LOOP — Word on the street is that this week's Supreme Court hearing could be a transformative event for civil rights in America.
Hundreds of people, including supporters and members of gay rights organizations like the Gay Liberation Network, gathered from around the city Monday night for a march down State Street in support of equal rights ahead of the court's hearings, beginning Tuesday morning.
In landmark discussions, the Supreme Court will give oral arguments that could potentially open marriage rights to gay couples nationwide.
"We have to make a difference," said Jackie Gonzalez, 38. "I've been telling my friends, it's one thing to say 'I'm gay' on Facebook, but then when it comes time to make a difference, no one comes out."
On Tuesday, the justices will hear a constitutional challenge to California’s Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage. One day later, the court will consider whether the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) barring the U.S. government from recognizing same-sex marriages constitutes federal overreach.
Rick Garcia, of the Civil Rights Agenda, called this week's hearings a "historic moment."
"One never knows what will happen, but hopefully it'll be favorable," he said. "Because our side is standing on a firm foundation and our opponents are on weak sand."
Hundreds or marchers strode down State Street, passing supporters and opponents along the way.
The State Street preacher, well-known for articulating his anti-gay beliefs via loudspeaker, chimed his usual "there's no room in heaven for gays" line as the crowd passed.
Max Esposito, a 22-year-old employee at a State Street clothing store, provided an opposite view.
"I heard the noise and came out," he said, moments after giving the crowd an enthusiastic thumbs-up. "Obviously, I'm in support — I'm gay and in support of our community."
The Supreme Court's ruling comes at a time when same-sex marriage is a contentious topic in Illinois. Last month, the state Senate passed a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry; the issue will likely come up in the House this session.