After weeks traveling from state to state and being repeatedly denies for marriage licenses, a group of LGBT activists and a couple from North Carolina will finally hear "Yes" in the nation’s capital this week. The Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara brings the WE DO Campaign to Washington, D.C., where a same-sex couple together for 20 years will wed.
"Every LGBT citizen will go from second-class citizen to full equality in the nation’s capital," Beach-Ferrara said. Same-sex marriages are legal in Washington, D.C., and nine other states, but returning home will bring a somber feeling because "we’ll be second-class citizens under the law again."
The WE DO Campaign is one arm of the Campaign for Southern Equality, an organization based in Asheville, N.C. that Beach-Ferrara launched in 2011. The campaign has LGBT couples in the south requesting marriage licenses in their home states, knowing they will be denied in those communities because same-sex marriage is against the law. The approach allows people to publicly see an example of discrimination.
In a piece that Beach-Ferrara wrote for the Huffington Post, she says: "When [discriminatory laws] are enforced, something new happens: everyone involved must engage with the reality that LGBT people live in every town in the South, that we are fully human and yet second-class citizens under the law, and that we are calling for full equality under federal law."
Beach-Ferrara anticipates a crowd from Asheville, N.C., and supporters from their previous campaign stops will travel with them, to see Mark Maxwell and Timothy Young marry Jan. 17 at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. The march begins in Arlington, Va., where same-sex couples are denied marriage licenses, before a 4.5-mile walk over the Potomac River and into D.C.
"We expect we’ll have two, three hundred people participating," she said. "One of the cool things as a UCC minister I see is the strong support from the UCC for things like this."
The campaign has embraced spiritual and moral components of its work to ensure that faith is established and expressed in their actions.
Maxwell and Young grew up in the traditional Southern Baptist setting, Maxwell said, and experienced the positives and negatives of an LGBT couple. The interracial ccouple joined Wake Forest Baptist in 1996, in which the experience was "amazing because it’s an affirming environment." They are parents to four boys – all adopted through foster care.
The couple received a call from Lindsay Simerly, the campaign manager for the Campaign for Southern Equality, to gauge their interest in joining the WE DO Campaign. In allowing their story to be told, Maxwell said there was a focus on helping all families become whole.
"The role we play in the campaign is that this message needs to be put out there," Maxwell said.
Aside from the details with the campaign event, Maxwell and Young are busy planning out the ceremony at the Jefferson Memorial. "I’ve been so busy in terms of planning and organization. There are so many moving parts," Maxwell said.