Chants of “Two, four, six, eight, don’t give in to fear and hate” wafted over the New Haven Green Monday afternoon as a coalition of about 300 New Haven residents and students demonstrated in support of gay rights.
Members of the group Project Orange rallied in front of City Hall, arming themselves with orange T-shirts, Yale sweatshirts and cardboard signs that urged the New Haven Board of Aldermen to vote in favor of the Domestic Partnership Amendment on May 5.
The amendment would create a registry that would allow couples — same-sex or heterosexual — to obtain legal proof of their relationship, which would grant them access to certain rights and benefits.
The rally took place soon after anti-gay religious activist Fred Phelps demonstrated at the corner of Elm and College Streets, attempting to incite confrontations with students. After a number of residential college masters urged students to avoid the Phelps event, many students said they heeded the warnings.
Phelps’ presence on campus pushed some students to attend the Project Orange demonstration.
“I couldn’t let myself not go the rally, in response to Fred Phelps,” Aaron Margolis ’06 said.
Project Orange’s community activity was inspired by a preliminary vote last month, in which the aldermen voted against same-sex recognition, 10-6. The Board of Aldermen rejected a similar bill 10 years ago.
“I’m coming out because I think it’s important to show the town that it’s everyone supporting this,” Emily Wills ’04 said. “I’m expecting that once they see that everyone is behind this, they’ll undo what they did last time I was here.”
Some of the protesters carried signs reading “Love is lovely in all ways,” “My God is not a hater,” and “Love makes a family.” Project Orange organizers and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Cooperative coordinator Alyssa Rosenberg ’06 yelled chants to the crowd during the protest.
“This is terrific,” Rosenberg said. “We have a lot more community members than we expected and an amazingly broad-based group of students came out. It’s great because everyone sees that this really matters.”
Rosenberg said the coalition got its name from the fact that Orange Street runs between Church Street and State Street, a play on the concept of separation between church and state. She put Monday’s turnout at 335 people.
University Chaplain Frederick Streets said he attended the rally because he thinks all couples should have their relationships affirmed and that individual religious beliefs should not govern the civil community.
“Men and women who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgenders, and are citizens of the U.S., should have full rights and protection under the law,” Streets said.
Associate Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs Michael Morand, who was an alderman at the time of the vote 10 years ago, also joined the protesters.
“This timing is pretty good for the gay and lesbian couples preparing tax returns, which reminds us of the rights we do not enjoy in this society,” Morand said.
Ward 1 Alderman Benjamin Healey ’04 was a principal sponsor of the new bill.
“Originally, the bill failed 10 years ago,” Healey said. “But there were stirrings at the state level and I thought this would be an opportunity to reintroduce the bill. I thought the mood had changed in New Haven enough, and it would be great to show that the city that couldn’t do this 10 years ago could now pass that ordinance.”
Rosenberg lauded Healey, who serves as a connection between the group and the aldermen, as an active force in Project Orange.
Healey has actively been trying to secure aldermen’s support and despite the poor primary vote said he is confident that the bill will pass on May 5.
“Unfortunately, when we had a hearing on the bill, some of my colleagues reneged their support of the bill,” Healey said. “I’ve been working with Project Orange to win back those votes. I think the community action is having a strong effect. Every talk I have with the aldermen, people are becoming more and more supportive. — I expect it to be close, but I’m confident.”