Ben Buchwalter

San Franciscans Protest Prop 8
May 26, 2009, 11:36 pm
Filed under: Civil Rights

In a relatively surprising move, the California Supreme Court ruled today to uphold Proposition 8, the referendum passed by California voters last year to define marriage as between one man and one woman. I was hanging out in San Francisco when my sister texted me and said to get my ass down to the protests. So I popped over to the Civic Center and it was a pretty powerful experience. Click here for more photos.

The demonstration mostly centered on hope. Children of same-sex couples spoke about the importance of being raised by loving parents, not simply heterosexual couples. Recently married men and women spoke of how far marriage equality has come in the past few decades.

But some weren’t so comfortable. Two men with mohawks and leather jackets roamed the crowd yelling “Let’s go to the streets! You are being too nice!” A group of women stood directly behind the crowd with megaphones and harmonicas screaming “I’m not a nice gay!”

The crowd was mixed on Obama’s dedication to gay rights. Some said that his election was the best thing ever to happen to gays in America and insisted that he would eventually become a powerful champion of equality. Others responded to chants of “yes we can” with a chorus of “no he won’t.”

To me, the most powerful speech came from the couple pictured above, who were married very recently. (It also spoke to the ethos of this blog.) The man on the left explained that two steps forward and one step back is still progress. Yes, today was a giant leap back. But 2009 has already been filled with steps, leaps, and skips forward. Look at Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and Maine. The march towards marriage equality has begun and will eventually achieve fruition.

Another speaker reminded the crowd that even though the Supreme Court decided that that Prop 8 was legal, it did not mean that it was right. Prop 8 passed because a group of voters convened and orchestrated a massive get out the vote campaign. Marriage equality can be restored in 2010 or 2012 if progressives come together to do the same.

Even though I have faith that this will happen, today’s ruling troubles me.  As the San Francisco Bay Guardian’s politics blog notes, the state Supreme Court would clearly have ruled differently if the issue was interracial marriage. And before that was legal, opponents said it was unnatural, nontraditional, and would lead us down a dangerous road to same-sex marriage and unions between people and animals. In other words, they made the same arguments as anti-gay activists make today.

See more from the SFBG blog for great reporting and photos from the day.

Live long and prosper.


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

While gay civil rights and racial civil rights share some history and pattern, there are differences. A majority voted for Prop 8. Gay civil rights are not yet entirely recognized as the human rights that they are. I have full faith that California will get it together for 2010 and change the language and the law. I would also point out that this kind of socio-political (poli-social?) change takes a very long time, especially since the homophobes have the racists to use as a playbook to improve upon.
Are you really surprised at this ruling? And isn’t there an important value to the rule of law and a system of checks and balances? As Americans, aren’t we bound to that? (I’m not saying the protests shouldn’t have happened. I’m saying that the court may not have ruled entirely incorrectly.)

Comment by LK

Yeah, I was actually surprised by it. And I definitely think that there are major differences between gay civil rights and racial civil rights. But I think the central common theme between them is that it is fundamentally wrong for the government to discriminate against a certain population by dictating who they are allowed to love. Separate is never equal.

Also, I agree that there is a value to rule of law and checks and balances (did you really think I didn’t?) But part of the checks and balances system is that the Supreme Court is obligated to step in when the system infringes on the rights of a certain population. So in my view, the system of checks and balances failed today in favor of political expediency.

Good to hear from you LK!

Comment by Ben

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