Saturday, September 17, 2011

Free the Equality Nine! Action Scheduled for Sept. 28 Downtown

Next Court Hearing in the Case Scheduled for Oct. 17


Copyright © 2011 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved

PHOTO: Members of the San Diego Alliance for Marriage Equality (S.A.M.E.) at a previous demonstration supporting the defense of the Equality Nine. (Photo by Cathy Mendonça, courtesy the S.A.M.E. Web site.)

Over a year has passed since the “Equality Nine” — Michael Anderson, Brian Baumgardner, Sean Bohac, Felicity Bradley, Kelsey Hoffman, Mike Kennedy, Zakiya Khabir, Chuck Stemke, and Cecile Veillard, members and supporters of the San Diego Alliance for Marriage Equality (S.A.M.E.) — were arrested on August 19, 2010 at the San Diego County Administrative Center. Since then they’ve been organizing a campaign to ask San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith to drop the charges against them — and have been circulating a “Drop the Charges” petition, available on their Web site,, or at

Now the Equality Nine plan to present their petitions at a rally Wednesday, September 28, 4 p.m. outside the City Attorney’s office, 1200 Third Avenue downtown. A number of prominent San Diegans, including elected officials, Queer and non-Queer activists and experts on civil rights law, have been invited to speak. S.A.M.E. members who weren’t arrested will present the petitions to Goldsmith’s office on the 16th floor of the building. The next court hearing in the case is scheduled for Monday, October 17 in the San Diego County Courthouse downtown.

“The Equality Nine engaged in a peaceful sit-in when the County Clerk would not issue marriage licenses to two same-sex couples that day [August 19, 2010], as they were willing to do for any opposite-sex couple that stepped into the office,” the online petition explains. “The Nine were arrested by dozens of Sheriff’s Deputies in full riot gear and military-style formation. They were shackled and marched out to buses, then were brought to jail where they were processed and spent several hours.

The protest was held in connection with the ruling by U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker that Proposition 8, the voter-approved ban on legal recognition of same-sex marriages in California, “disadvantages Gays and Lesbians without rational justification” and therefore “violates the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.” S.A.M.E., the petition site explains, was protesting a “stay” — legal-speak for “delay” — of Judge Walker’s decision that he imposed and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed. As marriage equality attorney Jason Molnar recently explained to the San Diego Democratic Club, this stay, which is expected to last until the case is finally resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court, is the only thing currently preventing same-sex couples from being married in California.

“We believe this is absurd,” the online petition argues. “The courts should not suspend the people’s constitutional rights until those who despise them are satisfied. The stay must be lifted. Now, the new Attorney General of California, Kamala Harris, is asking the courts to end the stay. Within the past few months, nationally, Congress and President Obama voted to end ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ (the policy that forbade Queer people from serving openly in the U.S. military). Recently, the Obama Administration signaled that they will no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act, the law which maintains marriage inequality at the federal level. With the edifice of official discrimination crumbling all around us, the City should not persecute activists who are proving to be on the right side of history.”

S.A.M.E. is holding signature drives for the drop-the-charges petition Saturday, September 17 and 24, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the corner of Sixth and University in Hillcrest. They are also planning to circulate the petition at the Adams Avenue Street Fair September 24 and 25 and at other major community events. To participate, or for more information, call (858) 335-6615, e-mail or visit on the Web.