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San Diegans celebrate Prop 8 ruling with march, rally

SAN DIEGO – Despite a light rain, approximately 150-200 people came out last night to celebrate the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal’s ruling to uphold a lower court’s decision that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional.

Marchers met at 6 pm at the southeast corner of University and Sixth Avenues, in preparation for the short walk to the Joyce Beers Center in Uptown.

Jose Medina, of San Diego Alliance for Marriage Equality (SAME), spoke to the gathering crowd through a megaphone. He summarized the court's ruling and then pumped the group up with a song, “Na Na Na Na, Prop 8, goodbye,” as San Diego Police arrived to provide oversight.

“This is a good day for equality,” Medina told San Diego Gay & Lesbian News during a break in his public comments. “And to re-establish the fact that LGBTs are human like everyone else.

"Our opponents are out of step. I hope that the Supreme Court refuses to hear the case,” he said.

The crowd, not nearly as big as the group that gathered when Judge Vaughn Walker first declared Prop 8 unconstitutional in August of 2010, was filled with men and women of all ages and ethnic backgrounds, their children and even their dogs.

"Marriage Equality NOW," "= 4 ALL," "We all desire the freedom to marry," "Prop 8 is HATE," and "Obama Evolve Already," were just some of the dozens of hand-made signs and posters being carried by participants.

Sister Ida Knows, a member of the San Diego Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence order, was hopeful about the ruling. "I’m excited. I think it was a step in the right direction and it was nice to see common sense prevailed.”

Longtime activist Eric Hufford was more reticent. "It was a great day in legal history with the court setting a precedence, but it was bittersweet because the fight continues."

Local public figures and leaders could be seen mingling in the crowd before the march began; Councilmember Todd Gloria, San Diego Pride’s Executive Director Dwayne Crenshaw, longtime marriage equality activist Fernando Lopez and Stephen Whitburn were just a few of the faces seen.

Just before the march began, the crowd began chanting “What do we want? Equal Rights. When do we want them? Now,” and “Gay, straight, black, white, All unite for equal rights.”

At approximately 6:15, the crowd, led by Jose Medina, began walking east down the middle of University Avenue, but were quickly returned to the sidewalk by police. Several passing cars along the route honked their horns as a gesture of support for the marchers.

At the corner of 10th and University, the police provided support blocking traffic so the peaceful procession, which had picked up marchers along the way, could make its way across without interruption.

At the Joyce Beers Center, a small tent and a speaking platform had been set up in advance of the march to facilitate the rally on the Center's steps.

Note: Inside, the Uptown Planners were deciding the fate of the Hillcrest Pride Flag, a 65’ rainbow beacon of pride proposed for permanent installation at the median intersection of University and Normal St. It passed 8-6.

Michael Aron, a straight ally who volunteers at the San Diego LGBT Center, and his companion Barbara, had joined in the march to Uptown and were thrilled with the day’s events.

“It was phenomenal,” said Barbara, referring to the appeals court’s opinion. “It brought tears to my eyes.”

“This is a civil rights issue,” Aron chimed in. “It's hard to believe it took this long. We live in the Gaslamp and wouldn’t have missed this [march and rally] for the world.”

Once everyone had assembled for the rally, a host of speakers took to the microphone.

Jersey Deutsch of Canvas for a Cause, was the first to step up and address the crowd. She summarized the ruling as a recognition of "constitutional human rights" and reminded the assembly that approximately $42 million has already been spent by the opposers of marriage equality, but "everyone has LGBT people in their lives."

Deutsch also pointed out that same-sex couples are denied 12,000 rights currently offered to straight married couples and that LGBT people can still get fired in dozens of states across the country.

She then pressed for support of the FAIR Education Act, passed in 2010 by the California assembly that allows LGBT activists like Harvey Milk to be taught alongside other civil rights activists like Martin Luther King and Cesar Chavez. The Act is currently under fire by anti-gay activists who threaten to overturn it.

"We must continue forward; we can't sit down. There is so much left to win," she said.

Two activists who were part of the "Equality Nine" - Zakiya Khabir and Michael Anderson - arrested in August 2010 at the San Diego County Administration building after they sat down in protest after being denied a marriage license, also addressed the assembly in a much more somber tone than the evening had previously seen.

Jose Medina wrapped up the planned rally by thanking the straight allies in attendance and opened the mike up to anyone who wished to speak or share. A number of others stepped up and spoke.

A young female couple in the crowd were huddled close and taking it all in when approached by San Diego Gay & Lesbian News for their take on the day's events. Jennifer, 28 and her partner Darien, 23, have been together for two years. The women were happy to be a part of history.

"This is one step closer," Jennifer said. "It's been a long time coming. If this were on a ballot today, it would not pass again. People have become more aware and have changed their minds. I also think the proposition was written to confuse."

"I'm not as clear on all the technicalities as she is," said Darien, gesturing toward her mate. "But I feel good about it. The law was purely discriminatory and they didn't have a logical argument for taking those rights away."

Although in their twenties, neither was out or comfortable enough to be out while in their respective high schools. Jennifer went to Santana in East County and Darien's high school was in the conservative Orange County, north of San Diego.

The couple wasn't sure they'd get married immediately if and when same-sex marriage becomes legal again, but that didn't diminish their appreciation for the rights themselves.

"I am happy to have the option and not feel like a second class citizen," Darien said.

Jennifer quoted the ruling before saying, "This is about people's dignity."

The rally ended at approximately 7 pm.