On the night before the California Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the lawsuits to invalidate Proposition 8, thousands people, LGBT and straight, held vigils in cities across the state to demonstrate the community�s continued commitment to full marriage equality. The vigils, held on March 4, 2009, received wide coverage in the mainstream media. Below is a sampling of some of that coverage.
Contra Costa Times
By Phillip Zonkel, Staff Writer
LONG BEACH - Kevin Allen and Mike Wallace reminisced about the excitement and happiness they felt on their July 22 wedding day - when California legally recognized their union as a married couple. But on Nov. 8, voters passed Proposition 8, which outlawed same-gender couples from marrying.
On Wednesday night, around 200 people gathered at Centennial Plaza behind Long Beach City Hall for a rally and candlelight vigil supporting marriage equality for gay, lesbian, bisexualand transgender people.
The event, titled "Eve of Justice" by gay-rights leaders, took place the night before the California Supreme Court was set to hear oral arguments on the legality of Prop. 8.
Regardless of the state Supreme Court's decision, Allen said, "No one will ever take away our marriage."
Wednesday night's rally, which was organized by members of Long Beach Equality, a local civil-rights group, included several speakers relating their marriage stories.
The evening also was a chance to remind members of the LGBT community and their straight allies that the issue of marriage equality is not over, said Belmont Heights resident Tom Crowe, 34, a co-founder of Long Beach Equality.
Mayor Bob Foster also spoke. Proposition 8 "shouldn't have happened. No majority should impose its will on a minority," he said. "But this will turn around, sooner or later. It will happen."
The Proposition 8 attorneys are arguing that minority rights exist only because the majority decides to protect them.
At 9 p.m., the crowd participated in a candlelight vigil that marched to the First Congregational Church at the corner of Third Street and Cedar Avenue. Organizers were to continue the gathering inside the church until 9 a.m. today, with people sharing stories and the implications of the court decision. Similar gatherings were scheduled to take place in at least 29 other California cities.
By Jessica Garrison
March 5, 2009
As rain fell and the song "Fidelity" blasted through the sound system, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa presided Wednesday night over the "recommitment ceremonies" of half a dozen gay couples who married during the five-month period that such weddings were legal in California.
It was one of dozens of vigils held across California hours before the state Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the legal challenges to Proposition 8, the November ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage.
Many of the 200 or so people who attended Los Angeles' vigil said they did not expect their demonstration to influence the justices who will decide whether Proposition 8 is valid.
But they did want to send a public message, "to put a face on the issue," as Kate Kuykendall put it. Kuykendall, 32, of El Segundo, wore a white wedding dress. She and her wife, Tori, 32, are featured in a video set to the Regina Spektor song "Fidelity," which has become the gay marriage anthem.
Events were held Wednesday night in cities and towns across California, from San Francisco to San Diego, as well as in Florida and Arizona -- a sign that the political struggle will continue if the court rules against them, activists said.
As Proposition 8 opponents held vigils, backers of the measure sent an e-mail asking supporters to "keep our attorneys Ken Starr and Andrew Pugno . . . in your prayers tomorrow as they represent the majority of California who support traditional marriage. Pray also for wisdom for the justices of the court to show respect for the people's decision to enact Proposition 8."
The ruling is due in 90 days.
Orange County gay couples say they're looking to the California Supreme Court to overrule majority voter opinion. Proponents of the initiative say ballot box should rule.
The Orange County Register
By Vik Jolly
COSTA MESA - More than 400 members of the gay community and supporters gathered for a candlelight vigil here on the eve of a California Supreme Court hearing on three lawsuits seeking to overturn Proposition 8, the ballot measure to alter the state constitution to reinstate the ban on same-sex marriage that the court threw out last year.
In a standing-room-only Fairview Community Church Wednesday evening, same-sex marriage advocates gathered in what organizers dubbed an "Eve of Justice" event in Orange County and across the state, saying they were recommitting themselves to marriage equality and looking to the state's high court to restore gay unions.
The Rev. Sarah Halverson officiated more than a dozen gay weddings during the window between the high court's decision in May legalizing gay marriages and the passage of Proposition 8.
"We fought with you, we stood on street corners with you, we prayed with you, and we mourned with you when Proposition 8 passed that fateful Election Day," she told those gathered. "And we, like you, pledged to continue to fight this battle until wedding bells ring with the sound of justice across not only this great state, but the entire nation."
