San Francisco Reacts to Prop 8 Decision

Written by Luke Thomas. Posted in Culture, News, Politics

Published on May 27, 2009 with 5 Comments


Artiste Helaine Gawlica stood on the ledge
of the Martin Luther King Memorial
at Yerba Buena Gardens during an evening
rally following the California Supreme Court’s
decision that upheld Proposition 8.
Photos by Luke Thomas

By Luke Thomas

May 27, 2009

Yesterday’s decision by the California Supreme Court to uphold the ban on same-sex marriage set off a flurry of reaction, most of it well planned. By 10:00 a.m., a crowd had gathered by the California Supreme Court in San Francisco. They awaited word of the Court’s decision.


“Shame on you. Shame on you.”

The decision, to uphold voters’ passage of a ban on gay marriage last year, wasn’t entirely unexpected. It was a blow that affected even public officials. City Attorney Dennis Herrera held a press conference.

“Today’s ruling doesn’t mean marriage equality will never be achieved,” he said. “It simply means that, in the end, we can’t rely on the courts to secure it.” He added, “The final decisive round will not be won in the legal arena, it will be won in the electoral arena.”


Attorney Raymond Marshall, National Center for for Lesbian Rights Exec. Dir. Kate Kendall,
City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Deputy City Attorney Terry Stewart
during a press conference at City Hall.

The effects of strategizing and organizing began to take shape. Almost immediately, protesters blocked traffic on nearby Van Ness Avenue, a main thoroughfare. There were between 100 and 200 arrests, which were processed peacefully and efficiently.

Early that evening, as many as three thousand protesters gathered to begin a march from City Hall to Yerba Buena Gardens…

…and passed by the state Supreme Court, where CHP officers stood guard and remained on watch.

Quite a number of protesters found powerful and inventive ways to make their point.


A winged Wizard of Oz monkey


Photog ace Michael Macor captures a dancing protester.


A same-sex couple reflects on the court’s decision
at the Martin Luther King Memorial.

At one point, emotions and alcohol set off a limited confrontation that led to an unpleasant arrest of a protester.

Which then led to about 500 people diverting themselves to an unplanned route, leaving hapless drivers unexpectedly surrounded.

Marriage equality activists expect to achieve their goal in California via the ballot box in 2010, or 2012 at the latest.

Notable Quotes

Luke Otterstad, American River College: “Marriage is a privilege and that means it’s exclusive. We exclude marriages based on age. We exclude marriages based on the number of people involved in the partnership. It’s an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman. Marriage is a privilege that is granted to specific parties, and we’ve determined that in California that’s a man and a woman.”

Molly Mckay, Marriage Equality USA: “The struggle continues. We’re not done. We keep marching. It’s not over. We’re going to get right back out there. We will become stronger. We will have more allies. We will win. We will prevail.”

Supervisor Bevan Dufty: “We will prevail. This is an unstoppable movement. This is an era in which California has really fallen behind in terms of our state not being a leader anymore – and we’re not even a follower anymore. This decision reflects that you shouldn’t have peoples’ rights under a constitution determined by a popular vote. I fundamentally think that was the right approach, and I think our people argued well, and we have to go back to the ballot. But I think we are wiser for having lost in November and I think we’ll win the next time we go to the ballot.”

“I think it’s bad. I think there’s just a lot of anger, and it’s going to be a tough time for the City for the next couple of days.”

Dufty said the Marriage Equality movement is targeting the 2010 ballot to legalize same-sex marriage.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera: “I think we’ve come to know that no one who has been part of this struggle, whether gay, lesbian, or straight, married or single, will ever stop fighting for equality.”

“Today we’re faced with a disappointing decision, but I also think it could have been worse. Yes, we’re disappointed Proposition 8 was upheld, but we’re also grateful that Prop 8 advocates did not succeed in their cruel effort to unmarry 18,000 lawfully wedded couples.”

Herrera said he was grateful for Justice Moreno’s dissent: “He stood fast for our constitutional guarantees and eloquently affirmed the judiciary’s role in defending them.”

