President of the Long Beach Lambda Democratic Club Cory Allen addresses the crowd last evening.
Words by Jacob Beizer. Photos by Daniel DeBoom.
9:15am | Hundreds of really happy people gathered at Bixby Park in Belmont Heights on Wednesday, August 4th to celebrate the Federal District Court in San Francisco’s decision to overturn Proposition 8, the ballot measure passed by California voters in November 2008. If there was any counter-protest, it was completely hidden by the hundreds of people gathered in front of the stage on the east side of the park, where speakers got up and lauded the court’s decision.
It would be hard to find anything that those in attendance had in common, other than enthusiasm and joy for the latest in a series of back-and-forth legal wranglings to establish same-sex marriage in California and the rest of the nation. People of all ages, backgrounds, colors, sizes, and haircuts clapped and cheered for every speaker, whether it was an elected official, the leader of a civil rights group, or just some couple that was totally stoked about the court’s decision.
One speaker was Councilmember Suja Lowenthal, who received a stirring response from the crowd when she intoned, “Nothing more, nothing less… That’s all we’ve ever asked for.”
“Do not give up, continue to persevere,” she said. “This is one more day, one more victory.”
People in the crowd displayed varying degrees of happiness, usually somewhere between cautiously optimistic that the decision would hold up on appeal, and supremely confident that one day, same-sex marriage would be legal. Some saw themselves as active members of the struggle while others were along for the ride, content to see the movement gaining momentum.
Among those who were supremely confident of eventual legalization was Brett Barris of Long Beach, who described himself as ecstatic and “giddy as a school girl.”
“This is going to awaken a lot of people,” he declared, gesturing at the crowd that lingered after the main event ended. “This happiness will spread like wildfire.” That really was the best way to describe the mood of the event. It was not standoffish. No one was demonizing anyone. There was only ebullience, and what seemed like a palpable sense of relief.
Some within the movement have questioned the wisdom of litigation, as opposed to legislation, of same-sex marriage, but it was hard to find anyone who agreed with that sentiment at the park. April and Jill, a couple of 18 years from Long Beach who are not legally married but had a ceremony 15 years ago, supported the choice to challenge Proposition 8 in court.
“I don’t think it is a ballot-able issue,” said Jill. “It is an issue of civil rights. There shouldn’t be voting on civil rights.”
Some, like Mark Cross, a member of grassroots marriage equality organization Restore Equality Now, were skeptical that the decision would hold up in the Supreme Court because of the current conservative makeup of the bench. His organization supports efforts to put a measure on the 2010 ballot or 2012 ballot in the event that the Court rules against marriage equality.
Others, like Long Beach resident Michelle, joined by her friends Ashley and Faith, whom she collectively introduced by declaring, “We’re all queers,” felt Judge Vaughn R. Walker’s decision was “rock-solid” and would hold up on appeal because of a sound argument based on facts and rationality. Faith predicted there would be a back-and-forth struggle, but ultimately their side would win. A mother of three, she was hopeful the decision was a sign that society is moving in a direction of acceptance, and that her children won’t have to see their mother treated differently because of who she is.
At times, people had trouble expressing themselves at all because of overwhelming feelings of joy and relief. Barris had trouble holding still, fidgeting and dancing to the music blaring out of the PA system. “We’re on our way,” he said. “We will prevail.”
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