Dan Avila is kind himself in describing the courage and kindness of NOM supporters in Providence Rhode Island in this essay. At a time when so many Christians in Africa and elsewhere are facing true martyrdom his use of the term "white martyrs" seems perhaps to give NOM way too much credit. But the spirit of love Rhode Island marriage supporters showed under provocation was real and deserves all our notice and gratitude.
On Sunday, July 18, I took the commuter rail from Boston to Providence for an afternoon rally. The National Organization for Marriage is conducting what it calls the Summer for Marriage Tour 2010, and landed at the foot of the Rhode Island State House on a warm, breezy day to encourage citizens of that state to defend marriage as the union of one man, one woman. Over two hundred people gathered under the trees of the Capitol’s south lawn to hear speeches, get their marriage tour t-shirts, and prepare for an upcoming legislative battle in that state over the definition of marriage. The crowd reminded me of a church picnic gathering: Lots of families, kids running around, and smiling adults chatting. The idyllic feeling continued even as the first speakers delivered their remarks. Then a red-shirted army of chanting picketers suddenly emerged from around the western side of the State House and the time of white martyrdom began.