Raymond Shepherd has never considered himself a leader, but the issue of same-gender marriage has brought the 65-year-old Ferndale man out of his shell for what he hopes will be a proud moment of support for the LGBT community.
Shepherd has organized a Light the Way to Justice rally to take place on March 26 from 6 – 9 p.m. at the Theodore Levin U.S. Courthouse at 231 W. Lafayette Blvd. in Detroit to show a hope for justice as the U.S. Supreme Court listens to two cases involving the rights of same-gender loving human beings to marry.
“This is not a march, a fight or a demonstration – this is a peaceful show of solidarity, a stand for LOVE, not hate. Make signs to hold, bring candles and help show our desire to be equal. We will also be having conversations with people and collecting Freedom To Marry signatures. History is in the making and it is time to bring America into the 21st century. Let’s give people hope and create change by using the voice of the people,” says the Detroit Light the Way to Justice Rally Facebook Page http://www.facebook.com/events/196557793823514.
On March 26 and 27, the U.S. Supreme Court will be listening to oral arguments on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. DOMA states that marriage is between one man and one woman, and gives states the option of ignoring marriages performed in other states where same-gender marriage is legal. The Court will consider if the federal government should recognize legal marriages, and also what states’ rights are in the matter.
Vigils are popping up across the country in support of same-gender marriage, and Shepherd has been able to connect with some of them. There are at least 78 events happening throughout the country in over 30 states. Marriage Equality USA and GetEQUAL have been hosting conference calls and connecting event organizers.
“I have been on a conference call on Thursday nights for about the last month. Tonight we had Stuart Milk, who is, if anyone is old enough to remember, is Harvey Milk’s nephew. For those who don’t know, Harvey Milk was shot in his commissioner’s office in 1978. He was one of the first out elected gay politicians elected to office,” Shepherd said in an earlier interview. Working with other organizers has been an inspirational experience. “Even though I felt this needed happening in Detroit, I have felt completely overwhelmed in trying to organize the vigil until now. With me I always have been a follower instead of a leader. Tonight I think I got the inspiration to do it right,” he said on Facebook after the discussion.
Shepherd and his partner Raymond Misera are separated because of the antiquated marriage laws in Michigan and in much of the country. “I am part of a bi-national couple with my spouse in the Philippines. He has tried to get a student visa three times since May 29, 2010 when we net online through Facebook. If we were a man and woman I could have sponsored him for a fiancee visa then green card. In the last attempt of his getting a student visa we used a lawyer recommended by Immigration Equality. We made a brief attempt at his getting a work visa to Canada, we decided he probably would not get the visa to Canada. Our lawyer then said our best bet would be the repeal of DOMA.”
The couple connects via the Internet at least once a day, and Shepherd has visited him in the Philipines. They’ve agreed that Shepherd is not healthy enough to move to the Philipines, but they are working on possibly getting married through a different U.S. state.
“I am hoping for DOMA being declared unconstitutional so Raymond Misa can finally get over here and we can be together forever,” he said.
For more information on the vigil, check out the event page at http://www.facebook.com/events/196557793823514.