A mixed group of students and local activists marched in protest today as part of a national day of action against the passage of California's constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
Related: Students protest Proposition 8
Nearly 100 students and residents joined for a march from the drill field around campus and back chanting slogans, bearing signs and waving and cheering at passing cars.
"We're in southwest Virginia, we want to improve the LGBT community's visibility and we want people here to know we exist," said organizer Tami Grossman.
The sophomore theater arts major put together the Facebook group that organized the protest herself.
"I started the Facebook group on a whim Monday night after a friend of mine at Mary Washington sent me a link to the national Facebook page," Grossman said. "This isn't just a California issue, it's an issue across America."
"I'm gay, I want my right to marry," Grossman said. "I want to live in an America where I'm not just tolerated, but accepted."
As the group got moving some participants handed out signs with slogans as simple as "Why do we still have to protest this crap?" to a paraphrase from Richard Le Gallienne's translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: "I have no care about that book above; so I be written in the book of love."
Grossman said she saw gay marriage as a matter of simple fairness and tied it to the separation of church and state.
"[Religious] marriage is a religious ceremony. I think the state should allow a civil union and if the church wants to have a ceremony, that's fine," Grossman said. "I'm not interested in forcing the local Catholic Church into performing my marriage."
Several protestors said they wanted to draw attention to the gay and lesbian community in Blacksburg and at Virginia Tech and to highlight what they see as an injustice.
"I'll never be able to wrap my mind around how gay love is any different than straight love," said junior computer science major Maggie Mooney. "I want to draw attention to gay rights as an issue."
Dorothy Atkinson a theater arts graduate student said she brought her support as a straight ally.
"I have a lot of gay friends, this feels like a huge issue. This is a huge civil rights issue," Atkinson said.
Junior computer science major Tom Dinkelmeyer said he was disappointed by the vote in California.
"I have a lot of gay friends, it troubles me that their marriages will be invalidated," Dinkelmeyer said.
David Merryman, a junior theater art major, said he was let down as well.
"I was very disappointed by the ballot initiatives banning gay marriage, but most especially Prop. 8," Merryman said.
Passers-by seemed surprised to see such a large and vocal gathering on campus on a Saturday, but nearly all voiced support by cheering or waving, passing cars honked and waved their encouragement as well.
After the protest returned to the drill field, a group of more than 30 students remained to continue the protest.
Graduate student Daren Maczka said he was upset by this recent turn in American politics.
"I think same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue," Maczka said. ""What we had was a democratic vote to take away a minority group's rights."
Maczka said he wanted to expose what he saw as a fundamental unfairness in a majority voting to take away a minority group's rights.
"It's baloney, they used lies to pass [Prop. 8]. They told people their kids would be indoctrinated, that their churches would be censored," Maczka said.
Sophomore computer engineering Taylor Eubank said he thought exposure to gay and lesbian people was key to understanding and tolerance.
"When I was still in high school, I would've been against gay marriage," Eubank said. "Now that I've had a chance to hang out with some gay people, I realize that these are regular people. There's nothing wrong with them."
Eubank shouted most of the cadences for the group as it marched.
Grossman said she felt like the march was successful.
"I'm happy, I think the flash mob failed in front of D2, but I'd call it a success," Grossman said.
"We had an open house with a lot of high school seniors visiting today. I think it's cool, hopefully they'll see that there's a chance for them to get socially active early," Eubank said.