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San Diego denounces Prop 8 court ruling

Published Jun 6, 2009 4:07 PM

Only eight hours after the announcement of the California Supreme Court’s prejudice-based ruling supporting Prop 8 on May 26, 5,000 disappointed, sad, but mostly angry San Diegans stormed out of Balboa Park onto Sixth Avenue and chanted their way to the heart of downtown. Taking the full width of median-divided Broadway, the protesters marched through the canyon with signs and banners held high until they reached the so-called “Hall of Justice” courthouse for a “Day of Decision” rally.

At the San Diego sit-in are, from left, Michael
Anderson, who was there to marry Brian
Baumgardner; Zakiya Khabir, San Diego Alliance
for Marriage Equality organizer; and Adrian
Rodriguez and Jonathan Goetz, who were also
demanding the right to marry.
WW photo: Zola Rices Muhammad

Speakers there included the city’s mayor, one of whose daughters is a lesbian; Miguel, a gay Latino man from Iowa who is legally married to his partner; other community members; and local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender leaders. Miguel told the crowd, “I live in a state that says marriage is between a man and a woman. But I’m married to a guy, and I’m not going to stop working until all people have that right. This will not be simple, but Martin Luther King and Harvey Milk were great heroes who fought against discrimination, and we have to work at least as hard as they did.”

The next day, a dramatic escalation of the struggle for equal marriage rights was organized by the San Diego Alliance for Marriage Equality. As the noon hour struck at the County Administration Building, Michael Anderson, a 27-year-old warehouse worker, and Brian Baumgardner, a 26-year-old bartender, entered the San Diego County Clerk’s office on the second floor and asked for a marriage application.

Following them into the office, and witness to the staff member’s polite refusal based on Prop 8 and the previous day’s court ruling, were a lot of media and a diverse assortment of community members and supporters: men and women; high school and college students, workers taking a day off and seniors; African Americans, Latinas/os and whites; seasoned activists and those new to the struggle; and a contingent of LGBT people and straight allies.

At the height of the five-hour sit-in that unfolded, close to 70 people were involved, some moving between the office and the support rally outside. It’s hard to believe that any work got done that afternoon, at least in that wing of the administration building. Brian and Michael’s supporters sang and chanted tirelessly to thundering effect, stopping only periodically for loud readings of inspiring printed material distributed by the organizers and personal testimonials from almost everyone present.

In tears, a straight woman who had been married in this very office three years earlier expressed her feeling that it was unacceptable that others were being refused this beautiful experience. Rhythm Turner, a young lesbian, spoke of the hate crime she had been the target of recently. Several people identified themselves as Christians and several others as heterosexuals needing to express their solidarity with those of us being denied our civil rights. Other speakers addressed the need to continue reaching out, winning new allies and, above all, staying active in the struggle.

During the course of the afternoon, another gay couple and a lesbian couple entered the occupied office and unsuccessfully requested marriage applications. They were welcomed with cheers and noisy chanting. Among the most popular chants of the afternoon were “We are ready—sí se puede!—to get married—sí se puede!” “Justice won’t wait! Repeal Prop 8!” “Homophobia must go!” and “Obama! Obama! Let Momma marry Momma!”

Some minutes after the office officially closed at 5 o’clock, the protesters, still chanting, filed out for a final rally on the steps of the building. “We’ll be back! We’ll be bigger!” they promised.

Several corporate media organizations attempted to use the lack of arrests following the sit-in to criticize the protesters. However, the people in struggle will decide what tactics are appropriate in any given situation, with no particular interest, really, in what the expectations of the big-business media might be.