Thousands March For Marriage Equality in San Francisco
“My family rocks!” proclaimed Eddie Franks. “I have love from two different women, and they both rock!”
The 11-year-old stood at the corner of Castro and Market Streets in San Francisco around 6 p.m. on Monday, March 25, with his Mom, Cindy. Along with thousands of others, the Franks were preparing to march from the Castro, the city’s self-described “gayborhood”, to City Hall.
It was the night before SCOTUS was set to hear oral arguments regarding the legality of Proposition 8, California’s voter-approved gay marriage ban, and DOMA, the Federal Defense of Marriage Act. Since Proposition 8 was passed in 2008, there has been a decided shift in public opinion regarding marriage equality, with a clear majority of Americans, led by President Barack Obama, now supporting the right of same-sex couples to wed.
The march held a particular significance for LGBT San Franciscans. In 2004, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom made the controversial decision to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. Thousands of gay and lesbian couples were wed in a matter of days. Though California courts ruled that Mayor Newsom lacked the authority to issue the licenses, the floodgates were opened. The idea of marriage equality took root and began to spread like wildfire. In the weeks leading up to the Supreme Court hearings, President Obama, former President Bill Clinton, who signed DOMA into law, and more than 100 Republican lawmakers filed Friend of the Court briefs, urging the Supreme Court to rule in favor of marriage equality.
“Once again San Francisco is leading,” stated San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener. The openly gay Supervisor, who occupies the seat once held by the late Harvey Milk on the city’s Board of Supervisors, participated in the march.
“Tomorrow is the beginning of the end for Proposition 8 and DOMA,” he said.
The mood of the march was joyous, as couples marched hand in hand. Yosiat Ginbernard and Alex Marr, together for one and a half years, were looking forward to their wedding.
“I think this is an exciting time to be gay,” Ginbernard told SFGN. “We’re reaping the rewards of what past generations have fought for. Now we see the light at the end of the tunnel”. The two men kissed.
Marchers included a cross section of LGBT humanity, including older and younger, couples, singles, and families. As they continued down Market Street, onlookers cheered.
Speakers at City Hall included 12-year-old Daniel Martinez, who, along with his dad Brian, uploaded a You Tube video urging the court to support marriage equality. Martinez read his You Tube message in its entirety. He said that he and his sister were “lucky” to have been adopted by two men who loved them. “I know you have a tough decision to make,” he said. “My family is just as valuable as any other.”
The following day, March 26, a vigil was held between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. at the San Francisco Federal Building. It was inside this building that California Judge Vaughn Walker ruled Proposition 8 unconstitutional. LGBT clergy was strongly represented at the vigil.
Reverend Sadie Stone of First Palo Alto Methodist Church held up a sign which stated: “’Guys! I said I hated FIGS!’ — Jesus.”
There were a few speakers at the vigil, none more powerful than Rev. Roland Stringfellow. Stringfellow, who is African American, represented the Pacific School of Religion.
“People often assume that clergy and people of color are against marriage equality,” he said. “I represent over 250 congregations who welcome LGBT people and their families. Let this be a time of reconciliation.”
For 49-year-old Michael McGann, who came out at age 13, attending the vigil held a special meaning.
“This is the last civil rights issue I will see in my lifetime,” he said. “I feel it’s important even though I’ve never been in a relationship. But I might find a guy and fall in love, and I’d want to marry him.”
As the vigil concluded, couples kissed, and strangers embraced.
(All photos by Danny Buskirk).