By Laura Fishman and Meghan Gillespie
City on a Hill Press Editor and Reporter
“Gay, straight, black or white — same struggle, same fight!”
The phrase echoed down Pacific Avenue through chants and a candlelight vigil on the night of March 4, when hundreds stood in solidarity against Proposition 8, the constitutional same-sex marriage ban that passed in California last November. The vigil took place on the eve of the state Supreme Court hearing on March 5, which challenged the validity of the controversial proposition.
Ahead of the pack marching through downtown Santa Cruz was City Councilmember Tony Madrigal, with a bullhorn, chanting in support of the overturn of Proposition 8.
“There was a lot of strength, unity and solidarity tonight, which is essential to the community movement across the state to overturn Prop. 8,” Madrigal said after the vigil.
Santa Cruz was just one of 35 cities that participated in the Eve of Justice candlelight vigil, when Californians worked to send a unified message the night before the Supreme Court hearing.
The following day, thousands poured into San Francisco from all over the state to voice their opinions on the issue. Students from UC Santa Cruz made a significant presence at the rally — numerous Slugs gathered amid the crowd in front of the state’s Supreme Court headquarters.
First-year Angie Wootton traveled by train with her girlfriend in order to make a visible presence at the rally.
“I decided that being part of this huge movement in history was more important than going to my classes today,” said Wootton, who carried a “No on Prop. 8” sign.
The main arguments for the court case to overturn Proposition 8 are that the popular vote does not have the power to revise the state constitution, since a revision to the constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote from each house of the state legislature.
The lawsuits over Proposition 8 also argue that the same-sex marriage ban defies the Bill of Rights because it strips away the rights of minority groups.
However, 52 percent of voters approved the proposition in November. Supporters of the measure say they’re angry that the majority vote is being challenged.
Many Californians who supported the ban traveled to San Francisco on March 5 to rally in favor of it. Emily Smit, who traveled from Sacramento, held a sign that read “Marriage — 1 Man, 1 Woman.”
“By legalizing gay marriage again, it is taking away our freedom of speech as voters,” Smit said. “What’s the point of voting, if what we vote on is just going to get overturned?”
Other “Yes on 8” supporters, like Chauncey Killens of Salinas, fear that recognizing same-sex marriage again will lead to inappropriate behaviors of sexuality.
“If the constitution allows every citizen, if you’re over 18, the right to marry, then it opens the doors for polygamy and incest,” said Killens, who works as an associate minister for the Church of God and Christ in Salinas.
The decision to overturn or uphold Proposition 8 now lies in the hands of the Supreme Court justices, who have within 90 days of the hearing to make a decision.
While there is a great amount of uncertainty when it comes to the overturn of Proposition 8, it is highly plausible that the 18,000 same-sex marriages that occurred in 2008 will remain valid, as the majority of Supreme Court justices are in agreement that those marriages should be upheld.
Wade French and Brent Lok had been a couple for 30 years before they were married at San Francisco City Hall in June 2008. The two men are happy their marriage is still being recognized by the state, but remain disappointed with the slow pace of change when it comes to gay rights.
“This is just one step in a long civil rights struggle,” Lok said. “We would love to see things change faster, but there will be change over time. There’s no doubt.”
On both sides of the spectrum, protesters said they were impressed with the amount of solidarity that has come out on the issue. Pollo Del Mar, a Proposition 8 opposer and Bay Area drag queen, said she would not give up her experiences of protesting for the world.
“When we were out protesting Proposition 8 and rallying against it, in those days shortly after the vote last November, I met so many amazing people,” Del Mar said. “It really enriched my life by bringing some truly fantastic and dynamic people into it, that I may never have met otherwise; which I guess is finding the silver lining, really.”
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