By Maricela Lechuga & Cyrus Gutnick
Politics & Culture Reporter and Editor
Rainbow flags, American flags and picket signs reading “We are all human” and “No more separate but equal” waved above the heads of more than 400 people gathered outside the Santa Cruz courthouse, at Ocean Street and Water Street, last Saturday.
The battle for same-sex marriage has waged on since the Nov. 4 popular vote amended California’s constitution to restrict the definition of marriage to read, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”
Jim Brown, director of the Santa Cruz Diversity Center, commented on the unprecedented number of supporter turnout.
“It’s great to see so many familiar faces — and even more, it’s so great to see so many unfamiliar faces out to support marriage equality,” Brown said, addressing the crowd from the top of the steps through a microphone.
This local protest was only one of hundreds of protests that occurred globally on Saturday. It was estimated by Join the Impact (jointheimpact.com), the organization that announced the call for action, that over 1 million people around the world participated in the protests. This included 300 cities in the U.S. and 10 countries worldwide.
Assemblyman John Laird, representative of Santa Cruz within the 27th Assembly District, addressed the overwhelming support Santa Cruz offers.
“And so the interesting thing in the sweep of history about looking at this group,” Laird said, “is that for those of us who marched for gay pride in Santa Cruz in the 1970s, this is about five times larger than those marches were going down the streets.”
Standing a respectful distance away on Ocean Street was a lone picketer protesting the rally and standing in support of the constitutional amendment.
Chauncey Killens is an associate minister from Prunedale, a town on Hwy. 156 east of Castroville. Killens spoke in favor of the voters who passed Proposition 8.
“I speak for almost 5 million Californians, and almost 30 states across America, that have adopted constitutional amendments that say marriage is between one man and one woman,” Killens said. “I’m willing to stand in a compassionate, truthful, loving way to tell them this is a moral issue, not a civil rights issue.”
For others, Proposition 8 is entirely about civil rights. Vicki Dyas, a resident of Santa Cruz, feels this is a continuation of “separate but equal” policy.
“I’m outraged at the vote on [Proposition] 8 and we absolutely have to do something about it,” Dyas said. “The next thing will be separate drinking fountains, so this has got to stop. We made great strides with Obama, and I think the will of the people is there but we were caught off-guard and we need to turn it around.”
The will of the people in Santa Cruz may ask to protect marriage, but on Nov. 4, the numbers were absent statewide. Laird called for the support and energy of the people to be put into our judiciary system and back up the same men and women who overturned the ban on same-sex marriage once already.
“You cannot vote away basic civil rights.” Laird said. “Now this movement is about backing up the Supreme Court in saying, “We will continue to state, you cannot vote away fundamental human rights.”