On July 18, some 70 northeast Mississippi churches joined forces to hold a Rally for Traditional Marriage, which gathered around 6,000 supporters at the BancorpSouth Center in Tupelo, Mississippi.
Speakers from pro-family groups, the Senate, and area churches took a stand against the same-sex “marriages” and roused the crowd with speeches supporting traditional marriage.
Sunday's traditional marriage rally has been one of the many held this year in response to the legalization of same-sex “marriages” in Massachusetts and other efforts promoting homosexuality. Traditional marriage supporters were hoping a consitutional amendment, called The Federal Marriage Amendment, defining marriage as being between one man and one woman would ban same-sex “marriages,” but Senators turned the legislation down last week.
Gary Bauer, chairman of Campaign for Working Families and a former Reagan administration domestic policy adviser said Americans “are fighting two wars” – one against terrorism and the other for traditional values.
"There are people who believe America is all about doing whatever you please - If it feels good, do it,' " he said.
Bauer called on Christians to defend their values by standing up for traditional marriage and decried homosexual activists efforts to label traditional marriage as intolerant bigotry.
"It is not bigotry to believe marriage is between a man and a woman," Bauer told the crowd which gave him a roaring applause.
Attendents watched a three-minute video of President George W. Bush’s presentation to the Southern Baptist Convention during their annual meeting last month, in which he pledged to support the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment.
Sen. Roger Wicker addressed the crowd, praising “a mom and a dad involved in their family” as the best “program” to combat social problems. Redefining marriage, he explained, would cheapen the institution, leading to lower marriage rates among heterosexuals and thereby increasing the number of children living in single-parent homes.
Wicker cited Ecclesiastes 3, particularly emphasizing that there was “a time to keep silent, and a time to speak.”
"Ladies and Gentlemen, it's time for Christians in America to speak," he said. Wicker then urged Christians to “vote prayerfully; vote carefully,” since the next U.S. president will likely appoint several Supreme Court Justices.
The Rev. William Owens, president of the Coalition of African American Pastors, rejected the attempts of same-sex advocates to compare their agenda with the civil rights movement, saying they have “pirated” the civil rights movement for their purposes.
He explained that people cannot choose their racial identity but homosexuals have chosen their sexuality.
"I was born black, and I'm going to die black," said Owens. "I didn't choose to be black; they're choosing to do what they're doing."
Owens also urged supporters to stay committed to the cause.
"We're going to fight until we win," he said. "We're going to have crusades and rallies like this until we win. We're going to let our political leaders know 'if you don't stand for God, we won't stand for you.’”
Although admitting that the battle for marriage will be long, Owens said that it can be won with God's power.
Not everyone at the Tulepo rally supported traditional marriage. The Northeast Mississipi Daily Journal reported a small minority of pro-homosexual activists protested outside the BancorpSouth Center, holding signs which read, "Hate is not a family value;” "I support same-sex marriage;” and "Love makes a marriage, not gender."
"Marriage should be a choice, and not a law," Stormey Billiot, a protester, told the Northeast Mississipi Daily Journal. "It doesn't matter what sex you are, as long as there's love."
Despite the strong tension between the supporters of traditional marriage supporters and homosexuality, the Rev. Larry Hill, pastor of First United Pentecostal Church in Tupelo offered reconcilatory words in his benediction.
"I pray for those who are challenging what we're doing tonight," he said. "Let them know we love them."