San Diego march for marriage equality draws 20,000 protesters
Nationwide, demonstrators demand change
Published Thursday, 20-Nov-2008 in issue 1091
The growing backlash against Proposition 8, a California same-sex marriage ban, culminated Saturday in nationwide marches mobilizing tens of thousands of people – with estimates reporting San Diego as host to the largest demonstration.
San Diego Police and event organizers estimated between 20,000 and 25,000 marchers swarmed Downtown streets.
The demonstration was the largest protest in San Diego since 2006 when 50,000 people marched for immigration rights.
Despite the evident frustration and anger of some who participated, organizers and marchers attempted to stay positive.
“I hope it was a positive message and that people will see that this affects us deeply in a personal way, and we’re no different than anyone else,” said Nick Moede, who, along with Dan Horan, Michael Barrow and Sarah Beth Brooks organized the march and subsequent rally at the County Administration Building. “We just want to be treated equally.”
Many who walked and attended the rally likened Saturday’s march to an extension of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
“I go all the way back to Stonewall,” said Stanley Gray, referring to the Stonewall Riots in New York City in 1969 that propelled the gay rights movement. “I have seen our community come together when needed. I’m not surprised [about the turnout]; I’m thrilled.”
Some who marched also said Proposition 8’s consequences have become much clearer to Californians since the ban passed 52 to 48 percent on Nov. 4.
“I think more and more people are realizing that this affected people that they know, people that they work with, their friends, etc.,” said Stephanie Hurtado. “I’m here with all my friends who are all straight and married. They have kids and they have family members that are gay and they’re here to support this.”
Protesters weren’t met with much opposition during the march, and only a handful of individuals holding “Yes on 8” posters were stationed along the march route.
Over the course of the two-mile trek, police cited and released one member of the San Diego Minutemen for disturbing the peace after a clash with demonstrators.
At the rally following the march, speakers maintained a common theme calling on the GLBT community to be more visible. They encouraged GLBT individuals to be more open about their sexual orientation in their daily routines.
District 3 Councilmember-elect Todd Gloria referred to his run for office as an example, boasting that every mailer sent out by his campaign displayed a photo of his family, including his partner of seven years.
“The work will be hard and it will uncomfortable at times,” he said. “We will have to go to places we don’t often go to. We will have to talk to people we don’t often chat with.”
Others echoed Gloria’s message.
“The most important thing we can do as individuals for our cause is to let people know who we are,” Moede said. “It’s hard to discriminate against someone you know or have a connection to.”
Ruby Phillips, who identifies as transgender, said she was happy with the turnout, but she didn’t see much representation from the transgender community.
“I’m a little disappointed in the lack of the transgender community participation,” she said.
Some were pleased, however, with the participation of members of the Latino and black communities. Exit polls showed nearly 70 percent of black voters supported Proposition 8, and more than 50 percent of Latino voters favored the ban.
Frank Roviro, a Latino, said he was proud of the diversity represented at the march.
“I didn’t feel alone,” he said. “I saw a lot of Mexicans, Latinos out here in support with their children, and that made me proud to be a father.”
The turnout for the march impressed even its organizers. Technology played an important role, as word of the protest spread through e-mail, text message and social networking sites, Moede said.
In other protests throughout the state, about 12,000 people gathered in Los Angeles, 7,500 in San Francisco and 1,500 in Sacramento.
Thursday, Nov. 13, approximately 250 University of California at San Diego students staged a walk-out to protest the university’s neutral stance on the proposition. Students marched to Chancellor Mary Ann Fox’s office to demand she take a stand – which she declined due to restrictions levied on university chancellors by the UC Regents – followed by a demonstration at the intersection of Villa La Jolla and La Jolla Village Drive.
A significant amount of the literature at the San Diego rally on Saturday targeted the Mormon Church for its involvement supporting Proposition 8. Demonstrators toted signs such as, “Keep your church out of my state,” and, “Brigham Young had 55 wives, I just want one.”
More than 16,000 people were estimated to have marched to the Mormon temple in New York City last week to protest the church’s support of Proposition 8.
Last week, Mormon temples in Los Angeles and Salt Lake City received envelopes containing white powder causing the closure of the buildings for several hours. Police later determined the substance not to be toxic. Mormon officials have accused opponents of Proposition 8 of sending the letters.
The Mormon church has also accused gay activists of vandalizing at least 10 churches in California and Utah since the election.
Thus far, five lawsuits have been filed to invalidate Proposition 8 – the latest filed Monday – including one by the American Civil Liberties Union. Event planners say they raised $10,000 for the ACLU at Saturday’s rally in San Diego.
The lawsuits contend the proposition attempts to undermine the core principal of equality in the state constitution, therefore it must be passed by a super-majority in the legislature before it is presented as a referendum to the people. The court has not indicated when it will take up the cases.
Monday, Attorney General Jerry Brown urged the state Supreme Court to let Proposition 8 take effect, pending the review.