Hours after a federal judge struck down the Prop. 8 ban on gay marriage, using strong language to affirm the civil rights of gays and lesbians, demonstrators began celebrating Wednesday evening. The joy and satisfaction were tempered with the knowledge, however, that an appeal is coming, and a lengthy fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court possible, or even likely.
Weekly reporters were at events in West Hollywood and Long Beach. Their dispatches, after the jump.
Patrick Range McDonald, reporting from West Hollywood Park, at a rally sponsored by the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which organized and helped fund the Prop. 8 federal lawsuit.
An enthusiastic and deeply appreciative crowd of several thousand people crammed into a small park in West Hollywood, as they took part in an organized celebration of U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker's ruling that found Proposition 8 unconstitutional.
Starting around 6:30 p.m., young and middle-aged gay men and women and their straight friends streamed into West Hollywood Park carrying American flags and placards and gathered around a stage, above which two large American flags hung as a backdrop. CNN and local TV news crews covered the event.
Speakers featured Oscar-winning screenwriter Lance Black, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, American Foundation for Equal Rights President Chad Griffin, the victorious plaintiffs, and their attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies.
With the crowd often interrupting his speech with applause, Villaraigosa was unequivocal in his support for gay marriage, saying, “It is a right that belongs to all Californians.”
But the loudest applause was heard for the plaintiffs and attorneys, particularly Ted Olson and David Boies, who received extended ovations. Plaintiffs Kris Perry, Sandy Stier, Paul Katami, and Jeff Zarrillo joined in that prolonged salute.
Before the lawyers stood at the podium, Perry told the crowd, “This decision makes our state better, our nation better, our world better.” Zarrillo added that the lawsuit was a battle not just for his rights but for all of the people who had emailed him and sent him Facebook messages over the past several months. “We feel like we're fighting for them as well.”
Ted Olson, the one-time U.S. Solicitor General under President George W. Bush and thus a surprising member of the legal team, said Walker's ruling was “the most conscientious example of justice” he'd seen in his 40-year career in law. “It's a first step to the end,” said Olson, referring to the fact that the ruling will be appealed. “But it's a very, very important step. I can't tell you how important it is.”
With anti-gay marriage forces promising to appeal Walker's ruling, Olson said he and David Boies were prepared to take their case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.
Boies, a highly-respected attorney with a long record of major courtroom battles, added that the Prop. 8 lawsuit was the “most satisfying case of my career.” He also said the victory wasn't just for the lawyers and the plaintiffs, but the many gay activists who had come before them over the past several decades. “Most of all,” Boies, said, “it is for them.”
When Boies finished those last few words, the crowd erupted and the first notes of Bruce Springsteen's “Born in the USA” pounded loudly from the PA system.
Steve La, reporting from Bixby Park in Long Beach.
It was a moment of triumph and pride for gay marriage advocates as more than two hundred rallied here to celebrate.
Smiles and rainbow flags filled the park, and one man popped a bottle of champagne and passed plastic cups to those around him.
“We're happy and it's re-energized us,” said Robert Conger, 43 of Long Beach. “I'm excited and glad for everyone else.”
Conger was holding hands with husband Jason Weinlein, 36, also a Long Beach resident. The couple got married before the ban took effect in 2008.
“Even though we were legally married, it took the wind out of our sails that we were the exception and not the rule,” Conger said.
“Are you gonna fight?” Long Beach Councilman Robert Garcia asked the crowd from the stage. Garcia, the first openly gay Long Beach City Council member, warned that legal challenges would follow Wednesday's ruling. He urged everyone to not forget the feeling when voters passed Prop. 8
“I felt that we were vindicated,” Garcia told the Weekly. “We have a sense that momentum is back on our side… I'm ecstatic and grateful.”
Eric Kenney, of the Human Right Campaign, echoed Garcia's warning, urging persistence.
“We're going to put money behind the appeal effort and work with our allies in Congress.” Kenney said, citing U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein as strong supporters.
Long Beach residents Shelly Hanks, 47, and her partner Rebecca Swope, 50, sat by the stage, holding on to their adopted daughters Hunter and Sierra.
“I feel that my kids are going to have better opportunities in the future,” Hanks said. “I have full faith that we'll still win if it goes through the Supreme Court.” Both Hanks and Swope said they plan on getting married this month.