PHOTOS: Community thanks 5th Circuit plaintiff couples for standing up for marriage

Tonight, January 8, community members in New Orleans, Louisiana came together at Cathedral Creative Studios to cheer on the eleven plaintiff couples and legal teams who are making the case for the freedom to marry at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. The couples, from Mississippi, Texas, and Louisiana, spoke about why marriage matters and prepared for an exciting day tomorrow as their cases at last have an oral argument before the appellate court. In the past year, four different appellate courts have ruled decisively in favor of the freedom to marry, with just one ruling against. The negative ruling, from the 6th Circuit, is now seeking review from the United States Supreme Court, which conferences on the petitions from that decision on January 9.

The event was collaboratively hosted by the Campaign for Southern Equality, Equality Texas, Forum for Equality Louisiana, Freedom to Marry, and Lambda Legal. 

John Denison, Chair of Forum for Equality Foundation (one of the organizations involved in the Louisiana case), served as MC for the night. He reflected a bit on the Louisiana case, Robicheaux v. George, an out-of-step decision that was one of only two federal marriage rulings in the past year and a half against the freedom to marry. "Our Louisiana judge gave us a lemon, but here, we're making lemonade," he laughed.

Legal team members and plaintiff couples from all three cases spoke at the event, a special reception for community members. First up was the team from Louisiana, including Dalton Courson, team member on Stone Pigman Walther Wittman, and Havard Scott and Sergio Prieto, plaintiffs in the Louisiana case, originally titled Forum for Equality v. Barfield

Next up was the Mississippi case, for which Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Executive Director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, spoke. She acknowledged the wealth of support from across the South - and across the country - for the Fifth Circuit cases and cheered on the two same-sex couples involved in the Mississippi case, Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant

Beach-Ferrara was followed by Jocelyn Pritchett and Carla Webb, who spoke about their daughter, thanked the powerhouse group of legal teams at the 5th Circuit, and explained why marriage mattered to them. She said, "Our little girl, Grace, came home from school one day last year and asked why we weren’t married like her other friends parents. We had to explain to her that there were some bad laws in Mississippi that didn’t allow us to get married here. Since then, we’ve talked with her about changing the bad laws. How most laws are good and are there to protect us but some are bad and can hurt you. And that when you find a bad law, it’s up to us as good citizens to work to change them into good laws. So here we are, working to change laws that are hurtful to us and to our family."

Wrapping up the event was the team from Texas, led by Barry Chasnoff, Managing Partner of Akin Gump Strauss Haurer and Feld. He spoke out about the importance of bringing this case in Texas, and its national impact, which has shown that in the heart of Texas, Americans are ready for the freedom to marry. 

Chasnoff introduced plaintiff couple Cleopatra DeLeon and Nicole Dimetman, who are expecting their second child in March. "I am building my life with Cleo," Nicole said. "I am going to spend the rest of my life with her. And the fact that Texas does not recognize our marriage is demeaning." Cleo and Nicole were followed up by Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes, a veteran of the U.S. military. "I've loved Vic from the first minute I met him, and every minute since for 17 years," Mark said.

These plaintiff couples and legal teams have been working hard to win marriage in Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana - and we know that together, we can show the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that the country is ready for marriage. Thanks to these great teams for all of their hard work. 

Thanks to everyone who came to this great event!