Down but not out
Gay-marriage backers lament court decision but remain optimistic
More than 100 people carrying signs and rainbow flags rallied Tuesday evening (May 26) in Chico’s City Plaza to protest the California Supreme Court’s decision, issued that morning, upholding Proposition 8, the voter-approved initiative declaring that only heterosexual couples can legally marry.
Quickly organized by Chico State’s A.S. Pride and supported by organizations such as the ACLU’s Chico Chapter, the Stonewall Alliance, Women’s Health Specialists and Chico PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), the “Freedom to Marry” rally was composed of people of all races, ages and sexual orientation.
Chico’s rally was one of 117 in the state coordinated through the Web site DayofDecision.com, which asked opponents of Proposition 8 to either celebrate or protest the Supreme Court’s decision once it was released.
Interestingly, the 6-1 decision, while banning gay marriage, did recognize the 18,000 legal marriages of same-sex couples that took place between May 15, 2008, when the same court declared gay marriage legal, and Election Day, Nov. 5, 2008, when Prop. 8 passed. As commentator Tim Rutten noted in the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, it “essentially … is a kind of judicial lottery ticket—if you got in early, you win, but those who arrived a few days late lose.”
Supporters of Prop. 8, such as those behind the Web site ProtectMarriage.com, see the ruling as “a great victory.” Local Assemblyman Dan Logue agrees.
“Traditional marriage has been a vital part of our society in California, and we are pleased to see that the will of the people in this issue has been upheld by our Supreme Court,” Logue said in a press release.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released a statement the same day as the court’s decision, saying “that one day either the people or courts will recognize gay marriage.” He added that he hoped all who protested the decision—one that he was required to uphold—did so “peacefully and lawfully.”
Unlike similar rallies in San Francisco and elsewhere, Chico’s did not attract Prop. 8 supporters eager to enjoy their victory and offer a counter-rally to the anti-8 forces. All those present at the City Plaza Tuesday were in favor of gay marriage.
Speakers included City Councilman Scott Gruendl, Chico Peace and Justice Center director Sue Hilderbrand and the first same-sex married couple in Butte County, Michelle and Cappi Lucas.
Chants for “Equality Now” were provoked by Gruendl, who said “defeat is something that will define our character,” and gave a shout out to his husband, Nicholas Goody, who was bearing the warm weather with the rest of the inspired crowd. Gruendl and Goody’s marriage is one of those that the court’s decision has upheld.
Gay rights activist Richard Seward, from Cherokee, spoke to the crowd with heated passion. Seward became a widower in January 2008 and was not recognized by the Butte County Sheriff’s Department as his partner’s next of kin because theirs was domestic partnership, he said.
“The decision today was not about gay marriage as much as it was about our constitution,” Seward, 57, said. “Our constitution allows a slim majority to oppress a minority.”
Event coordinator and recent Chico State graduate Jackey Humphrey-Straub was “heartbroken” by the court decision but has hope for California’s future. Five states recognize same-sex unions: Iowa, Connecticut, Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts.
“I think that the states that just passed marriage equality are going to be in the same situation next election that we were in with Proposition 8,” she said. “Even though we’ve been defeated this time, I really think that we are making progress and we are going to get marriage equality.”
Next on the agenda for Prop. 8 opponents is raising awareness and gathering signatures to put a marriage-equality measure repealing Prop. 8 on California’s 2010 ballot. There was a general consensus among the people at Tuesday’s rally in Chico that passage of a gay-marriage measure in California was inevitable.
“We will continue to write to our senators and to Congress to let them know how we feel,” said Michelle Lucas, holding her wife’s hand. “Continue demonstrating and continue fighting.”