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'Gay Wedding' Marks Freedom-to-Marry Day

Michelle Povinelli -- The Tech
Ricardo Ramirez '02 and Jason Parris '02, members of GAMIT, participate in a symbolic marriage to honor National Freedom To Marry Day Friday in Lobby 7.
By Steve Hoberman

Last Friday marked the second annual National Freedom-to-Marry Day, a holiday declared by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) as part of an effort to promote awareness of the legal status of gay and lesbian marriages.

GaMIT, MIT's gay, lesbian, and bisexual student organization, kicked-off the day by staging a symbolic gay marriage in Lobby 7.

The procession included GaMIT president Terrance D. Harmon '99, Ricardo A. Ramirez '02, Jason R. Parris '02, Jessica E. Hinel '02, and L. Kieran Kieckhefer '02. The group walked from E14 through the Infinite Corridor to Lobby 7.

Kieckhefer preceded Parris, who posed as a groom, and Ramirez, the bride, as they marched through the corridor. Harmon followed the trio with a boombox until they reached the Lobby 7, where they met Hinel, who posed as a priest. Ramirez and Parris then exchanged vows before ending the demonstration.

"I don't get to wear a wedding dress that often," Ramirez said. He and Parris drew a crowd of several curious students and fellow Gamit members to the lobby.

Parris said that he, Ramirez, and Hinel were all friends and that he volunteered for the demonstration when GaMIT decided to organize an event for National Freedom to Marry Day. "We had been planning this about two weeks in advance," Harmon said.

Although the HRC did not sponsor the ceremony, many of the pamphlets distributed by GaMIT after the event were from national organizations like the HRC. Most of the brochures detailed the legal status of gay marriage in the United States.

Gay marriage legality still in flux

According to pamphlets distributed by GaMIT, the legal status of gay marriage in the U.S. is determined by both the Defense of Marriage Act and the court case Baehr v. Lewin.

Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, allowing states to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. These licenses, however, confer fewer benefits than traditional marriage licenses.

Five years before the Defense of Marriage Act passed through Congress, a group of homosexual couples sued the state of Hawaii in the court case Baehr v. Lewin. The group claimed that Hawaii's refusal to grant marriage licenses to gays constituted an act of discrimination. In 1993, the Hawaii State Supreme Court agreed with the plaintiffs, declaring that the Hawaiian state legislature would need to demonstrate a compelling interest to make same-sex marriage illegal.