While the recent 2008 elections marked a historically significant event with the election of Barack Obama as the first African-American president, many Californians were dismayed to see a regression by the yes vote on Proposition 8, which will ban same-sex couples from being able to marry. Although Florida and Arizona also voted to enact bans on same-sex marriage, California, a Democratic state, was not expected to prevent gay couples from marrying. San Francisco, a gay mecca, was the only county in California that had a defined position on the issue; according to the Los Angeles Times, 76 percent of San Franciscans voted no on Proposition 8. Thus, it came as a surprise to many San Franciscans that the ban was passed. In reaction to this, a couple of thousand people marched from United Nations Plaza to Dolores Park by way of Market St. to protest the new discriminatory law and demand equal rights.
While many same-sex couples showed affection and boasted their monogamy on signs at the protest, there were many straight people who attended to show their support for gay friends or family. Aubrey, a resident of San Jose, protested because her brother is gay and she wants him to have the same right to marry as heterosexuals do. She has become more involved in gay rights activism since her brother came out. She is confident that the rights of same-sex couples will appear again on the ballot and that the outcome will be different because “It is unconstitutional.” Similarly, Tabitha, a recent high school graduate from Santa Cruz, said “It broke my heart to see Prop. 8 pass; my sister (who is gay) should be able to marry who she wants.” Unlike Aubrey, Tabitha became involved in gay rights when she was in high school through Queer Community, a gay-straight alliance club. In addition to fighting for her gay sister’s rights, she protested because she thought it was a good first step towards becoming involved with the gay community in San Francisco.
The signs, like the crowds, were quite diverse and enthusiastic. They read: “My Marriage: Cancelled by Popular Vote,” “Equality,” “Non-Religious Politics,” “Stop Prop 8,” “Don’t Discriminate,” and a particularly catchy one, “Let My Parents Marry.” Also, one woman sported a torn gray T-shirt that had Langston Hughes’ famous poem, “I, Too, Sing America” written on the back. In this poem, Hughes attacks racism, but expresses hope that society will overcome its prejudice and accept the black community. As the large group of protesters, straight and gay, made their way up Market St., they chanted “What do we want? Equality! When do we want it? Now!”
While it is important to protest against a law that excludes rights from some citizens, it seems that the gay community already has the support of the majority of San Francisco. Though many are upset with the recent same-sex marriage ban, USF politics professor Corey Cook said that it will be very easy to get the issue of same-sex marriage back on the ballot, but that the timing must be strategic. He said that proponents of same sex marriage will put the issue back on the ballot in an election that includes high voter turnout of groups most likely to support it, like young adults ages 18-25. The push to elect Obama actually hurt the No on Prop. 8 campaign because most African Americans and Latinos, who supported Obama, also oppose same-sex marriage. Cook said that in addition to putting same-sex marriage back on the ballot, there will also be a huge legal effort to overturn the ban and uphold the rights of same-sex couples to marry. He also pointed out that Prop. 8 does not determine if the same-sex marriages that took place before the election will still be valid.
Cook said, “I would be stunned” if the court views the law as retroactive and invalidates all same-sex marriages that took place before Nov. 4.
The 2008 presidential election in which Sen. Barack Obama became the first African-American elected president strongly suggests that the American people are ready for change and are not tied to ignorant preconceived notions. However, the long, arduous struggle of African-Americans to obtain their civil rights suggests that gay couples will have to persevere to gain their equal rights as well.
Protesters remained hopeful on Friday. Kate Matsumoto, a sophomore graphic design major at USF, said “People’s civil liberties are being trampled over. The issue is not going to go away.”