Kate Kendall, Executive Director National Center for Lesbian Rights: “It is impossible to square the elation that we felt just a year ago with the grief that we feel today, and it is impossible to reconcile the court’s ruling from a year ago with its upholding of Prop 8 today. In upholding Prop 8, the court tarnishes that landmark historic victory for equality and dignity and diminishes it’s own legacy as a champion of fairness and justice. But, it is clear, this is not the end.”

Shannon Minter, Legal Director National Center for Lesbian Rights: “There’s no way to sugar coat it. This is a very sad day for our community.”

“The human impact of this decision is going to be devastating and overwhelming.”

“The court’s job is to act as a check on the abuse of majority power, to protect minority rights, to stand up for equal protection – and the court sidestepped that responsibility with this decision today and Justice Moreno, in his dissent, got it exactly right promising equal treatment to some is fundamentally different than promising equal treatment to all.”

“Granting same-sex couples all the rights enjoyed by opposite-sex couples, except the right to call their family relationship a marriage, still denies them equal treatment.”

Attorney Raymond Marshall: “It is sad that our court has taken the decision to deprive any group of citizens a fundamental right to enjoy under the Constitution… a fundamental right to marry.”

“I’m very optimistic that the words that were used during the (Obama) campaign, ‘yes we can,’ will in fact be the case. Yes we can. Yes we will. The right to marry, gay and lesbian, will happen. History is on our side.”

Geoff Kors, Executive Director Equality California: “It is extremely disappointing that the court is allowing the majority to determine a fundamental right of a suspect minority. But the court’s ruled; they said ‘it’s up to the voters,’ so we’ll take this back to the voters and I am confidant momentum is on our side and we will win back marriage and keep it permanently for same-sex couples in California.”

“Equality California wants to go back to the voters in November 2010 if there’s a clear path to victory and we know we’ll have the resources, both people power and money, to win.”

Luke Thomas

Luke Thomas

Luke Thomas is a former software developer and computer consultant who proudly hails from London, England. In 2001, Thomas took a yearlong sabbatical to travel and develop a photographic portfolio. Upon his return to the US, Thomas studied photojournalism to pursue a career in journalism. In 2004, Thomas worked for several neighborhood newspapers in San Francisco before accepting a partnership agreement with the SanFranciscoSentinel.com, a news website formerly covering local, state and national politics. In September 2006, Thomas launched FogCityJournal.com. The BBC, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, New York Times, Der Spiegel, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Magazine, 7×7, San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Bay Guardian and the San Francisco Weekly, among other publications and news outlets, have published his work. Thomas is a member of the Freelance Unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, TNG-CWA Local 39521 and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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  • paulhogarth

    As always, Luke, great photos!!

  • Jerry Schwartz

    The court decision is disappointing but not unexpected. Before we launch into another campaign perhaps we should reflect on reasons for failing in the prop 8 debate.

    1) drawing a symmetry between the gay struggle and the African American struggle.

    This was inaccurate and insulting to African Americans….they voted for prop 8.

    2) Disregarding the views of Catholics and other conservative christians.

    You can attract more bees with honey than vinegar. And the fact that we have not pointed the finger at them and made a number of accusations, will result in them again not supporting our cause. We should have opened our ears and closed our mouths and listened to the concerns. Then, and only then, we could have explained our reasoning and appealed to their better nature.

    The gay community, particularly in San Francisco, is not minority friendly. How many black men do you see walking on Castro Street?

    The gay community in San Francisco is also not friendly towards the poor. Sure, the gay community says all the right things, but does very little.

    The gay community also does not take part in other important movements, most notably the Anti War movement.

    Isn’t it time the gay community acknowledged its own problems and sought to remedy them, before pointing fingers at others.

  • marc

    Prop 8 won because the opponents ran a crappy campaign and proponents appear to have broken campaign finance law, nothing more, nothing less.

    -marc

  • slappy

    Single straight dude here….there’s a quote above from “Luke Otterstad, American River College” that marriage is a privilege.

    Am I the only one who has a massive problem with this privilege getting tax breaks, better loan terms, family health insurance benefits, etc while my single self doesn’t get squat?

    You know what else is a privilege Mr. Otterstad? Attending a California community college where fees are heavily subsidized by tax dollars. I’m thinking that would be a lovely privilege to revoke. No special breaks for any one then!

  • ricksf1

    It’s a very sad day for California. Approving government-sanctioned discrimination is wrong.