SAN FRANCISCO - Outrage and anguish over the passage of
Proposition 8 has spurred massive street protests throughout
California, and leaders of the gay and lesbian community believe the
backlash could spark an unprecedented nationwide push for gay rights.
Today, same-sex marriage supporters have planned simultaneous
protests throughout California and in all 50 states, as well as cities
in Canada, England and Australia.
It's a never-before-seen response, surpassing in size and scope even
the 1969 Stonewall riots, which started the modern gay rights movement
after New York City police raided a Greenwich Village gay bar.
"This is unprecedented and very significant, and we must not allow
it to be a fleeting moment of screaming and yelling," said longtime
activist Cleve Jones. He is calling for seven weeks of sustained
protest and civil disobedience to force federal action on a host of
gay-rights issues, calling the state-by-state pursuit of rights a
"This has got to be made real," he said.
So far, the protests are being organized not by the large and
established gay-rights organizations, but largely by individuals
spreading the word via the Internet and cell phones.
The backlash after Tuesday's vote has been enormous and
wide-reaching. People and businesses have become targets of blacklists
and boycotts. Two temples of the Mormon church, which advocated for the
marriage ban, received letters containing a white powder, though the
FBI determined the substance was not toxic and do not know who sent
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay-rights
organization, on Friday published a list of donors to the pro-Prop. 8
What course the response ultimately takes remains to be seen. This
uprising so far lacks clear leadership. The gay and lesbian community
in San Francisco has called a town hall meeting for next week to begin
to formulate a plan of action. Whatever their decision, the next step
is likely to be something beyond California's borders.
"People around the country were watching this very closely," said
Kellan Baker, a Washington, D.C., resident who is organizing today's
protest there. "For Californians to go to the ballot box to strip
people of civil rights they had been enjoying is, I guess, the last
Stephen Vaisey, a UC Berkeley assistant professor of sociology, said
he believes the response from supporters of same-sex marriage shows
they did not really believe the ban would pass. Vaisey said he is
closely watching the response and said it could be the first stage of a
larger movement - but that depends on protesters.
"For that, you need to get beyond some of the stuff that is
happening," he said. "If the focus is a religious group that is not
going to change its doctrine and has no power over public policy, then
what you get is a backlash, not a movement."
The boycotts and blacklists are affecting not only the political
faces behind the Prop. 8 campaign, but also individual supporters.
Phillip Fletcher, a Palo Alto dentist who donated $1,000 to the
campaign, is featured prominently on a Web site listing donors targeted
for boycott. He said two of his patients already have left over the
donation. On Sunday, protesters were outside the Mormon church he
attends, and he said they were cursing at adults and children who came
for the service.
"I'm not sure if it's so much equal rights or if they are trying to
silence, threaten and intimidate a group of people," Fletcher said.
Mormons decry protests
On Friday, the Mormon church's top leaders, known as the First
Presidency, officially responded to the fallout from the vote. In a
statement, they said, "These are not actions that are worthy of the
democratic ideals of our nation. The end of a free and fair election
should not be the beginning of a hostile response in America."
The campaign behind Prop. 8 is not planning any sort of
counterprotest, and leaders of the campaign said they are frustrated by
the aggressive response they have seen since election day.
"The election is over. There was a full and high-profile discussion
of the issue and voters turned out in record numbers to decide it,"
said Andrew Pugno, general counsel for the Yes on 8 campaign.
Critical court case
What could get opponents of same-sex marriage in the street,
however, would be the state Supreme Court tossing out the vote, he
said. San Francisco city officials, joined by the city of Los Angeles
and Santa Clara and Los Angeles counties, have petitioned the court to
do just that.
"I think you'll have a revolution on your hands at that point," Pugno said.
Whether it gets to that point, some people on both sides believe the debate on the issue should be over.
Dan Savage, who is editorial director of the Seattle weekly the
Stranger and who has written extensively on same-sex marriage, said he
believes it's no longer acceptable for people to support some rights
for gays and lesbians but not marriage.
"To borrow a phrase, either you're with us or you're against us," Savage said.
around the state and country expect gay-rights protests today. Here are
the planned protests in the Bay Area. All events will occur at city
hall buildings from 10:30 a.m. to noon unless otherwise noted.
-- Mill Valley, Depot Bookstore & Cafe
-- Mountain View, 1 to 2 p.m.
-- Santa Cruz, County Courthouse
-- San Francisco
-- San Jose
-- San Rafael
-- Santa Rosa, Courthouse Square, 10 a.m.
-- Walnut Creek