Over 200 people gathered Wednesday night]at the California State Capitol for a rally and march which marked the first anniversary of the passage of Proposition 8.
The event, “A Day of Smiles, Tears and Action,” was led by Equality Action NOW, a grassroots civil rights organization, along with several supporting organizations. The event also followed relevant elections in Maine and Washington on Tuesday.
In Washington, voters approved Referendum 71, keeping a law that expanded state benefits to same-sex domestic partners. In Maine, voters rejected a law passed by the state’s legislature and signed by the governor that would have allowed same-sex marriages. Maine is now the 31st state to reject same-sex marriage in a popular vote.
Proposition 8 amended California law to recognize marriage only between a man and a woman.
Last year was not the first time that California voters were presented with a vote to narrow the definition of marriage. In 2000, Proposition 22 passed, approving the same language, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”
During his speech at the event, EAN volunteer and Camp Courage representative Chris Hauck pointed out the positive difference between the two propositions. While Proposition 22 won by over 22 points, Proposition 8 won by less than five points. Hauck also noted that Proposition 8 was not supported by a majority of voters in areas like Santa Barbara and Irvine, areas where an overwhelming majority supported Proposition 22 almost a decade ago.
Proposition 22 was eventually overturned by the California Supreme Court, allowing gay marriage for approximately five months before the passage of Proposition 8. Proposition 8 was upheld in the California Supreme Court last May in Strauss v. Horton.
As the ongoing judicial and legislative battle ensues, national groups including the American Civil Liberties Union are discouraging further legal action, saying it could do more harm than good. Instead they recommend making changes at the ballot box.
Jennie Reiken, Sacramento field manager for Equality California, strongly encouraged attendees to start canvassing. She encouraged people to educate those around them by having one-on-one conversations about their relationships.
“While the event was held to commemorate the passing of Proposition 8 and the resulting year of inequality, the rally was held to encourage people to get involved in any way they can and provide ample volunteer opportunities," EAN spokesperson Hilary Hodge said after the rally.
Following the march, several organizations made sign-up sheets available to participants. EAN recognizes there is a difference of opinion between marriage equality activists on whether to try voters again in 2010 or 2012. Whenever the issue returns to the polls, Tina Reynolds, co-founder of EAN has stated, “(EAN) does not take a stand one way or another since choosing a date has worked to polarize our community. We will be there whenever a rally, a vote, a stand needs to be made, and we will support all of our brothers and sisters in solidarity.”
In the near term, grassroots efforts in Sacramento continue, including an intensive two-day training called Camp Courage Sacramento this Saturday and Sunday. The training is designed to teach community organizing skills for marriage-equality activists. Registration information is available here. A fundraiser for Camp Courage will be held this tonight at Head Hunters located at 1930 K Street in midtown Sacramento.
A brief timeline:
March 7, 2000 – Proposition 8 passes in the Primary Election
May 15, 2008 – Proposition 22 overturned by California Supreme Court (in re: marriage cases)
Nov. 4, 2008 – Proposition 8 passes in the General Election
May 26, 2009 – Proposition 8 upheld by California Supreme Court (Strauss v. Horton)