California rallies against Prop 8

March 9, 2009

ON THE eve of the California Supreme Court's hearing on the constitutional challenge to Proposition 8, which prohibits same-sex marriage, equal marriage activists took to the streets. In San Francisco, more than 1,000 people turned out to protest, and 700 people demonstrated in Los Angeles.

The protest in San Francisco's Castro neighborhood shut down traffic on Castro Street and along the march route to the Supreme Court. Speakers included plaintiffs in the anti-Prop 8 lawsuit, celebrities like Hal Sparks from the show Queer as Folk, Harvey Milk's nephew, Stuart Milk, and many other lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists and local politicians.

The visibility of the rally contrasts sharply with the failed strategy employed by the "No on 8" campaign leading up to the vote.

"Our parents could get married, why not us?" said Haley Hibs and Elizabeth Montgomery, who are part of Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) Network for youth in schools. They were very optimistic about the possibility of the court overturning Prop 8 and emphasized that the more activists, the better. "Youth must get involved since same-sex marriage is also a youth issue."

Solidarity was in the air, as people from different walks of life came to show their support for equal marriage rights for LGBT people.

Kaaren Ray, a canon missioner priest of the Inclusive Celtic Church who supports gay marriage even though she is heterosexual, said she came to support "people's freedom to exercise love," and to combat what she called opponents' "fear of differentness, rumors and attacks on gay parents." She was optimistic that Prop 8 would be overturned and felt that we were "coming into an amazing fresh new era."

Petey Barma got married when same-sex was legal in California and wants to stay married. "Prop 8 is an obstacle, but I can't believe they will rule against us," Barma said, criticizing the "No on 8" campaign because "they failed to make the case for same-sex marriage by not putting a face to it."

Barma added "Activism is important, especially in places other than San Francisco."

In Los Angeles, hundreds of protesters gathered on Olvera Street in the pouring rain to watch Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa officiate at re-commitment ceremonies for lesbian and gay couples who lost their right to marry with the passage of Prop 8. A lesbian couple also spoke of the rights they are denied and the hardships they have yet to face, even though they are celebrating their 25th anniversary as a couple.

After a brief rally, there was a spirited march to the Los Angeles Supreme Court building. As the march moved across overpasses, demonstrators received resounding support from the honking and cheering rush-hour traffic below.

Marriage Equality, in conjunction with a coalition of LGBT organizations and grassroots community groups organized the march. Camille, a student from a Christian university who came with other students by train, explained that her school does not allow openly gay students on their campus.

"We can get kicked out for having a GSA," she said. "We have to organize by word of mouth. Even as Christians, we support gay marriage. I think people should still have their rights, and I want people to know that not all Christians think like that."

The march ended with chants for equal rights in front of the Supreme Court building, and with a pledge from the crowd that we will be back in the streets tomorrow as arguments are heard--and again and again, until equality is won.

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