COEUR d’ALENE – A peaceful rally had a few intense moments Friday afternoon in front of Coeur d’Alene City Hall.
Perturbed passersby exchanged words with a small group of same-sex-marriage opponents who spent several hours sharing their opinions vocally while holding signs and flags.
Zach Mahaney, of Coeur d’Alene, said he decided to confront the people rallying after reading a shirt worn by one of the men. The words promoted violence against gay men, suggesting they should be put to death.
“I’m not the type of person to yell or get angry but that stuff bugs me. It really bugs me,” Mahaney said. “I don’t understand.”
About 10 people stood for three hours voicing their support for Don and Lynn Knapp, owners of the Hitching Post, the Coeur d’Alene wedding chapel which has gained media attention for declining to officiate over same-sex unions. They also vocalized their opinions against homosexuality and spoke in support of “Christian rights.”
The rally occurred in response to the anti-discrimination ordinance at the core of a federal civil rights lawsuit the Knapps filed against the city last week.
People on both sides of the issue are concerned and speaking about it.
A few people at the rally spoke into a loudspeaker system.
“You are telling someone, and it goes against their religious belief, and saying, ‘If you don’t follow what we say, even though you don’t agree with us, we’re going to fine you, we can throw you in jail, we can fine you $1,000 a day,'” said a man who would not allow his name to be published. “Does that sound like freedom of speech? No, that sounds like ‘Mein Kampf.'”
“This sounds like Germany. This sounds like Russia,” he continued. “That’s what this is going to, and if they take away freedom of speech of Christians, trust me, your freedom of speech is going down, too.”
Tom Meyer of Rathdrum joined his daughters and grandkids in holding signs and waving American and Idaho State flags. He said he feels gay marriage is “an abomination.”
“I’m just a Christian and I find it abhorrent that the homosexual community can have so much pressure to get special rights. There should be no group that has that kind of power to say, ‘OK, you must serve me,'” Meyer said. “If there was a homosexual Elks club or something, would I be able to go into their meeting hall and say, ‘OK, I want to come in here and I want to preach the gospel?’ Would the city of Coeur d’Alene make them open their doors to me? No, I doubt that, because the homosexual community has such a hold on people – I don’t understand why they expect to have special rights.”
North Idaho College student Robert Wilson of Coeur d’Alene saw the rally on his way to class and came back, he said, because he felt personally insulted by the messages on the signs. He has two gay aunts and supports gay marriage.
“This kind of stung,” he said. “It hurts because that’s really close to my heart and I just had to come by and say something to them. This is not right.”
He said he is elated that the ban on same-sex marriage was lifted in Idaho because he grew up with friends who are members of the gay community and he has seen the negative effects the restrictions and condemnations have on young gay people.
“It’s causing kids to be sad and do crazy things like end their own lives because of what people think,” he said. “Hopefully this will change that, and make people equal; that’s all it means.”
Wilson said he would definitely appear at a similar rally to stand on the opposing side.
“This can’t happen where I live,” Wilson said. “I don’t like it.”