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Crowds march in opposition to Prop. 8 ruling

May 27, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
After months of legal wrangling, the California Supreme Court announced on Tuesday to uphold a ban on same-sex marriages.Justices voted 6-1 to uphold Proposition 8, the voter-approved ban of gay marriage, dealing a major legal blow to the gay and lesbian community. California residents passed Prop 8 with 52 percent of the vote last November.

The court also ruled that the roughly 18,000 marriages that took place before Prop 8 took effect are still valid.

"It would be a shocking, strange thing in California law to essentially divorce those couples against their will," said Jennifer Pizer, a lawyer from Lambda Legal.

The crowd that had gathered outside the Supreme Court in San Francisco was mostly made up of gay rights supporters, and there was a huge outcry when the ruling was released at 10 a.m.

After the announcement, the crowd began marching through San Francisco streets chanting, "Shame on you."

Crowds converged in West Hollywood Tuesday at 7 p.m. to oppose the state Supreme Court's ruling. They marched to the intersection of Hollywood Blvd. and Highland Ave., shutting down the intersection. That crowd was estimated to be approximately 5,000 strong.

Five states have already legalized gay marriage, and gay marriage supporters had hoped California would be the sixth.

The justices said the people do have the right to change their constitution through the ballot box.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released a statement shortly after the ruling.

"While I believe that one day, either the people or courts will recognize gay marriage, as governor of California, I will uphold the decision of the California Supreme Court," he said.

"Regarding the 18,000 marriages that took place prior to Proposition 8's passage, the court made the right decision in keeping them intact."

The governor encouraged those responding to the decision to do so peacefully and lawfully.

Rev. Lou Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, gave a bit of a cheer when he heard the court ruling.

"This is a victory for the people. The sovereignty of the people is so important in our system of government," he said.

However, Sheldon said the issue is not settled, realizing those in favor of same-sex marriage will appeal. He said his group plans to appeal on the issue of 18,000 marriages that the court ruled will stand as is.

Sheldon said he believes those marriages should be invalid.

In Leimert Park, the ACLU and several faith-based groups held a news conference to respond to the state Supreme Court's decision.

"This is nothing short of apartheid in our own state, that some people were allowed to be married, and others will never have that right," said Rabbi Denise Eger from Kol Ama Congregation.

Local residents Eric Monriquez and Juan Ribera said the announcement was bittersweet for them. While they were happy their marriage would still be recognized by the state, they said they were very disappointed with the ruling.

"We're very sad for other couples," Ribera said.

Gay rights advocates had argued the ballot measure revised the state constitution's equal protection clause, thus needing the legislature's approval before it could be put to voters.

Six months before Prop 8 passed, the California Supreme Court had ruled in favor of gay marriage, saying that denying gay marriage amounted to state-sanctioned discrimination.

Gay rights supporters say the fight is far from over.

Robin Tyler and Diane Olson, considered the pioneers of the gay marriage movement in California, were devastated that Prop 8 was upheld.

"For the first time in American history, gay people got into a constitution, and then people voted us out, and we're just really upset," Tyler said.

Their battle began five years ago when they announced they would be the first couple in the state to challenge the denial of a marriage license to a same-sex couple.

Attorney Gloria Allred took the case, and won the right to marry last year.

"We will be an army of love warriors of probably putting it back on the ballot," Tyler said.

"Only this time, unlike last summer, we will go from door to door and knock on every door and have people get to know us."

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