After tomorrow's hearing, both sides will await a decision from the high court, expected in 90 days.
California still offers domestic partnerships that guarantee the same rights as marriage, something same-sex marriage advocates argue is not the same thing. Hawaii is considering a bill that will allow same-sex civil unions.
In the days leading up to Thursday's hearing, gay marriage supporters have been vocal in their efforts to call attention to their cause. Opponents of gay unions say they had their say at the ballot box in November and the majority vote should be respected.
"Any time a minority has an agenda they want to push (and) they keep repeating it and repeating it, until they get it," said Polly Gast, a retired elementary school teacher from Placentia in a telephone interview before tonight's vigil. "I thought people said loud and clear what they felt (in the November election)."
Some at tonight's vigil laughed and called their marriages "limited edition" because of the short window during which they got married last year. Parents spoke of the freeing experience that their children had when they came out of the closet. And still others spoke of matrimony nourishing their souls.
Speakers expressed hope that the justices will once again protect their rights, just as the court did in overturning Proposition 22 in May.
The state Supreme Court ruled Proposition 22 - a measure banning same-sex marriages approved by voters in 2000 - unconstitutional, opening the door to same-sex weddings throughout the state.
Only Massachusetts and Connecticut allow gay marriage. Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey and New Hampshire allow civil unions.
In a federal lawsuit, gay couples in Massachusetts are challenging the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, enacted by Congress in 1996 when it appeared Hawaii would soon legalize same-sex marriage and opponents worried that other states would be forced to recognize such marriages.
More than a dozen people are suing the federal government, claiming the act discriminates against gay couples and is unconstitutional because it denies them access to federal benefits that other married couples receive, such as pensions and health insurance.
The new lawsuit challenges only the portion of the law that prevents the federal government from affording Social Security and other benefits to same-sex couples.
President Barack Obama has pledged to work to repeal DOMA and reverse the Department of Defense policy that prevents openly gay people from serving in the military. The White House said Wednesday that the president has begun consulting his top defense advisers on how to lift a ban on homosexuals openly serving in the Armed Forces.
Several people shared their stories at Fairview Community Church this evening, including Beth Payne, a health educator from Laguna Hills, who married Shannon last year.
"I didn't expect legal commitment to feel so different, but I really felt more married when I left the courthouse," she said. Following the passage of Proposition 8, she said she "didn't realize that I felt unequal until I had experienced what equality felt like and equality definitely feels better."
Jennifer Langer of San Clemente and Destiny Court of Anaheim have been together for two years and expect to marry one day.
"Our being here lends support to something very important which we want to have happen," said Langer, sitting in the pews of the church with Court. "Unless we stand together and you see us visible � we can be quite invisible at times."
Langer and Court say they were pushed to become more active in gay issues in the months leading up to the November election and in groups, like on this night, they have found total acceptance.
"When I feel alone," said Langer, a California state parks naturalist, "I draw on experiences like tonight (to know) that I am not."
After the speakers finished talking, Langer and Court joined others in holding candles and marched to the nearby intersection of Fair Drive and Fairview Street.
As a few sprinkles of rain fell and flames flickered, Court rested her head on Langer's shoulder. In the glow of candlelight, at a Costa Mesa intersection on a cool night, the couple kissed.
SANTA CRUZ - Margaret Curry and Julie Gill don't often attend rallies supporting same-sex marriage.
But Wednesday, on the eve of Supreme Court arguments in the fight over Proposition 8, the Santa Cruz couple decided too much was at stake to stay home. After 29 years together, they are cautiously optimistic the court will overturn the same-sex marriage ban and keep their June marriage in San Lorenzo Park legally valid.
Santa Cruz Mormon family's quiet struggle illustrates challenges in dealing with gay marriage issue everywhere
"I've had my hopes up before and feel like they got knocked down," Gill said as she held a candle with her left hand and Margaret's arm with her right.
Dozens of same-sex marriage proponents, including civic and religious leaders, gathered at the Town Clock for a candlelight vigil and peaceful march down Pacific Avenue.
By May, the high court is expected to determine whether the ban passed by voters in November illegally revised the California Constitution. If the court upholds Prop. 8, judges may determine the legal validity of 18,000 same-sex marriages that took place after its May 2008 ruling overturning an earlier voter-approved ban.
