Two student groups, Allied in Pride and the Young America's Foundation, chose Valentine's Day to hold separate rallies voicing their respective opinions on the institution of marriage.
Allied in Pride, a group that advocates on behalf of LGBTQ students, kicked off their "Marriage Equality Rally" at noon in University Yard with support from the Human Rights Campaign. Their goal was to promote the idea that same-sex couples should have the same rights afforded to married couples.
Later in the day, the Young America's Foundation, a group that promotes conservative ideals, voiced a competing message at a rally it held in Kogan Plaza. YAF members stressed the importance of defending what they called the "traditional" definition of marriage.
"We want to promote traditional marriage between one man and one woman," said sophomore Matt Sauvage, the group's treasurer.
Dressed in suits, male participants in YAF's rally offered slices of wedding cake to participants and passers-by. The group members also distributed "information regarding the Left's attack on marriage," according to a press release for the event.
"We're trying to be positive," Sauvage said. "We think it's very important on a campus like ours to at least show people that there is an organization like ours that's willing to stand up for these traditional values."
Those who stopped by Allied in Pride's rally for marriage equality received hot cocoa in light of the cold weather. Some participants posed for mock wedding photos and others even got "hitched" under a wedding arch set up by Allied in Pride for the event.
"We chose Valentine's Day to emphasize the rights that are denied same sex couples that cannot consecrate the love that Valentine's Day bestows with marriage," said senior Mike DiNapoli, an advocacy co-chair for Allied in Pride and the event's organizer. "(Same sex couples) are denied more than 1,049 rights that come along with marriage."
AIP also held a workshop earlier in the week to educate the community on the specific rights being denied to same-sex couples.
Despite their opposing viewpoints, both sides stressed a positive message.
"We're not attacking (YAF), we're just saying this is us, this is who we are and we just want rights like everyone else," DiNapoli said.
Organizers from both rallies said they were pleased with the turn-out. Attendance was difficult to gauge as people came and went throughout the day, but empty pastry and cake containers served as a good measure.
"We started with 16 cakes and we're down to four", Sauvage said midway through the rally, "so a lot of people came out and heard our message."
Clashes on the issue of same-sex marriage are not new to GW. Last year the College Republicans sponsored a "defense of marriage" rally and Allied in Pride countered it, defending marriage equality.
"We had a counter-protest last year," said Vice President of Allied in Pride Brendan Belovarac. "But this time we're starting it first."