By Alex Emslie
Supporters of same-sex marriage gathered in force early Tuesday morning at St. Frances Lutheran Church and marched chanting and singing to hear the state Supreme Court’s decision on the fate of Proposition 8. The cautiously optimistic crowd erupted into boos and shouts of, “shame on you,” when the decision was announced at approximately 10:03 a.m.
Of the three arguments before California’s highest court, two challenged the constitutionality of Prop. 8’s denial of marriage to same-sex couples. In a 6-1 vote, those constitutional challenges were rejected, and the amendment to the state constitution stating “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California,” was upheld.
The third argument before the state Supreme Court, raised by attorney’s representing The Official Proponents of Proposition 8 and asking for the annulment of roughly 18,000 same-sex marriages conducted before the passage of the amendment, was unanimously denied by the court. Common supreme court practice denies the retroactive application of new laws unless the legislation contains specific language requiring it. Prop. 8, as it was presented to voters, contained no such language.
After the announcement, angry protesters moved to block the intersection of Grove Street and Van Ness Avenue, just outside City Hall. San Francisco Police Department Lieutenant Slade said, one platoon — or about 60 officers — were present at the civil disobedience following the announcement. According to sfexaminer.com, 175 protesters were arrested and released.
“This is a great demonstration between community activists and local clergy who are really outraged by the decision of the Supreme Cxourt to uphold Proposition 8,” said Rev. Roland Stringfellow of The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry. He said despite the Court’s decision not to nullify previous same-sex marriages, many protesters still saw the ruling as a defeat. “That is why we’re out on the streets today to make our voices heard and also put our bodies on the line.” Rev. Stringfellow was arrested roughly 30 minutes later.
United Methodist Minister Israel Alvaren, who helped to coordinate about 40 clergy members with the organization One Struggle, One Fight, said he had cooperated with the SFPD to stage the protest. “Yes. We had a liaison,” an SFPD Leiutenent said. “We’re going to give them their time to express their opinions and differences, possibly for about an hour. At that point, we have to restore order.”
Proponents of Proposition 8 also made a smaller appearance Tuesday, hoisting signs reading “‘Gay’ = Perverted” and “Marriage is still one man and one woman.”
“Our social fiber is based upon the relationship between a man and a female,” said Steve Macias, student body president of Sacramento City College. “That is the beginning of the family; the beginning of society. [The] ruling upholds the right way to conduct society. Without this, we have a degradation of society.” He also said the state Supreme Court’s decision against nullification was “politically motivated.”
Frank Parish, who said he had worked for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, was outside the Supreme Court building collecting signatures for an initiative to strike down Proposition 8. He said more than 700,000 signatures would be required, since some would disqualified. Rev. Stringfellow said they would, “get marriage equality back on the ballot hopefully as soon as 2010 and, if not, 2012.”
“As a person of faith I would just say that the fight is not over; that we struggle in the tradition of the leaders of the civil rights leaders of the past,” concluded Alvaren. “This is a civil rights issue. For those who are on our side, let them have hope that this will, in the end, be a triumph for justice and equality.”
Ramsey El-Qare contributed to this story