Morgan Taylor, a former attorney in the Santa Cruz County District Attorney's Office, said groups seeking to invalidate Prop. 8 have a good cornerstone argument -- that the constitutional amendment
"The state constitution can't be revised by submitting the issue to voters to take away a fundamental right from one specific class of people," Taylor said. "Such a sweeping change can only be done by revision, not by an amendment."
A revision requires two-thirds approval of the Legislature before voters can even weigh in, but an amendment can be passed by a popular vote. Prop. 8 was on the November ballot as an amendment opponents argue it had the effect of a revision.
Taylor said judges may be swayed by arguments that Prop. 8 is similar to interracial marriage bans that courts nationwide, including California's high court, struck down decades ago despite strong support for the bans by voters.
Prop. 8 attorney Kenneth W. Starr argues the ballot initiative was an amendment that did not fundamentally change state law. He has said the court could ask lawmakers to decide what to do with the same-sex marriages already on record.
"Whatever course this court chooses or whatever path the Legislature might take, Proposition 8 makes one thing clear: Same-sex marriages are no longer valid' or recognized' in California," Starr wrote in legal briefs last year.
Labris Willendorf, one of the vigil's organizers, said she is hopeful the same judges who ruled last year that it was unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the right to marry will stand their ground.
"I believe the justices will honor their original decision," she said.
San Jose Mercury News
As similar scenes played out across the state, San Jose gay-rights activists marched tonight in quiet solidarity on the eve of legal arguments before the California Supreme Court about the validity of Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage.
"This is about equality. We should get the same rights as everybody. We pay taxes just like straight people, we have families and we're even in the armed forces," said Arlene Jimenez, of San Jose who married her long time partner last October.
Wednesday night, Jimenez held a makeshift candle and joined about 150 others who ringed the intersection at Winchester and Stevens Creek boulevards near Santana Row. There, groups holding huge banners supporting gay marriage, walked each corner, occasionally chanting, "Gay straight, black, white, marriage is our civil right."
As they did so, cars passing by honked in support.
For Justin Lin, 27, of San Jose, it was about showing a visible united front.
"Growing up in my conservative community, there wasn't a lot of queer presence so part of this is just being visible," Lin said.
In San Francisco, more than 3,000 people marched down Market Street to City Hall, where there was a boisterous rally and a candlelight vigil, led by Cleve Jones, one of the earliest gay rights activists along with slain San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk.
Many of the marchers said they planned to spend the night camping in the plaza in front of the building where the California Supreme Court will hear arguments. Several said they were hoping to get one of the 20 public seats.
Marvin Dunson, 32, an employment attorney from Mountain View, said he was not going to spend the night but wanted to be out in the crowd "to let the public know and the Supreme Court know we want the right to marry.''
In many ways the march seemed more like a celebration than a protest. People held signs saying "Love Will Prevail'' and a choral group sang �Raging Love''.
As the march went past her, Dana Kessler was fretting that she and her young son could not get across the street to their bus stop. Said the native San Franciscan, ''I have lived here all my life. I have seen everything, I just don't get this. I voted for Prop 8 but I don't judge them.''
The vigils were planned in advance of the California State Supreme Court hearing that begins at 9 a.m. Thursday in San Francisco on the constitutionality of the proposition, the 2008 voter-approved measure banning gay marriages in the state.
The justices have set aside three hours to hear arguments from lawyers representing backers and foes of gay marriage.
Several groups representing supporters and opponents expect to gather again Thursday morning in San Francisco around 350 McAllister Street, location of the court chambers.
Supporters of the ban held a rally earlier Wednesday in San Francisco.
The hearing will be broadcast Thursday on the California Channel and webcast at http://www.calchannel.com/.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
San Francisco, CA (AP) -Same-sex marriage supporters are gearing up for Thursday's highly anticipated California Supreme Court hearing on the constitutionality of the state's voter-approved ban on gay unions.
Thousands of people marched Wednesday night from San Francisco's gay Castro District to the streets across from the courthouse where the Supreme Court's seven justices are scheduled to hear three hours of arguments on whether Proposition 8 should be overturned.
Similar candlelight vigils were held in Los Angeles, other California cities and as far away as New York.
Proposition 8, which passed with 52 percent of the vote in November, changed the California Constitution to trump the court's decision last May that legalized same-sex marriage.
The court has 90 days to issue a ruling.
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