Members of a local church gathered Wednesday morning on the steps of Southampton Town Hall to protest on the one-year anniversary of the first day same-sex couples could legally obtain a marriage license in New York State.
According to the leader of the demonstration, the Rev. Donald Havrilla of , they were also there to protest how they were treated a year ago on July 26, the first day that same-sex weddings were performed at .
Havrilla said that when a group of seven tried to gather on the steps then, they were shooed away by police and told they would have to stand across from the building near a flag pole. He said they were also told by a plain clothes detective that they had to stay out of the building unless they had "personal business" and were denied access to a wedding ceremony. When one church member tried to get a phone number from a town office, Havrilla said that member was told, "Google it," and made to leave.
Havrilla recounted the story to the demonstrators Wednesday. "That's where it starts," he said. "They take a little freedom there. A little speech there."
Southampton Town Police Chief William Wilson did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday.
Havrilla, 10 other demonstrators, and three church members with handheld video cameras met in front of Town Hall Wednesday starting at 9 a.m. with signs that said things like "Stand for Marriage," "Keep Your Government Out of My Religion," and "Marriage: One Man, One Woman." Havrilla wore a microphone, so one of the cameramen could record audio.
Havrilla said Thursday that the video cameras were there in case anyone tried to send the demonstrators away.
“We feel that it went very well for that time," Havrilla said. "We expressed our views... Police did not come or contact us. There was no one who came out from Town Hall to suggest that we shouldn’t be there, so from that standpoint we consider it a victory for First Amendment rights and American freedom."