“There’s people on this side that don’t appreciate the government stepping in and tell them how to live their lives like this,” he said adding that conservatives are being hypocritical when they demand regulation of marriage but less government.
Traditional also suffered a defeat Thursday when one of the country’s mainline Protestant churches took several steps toward approval of gay marriage.
The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA voted 71 percent to 29 percent at its Detroit convention to change the definition of marriage in its constitution from “a man and a woman” to “between two people.” The General Assembly also passed an amendment allowing clergy to perform same-sex marriages in those states that recognize such unions.
Before the changes can take effect, the majority of the church’s 172 presbyteries must approve them.
But at the Washington march, some supporters said there remains valid reason to keep the traditional definition of marriage even without the biblical discussion. Marchers frequently stated that children do better in two-parent households, with their natural mother and a father.
According to Mr. Jennings, children who grow up with a mother and a father, and attend church are “far less likely to live in poverty, far less likely to drop out of school, far more likely to go to college. The benefits that mom and dad bring to a family, a young person, it really just helps propel into the rest of their life and it’s one of the reasons that marriage is so important to America.”
Mr. Huckabee said that single parenthood is the greatest contributing factor to childhood poverty, and that children raised by a single parent are 75 percent more likely to end up in poverty. He said that while there are many good people come out of single-parent homes, they are the exception, not the rule.
“When people talk about marriage, it’s not about trying to tell people how to live, it’s trying to make sure people live the best they can and the ideal is a man and a woman, married for life, creating children, or adopting them and then training them to be their replacements, and giving them the love and nurture that both a mother and father have to give,” Mr. Huckabee said.
While the definition of marriage remains fiercely contested, supporters of traditional marriage at the march were clear that they did not hold any animosity for gays and touted a message of religious love and kindness.
“I just hope that they feel like that this is not about hatred for them or this is not about some big rally to shove anything in their face. This is about that we support marriage. It has nothing to do with not liking them,” Mr. Jennings said.
• Meredith Somers contributed to this report.