Mountain View Voice

News - August 13, 2010

Downtown march celebrates Proposition 8 ruling

by Nick Veronin and Emily Hamilton

Gay rights advocates gathered at the Mountain View Caltrain station Wednesday evening to celebrate the decision delivered by a federal judge today to overturn Proposition 8, the controversial initiative banning same-sex marriages that was approved by California voters in 2008.

"In Mountain View, we pride ourselves on our diversity," said Ronit Bryant, the mayor of Mountain View. "We prove it every day in the way we live, in the way that we work together, in the way that we've built our lives together. We prove it in our very firm opposition to any type of discrimination. Congratulations to all of us."

The 100 or more marchers seemed to share that sentiment. "Gay, straight, black, white — marriage is a civil right!" they chanted as they marched down Castro Street. People eating at the restaurants along the way looked on and occasionally cheered in support.

There was no one actively protesting the rally, which eventually made its way to City Hall, where several local officials spoke. A passing driver did signal his disapproval with his middle finger, however.

Ray Hixson, co-chair of the Santa Clara County chapter of Marriage Equality U.S.A. said he was thrilled with the decision. "It means equality and dignity for every citizen," Hixson said.

Hixson, who is gay, did not come out of the closet until he was 36 for fear of the stigma he faced growing up in his southern town. His parents still do not talk to him, he told the crowd over a bullhorn.

He said that Proposition 8 hurts families and children.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker wrote in his decision that the proposition was unconstitutional.

"Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license," U.S District Judge Vaughn Walker wrote in his decision. "Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples.

Cecilia Colombetti, a lesbian living in Mountain View, said not being able to marry her partner is unfair to their two sons. "It's important for our sons that we be able to get married," she said, "so they know that their family is no different than any other family."

Colombetti came to the rally with one of her sons, who squirmed furiously when a train pulled into the station. "He likes the train," she said. "Just like every other 3-year-old."

Sally Lieber, the former speaker pro tempore of the state assembly was one of several speakers at the rally.

"We're living history," Lieber said to an enthusiastic crowd. "We're living the opportunity to take unfair legislation out of our constitution."

ProtectMarriage.com, the official proponents of Proposition 8, called the decision "a disappointment," and vowed to appeal the judgment in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

"It is disturbing that the trial court, in order to strike down Prop 8, has literally accused the majority of California voters of having ill and discriminatory intent when casting their votes for Prop 8," said Andy Pugno, general counsel for ProtectMarriage.com, in an official statement.

The final talk was given by members of Mountain View-based Outlet, a support system for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth which has about 4,000 participants.

"Even though they're not going to get married any time soon, they still should have the same right as everyone else," said Eileen Ross, Outlet's director.

Teens from Outlet shared their personal stories and reactions to today's decision.

. "My goal in life it to spread awareness. That's our biggest enemy: not people, ignorance," said Cyrus, a 17-year-old Iranian-American who was raised Mormon.

Michael Wald, a law professor at Stanford University, said he had expected Walker would overturn the proposition. He said that attorneys defending Proposition 8 failed to demonstrate that the state would have a vested interest in preserving the traditional definition of marriage.

The defense "did not present credible expert testimony that there was any reason to distinguish between same-sex and opposite-sex marriages other than a distaste for same-sex marriages," Wald said.

Moving forward in the appeals process will be difficult for the defense, according to Wald, since they cannot introduce new evidence in the appeals process and because, in appeals such as these, the lower court's decision is presumed to be right.

Wald said the defense will have to argue that Walker did not consider their argument carefully enough. "I think the defense faces an uphill battle," he said.

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