In West Hollywood, Thousands of Queer Americans Celebrate A Stone-Cold Truth

Proposition 8 plaintiff Paul Katami addresses the large crowd in West Hollywood.
Proposition 8 plaintiff Paul Katami addresses the large crowd in West Hollywood.
Ted Johnson

Another blue sky day in West Hollywood, but it was unlike any other.

On June 26, one day before the forty-fourth anniversary of the historic Stonewall riots in New York City, queer Americans in the Los Angeles area and across the country celebrated two U.S. Supreme Court rulings that told the world the undeniable fact that we are first-class citizens.

Rev. Neil Thomas, senior pastor at the Metropolitan Community Church in Los Angeles, told L.A. Weekly at the rally, "Within 25 days, we will have marriage equality in California, and DOMA is gone across the country. It's a major victory that will have a wide-sweeping effect."

We actually didn't need nine black-robed justices in Washington D.C. to tell us that we are valid, beautiful, and worthy of equality -- and thousands of queer folks of every age and color showed up in West Hollywood to bear witness to those truths.

But the striking down of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California's Proposition 8 was a king-sized message to those who still cling to the obsolete notion that we are something else.

In West Hollywood, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders, and our straight allies packed San Vicente Boulevard between Santa Monica and Melrose boulevards as Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black emceed the celebration that was sponsored by Los Angeles-based American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), which organized and funded the successful federal lawsuit.

The event featured the plaintiffs -- lesbian couple Sandy Stier and Kris Perry and gay couple Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami -- and winning Proposition 8 lawyers Ted Olson and David Boies. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, a co-founder of AFER, also spoke to the energized audience.

Dustin Lance Black in West Hollywood.
Dustin Lance Black in West Hollywood.
Ted Johnson

Wednesday night's scene was far different from nearly five years ago when California voters passed a gay marriage ban, Proposition 8, in November 2008. The day after that vote, gay and straight folks packed the street at a West Hollywood rally with an angry tension in the air.

They were all shocked that millions of Californians voted to take away legalized same-sex marriage. That those voters failed to get the message that's no longer up for discussion -- queer folks deserve to be treated equally and with respect.

Proposition 8 protest in Westwood in 2008.
Proposition 8 protest in Westwood in 2008.
Ted Soqui

Before speakers at the rally could finish their remarks in 2008, thousands of people started marching in the streets and headed towards Hollywood. Others went west to the Mormon temple in Westwood -- the Mormon church was a major proponent of Proposition 8. For weeks, there were protests in the streets of Los Angeles and other major cities.

Queer folks and their straight allies -- friends, parents, and family -- were saying loudly and clearly that things like Proposition 8 would not be tolerated anymore.

By June 26, 2013, that vocal and visible outrage paid off.

Like the old saying goes, We're here, we're queer, get used to it. We're not being obnoxious or provocative. We're just speaking a stone-cold truth. It's up to other people to get on the right side of history, to tap into their humanity.

Read other L.A. Weekly coverage: "Prop. 8 Dismissed by U.S. Supreme Court: Gay Marriage to Return to California" and "U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down DOMA."

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Patrick Range McDonald on Twitter at @PRMcDonald.


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