Campus & Community

Fight for equality won’t stop with guilty verdict, couple says

Their day in court ended in a guilty verdict, but the DU professor and staffer convicted May 7 in Denver County Court say their fight to be legally married isn’t over.

“We felt like we got a public hearing,” says Kate Burns, an office assistant in the department of digital media studies. “We won’t stop until there’s marriage equality in this state and in the nation.”

Burns declined to say how she and Sheila Schroeder, an assistant professor in mass communications and journalism studies, plan to continue the fight. “We have some ideas brewing.”

In September, the women were charged with trespassing after refusing to leave the Denver County office of Clerk and Recorder when they were denied a marriage license. Officials based the denial on Amendment 43, a proposal voted into the Colorado Constitution in 2006. The measure declares marriage to be a union between a man and a woman.

Burns and Schroeder contended in their May 6–7 trial that the amendment is illegal and that their demonstration against the law should not result in punishment. The jury saw it otherwise, convicting Burns and Schroeder on the trespassing count. County Judge James Breese sentenced the women to each serve 28 hours of community service and each pay $41 in court costs.

Burns and Schroeder, who have been together as a couple for six years, say they are looking forward to their community service, although they don’t yet know what it will involve.

“It’s in the spirit of our movement,” Burns says. That movement focuses on non-violent civil disobedience and was conducted in conjunction with Soulforce, a group that seeks to advance lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues through nonviolent means. “We would really like to do something that increases justice and equality for all.”

A day after being convicted, Burns spoke appreciatively about the community support the couple received.

“When the jury walked in, there were three [jurors] who stood up and said they would not be able to serve on the jury because they couldn’t convict us because they felt we had done the right thing,” Burns says.

Schroeder’s co-workers in mass communications also expressed support.

“Sheila and Kate are important role models for the LGBT community and all peoples,” says Margaret Thompson, associate professor. “They stood up for what they feel and believe in, and they did it in a thoughtful, non-violent way through civil disobedience.”

That civil disobedience may return, Burns says. “[But] right now we’re going to rest.”

Read Trial nears for women who stood up by sitting-in.

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