Sunday, December 05, 2010

Over 100 San Diegans Demonstrate for Marriage Equality

Action Comes Two Days Before Appeals Court Hearing on Prop. 8


Copyright © 2010 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved

PHOTOS, top to bottom: “Queer Revolution,” Adrienne Bracciale, Chuck Stemke, Charlie Pratt

Over 100 San Diego supporters of marriage equality took to the streets in Hillcrest Saturday evening, December 4, two days before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco was scheduled to hear the appeal of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of California’s ban on same-sex marriages. The event was part of a statewide mobilization called “Unite to Make It Right,” which was originally planned as a big statewide rally in San Francisco but soon evolved into a series of smaller actions throughout the state. The hearing itself is scheduled to be broadcast Monday, December 6, 10 a.m. to noon on C-SPAN (Cox cable channel 21).

The action took place in three phases: an opening rally at the assembly point on Sixth and University, a march to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center on Centre Street, and a longer rally outside the Center. Exactly four months before, on August 4, a much larger event had followed the same route in celebration of U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision that Proposition 8, the voter-approved initiative redefining marriage in California as the union of one man and one woman, was unconstitutional. San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, who emerged as an unexpected hero of the marriage equality movement when he endorsed the legal challenge to Proposition 8 and testified before Judge Walker, had spoken on August 4 and a number of elected officials had attended. This time, the only elected official was openly Gay San Diego City Councilmember Todd Gloria, who showed up long enough to speak at the opening rally.

The event was sponsored by the San Diego Alliance for Marriage Equality (SAME), two of whose members, Lisa Kove and José Medina, co-MC’d both rallies. Kove also filmed as much of the event as she could for a volunteer community media project called That’s So Gay Live. At both rallies she had to introduce herself as being with SAME, That’s So Gay Live and DOD FedGlobe (, a Web site devoted to protecting the rights of Queer servicemembers and civilian Defense Department employees. “I have to say for legal reasons that I’m … not here to reflect the views of my employer, the Department of Defense,” Kove said. “I know you love that.”

One of the few speakers whose remarks focused on the upcoming court case rather than marriage equality in general was law student and SAME member Adrienne Bracciale, who mentioned some of the loonier arguments put forward by Proposition 8’s supporters in Judge Walker’s courtroom and how he’d answered them in his decision. One of the judge’s 80 findings of fact in his opinion, Bracciale said, was that “marrying a person of the opposite sex is an unrealistic option for Gay and Lesbian individuals” — which might seem obvious, except that one of the pro-8 arguments was that the initiative didn’t bar Gay and Lesbian people from marrying as long as they “met the qualifications” and married someone other than the people with whom they were likely to fall in love and want to share their lives.

Bracciale also said that Judge Walker had found that “permitting same-sex couples to marry will not affect the number of opposite-sex couples who marry, divorce, cohabit, have children outside of marriage, or otherwise affect the stability of opposite-sex marriages” — despite the recurring statements of marriage equality opponents that allowing same-sex couples to marry somehow threatens, or even destroys, marriage as an institution. She expressed many of the protesters’ disappointment in President Obama and his administration, who she said are “not at all living up to their claim of being our fierce advocates,” and called on the Queer movement to do more direct confrontation and civil disobedience to force the White House to be more aggressive on our issues.

“We need a movement,” agreed Chuck Stemke of SAME and the International Socialist Organization (ISO), who spoke at the closing rally and also called on the Queer rights movement to be more aggressive and confrontational in its dealings with politicians. He cited public-opinion polls that Americans are becoming more supportive of same-sex marriage, want to see the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy prohibiting Queers from serving openly in the U.S. military repealed, and oppose the war in Afghanistan — but “it doesn’t matter a single bit … as long as we’re not out there fighting, as long as we’re not visible.”

Stemke said of the Queer community’s so-called political “allies” that “if they don’t have any kind of pressure for us, if they don’t feel like we’re not going to vote for them [if they don’t deliver on Queer issues] or we’re going to protest them, it’s so much easier for them to say, ‘The hell with it. We’re not going to pick this political fight right now … over Gay rights.’ That’s exactly what’s happening now, isn’t it? All our issues are completely stalled. What’s the only way out? The only way out is for us to have a big movement.”

“I never thought I would be here doing this,” said attorney Charlie Pratt, who began his speech by mentioning that he is 70 years old and could remember when whites couldn’t marry people of color anywhere in the U.S. “I never thought I would see this progress in my country. … One thing I’ve learned is that we have to fight for our rights; and when we fight for our rights, we advance the cause for other folks as well. We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before, and there’ll be folks standing on your shoulders, looking back at 2010: ‘Remember? That’s when we got our rights! That’s when we could marry!’”

Organizer and co-MC Lisa Kove spoke several times during the event, including making a pitch for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and recalling her experiences in the official campaign against Proposition 8 — which lost, she said, because it wasn’t aggressive enough in reaching out to voters. “We were given canned speeches and specific instructions, and we were told only to speak to people who were on the fence,” she recalled. “I thought that was a mistake. … I kept saying to these folks, ‘We need to bring this to places that oppose us, because I actually know the people that oppose us. I’ve been working with them for 30 years. I think they’re persuadable.’ And they told me that if we did that, it would be my fault that we lost.”

Kove said that, as a New Yorker who’d only recently moved to California when Proposition 8 was on the ballot, she didn’t push her objections to the strategy. But once the measure passed, she, Pratt and others “immediately went to speak in places that opposed us. The first time we did that was at a town council in the North County area. Most of the folks there were either former military people or people associated with the Department of Defense. They were of various races, and they were all religious. And when we told them our story and our truth, they felt really bad. One man followed Charlie and I out of the meeting and said, ‘My preacher needs to get out of politics.’ He was crying because he knew the pain he had caused this community, and he knew he was wrong. He was a man of color, and he felt like he had betrayed the civil rights movement Dr. King and others had brought to his community. He understood. He got it.”