- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
- SPEAKING OUT : The Rev. Helen Carrol, left, of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in SLO and the Rev. Carol Hall, minister at St. Benedict’s Episcopal Church in Los Osos, address the crowd.
Lilianna, a shy blond 8-year-old, clung to her mom’s side.
“Are you happy we get to stay married?” her mom Amanda Bailey asked.
“Yeah,” Lilianna answered, before burying her face in Bailey’s stomach.
In fact, Bailey and Lilianna’s father are divorced. Lilianna was happy because her other parent, Laura Crandall, gets to stay in the family.
They stood in Mitchell Park in downtown SLO amid clapping and cheers from about 100 people who had gathered after a bittersweet day. On May 26, the California Supreme Court ruled 6-1 to continue recognizing the marriages of about 18,000 same-sex couples already performed in the state. The court also ruled there will be no more legal gay marriages in California, at least for now.
Last November, a slim majority of California voters amended the state constitution to recognize marriage as only between a man and woman. That vote changed an earlier Supreme Court ruling, which gave gay couples a brief window to obtain marriage licenses before Proposition 8 changed the constitution.
David Kilburn, who represents the SLO chapter of Marriage Equality USA, told New Times the next step is to draft a new ballot measure and go back to voters again.
“Our time has come,” he said. “We’ll get it, it’s just that it’s devastating that we’ll have to take our lives back out onto the street just to try to be recognized as equal.”
Bailey learned of the court decision in her car while flipping through radio stations. Ironically, she got the news from conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh.
“I’m like, ‘Wow, Rush Limbaugh just told me, oh well,’” she laughed.
Many local gay couples—married and waiting—and gay-rights supporters met in Mitchell Park a few hours after the court announced its decision.
For some, the decision was a partial victory: No married couples lost their existing recognition. Some were frustrated and taken aback by what they thought would be a certain victory. Some saw the decision as yet another roadblock before an inevitable win for gay marriage. A few just seemed as though they were trying to rationalize an undeniable loss for gay rights.
David Robinson and his husband Gerald Lindemulder were the first gay couple to marry in SLO County. The decision could be seen as a step back, but Robinson said he believed the court’s decision wasn’t really about gay marriage, and the decision may have helped their cause.
The court decided the process was followed properly for Proposition 8, Robinson said. So when a new measure goes on the ballot to once again give gay couples the right to marry—if it passes—it should be safe from a court challenge, he went on.
Lindemulder reached out and clasped Robinson’s hand.
“I looked at it as I was disappointed,” Lindemulder said, “but in the same vein, I technically get to wear my wedding ring.”
They were married by Rev. Helen Carroll of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Luis Obispo County. Carroll wore a white religious robe and less conventional rainbow-patterned sash at the demonstration.
“This confrontation is not about confrontation,” she told New Times after speaking to the crowd.
Earlier, she urged everyone to continue pressing for equal treatment.
“May we continue to practice compassion by always standing with love,” she told the crowd. As she spoke a driver in an SUV slowed on a nearby street and yelled, “It’s Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve,” before screeching away.
Aside from that driver, one lone protester stood silently to the side with a yellow sign painted with large black letters: “The will of the people voted 2x, now let ‘traditional’ marriage be.”
Dane Senser, the only other opposing voice, said he was not homophobic or against equal rights. He said he was there in protest because voters had made the message clear with Proposition 8.
“I just feel that the will of the people needs to be upheld, first and foremost,” he said. Later, Devin Ward walked next to Senser. Ward, however, was wearing a tattered cowboy hat and a shirt that read, “No more Mr. Nice Gay.”
Asked about the court decision, Ward said he felt “lament, anger, a feeling of being disenfranchised.”
Charla Gonzales and Beth Scales aren’t married, but they’d like to be. They have four children, two of whom live at home: 13-year-old Areana and 12-year-old Amealia.
Asked what they told their kids and how they were dealing with the situation, Gonzales didn’t hesitate to focus on the positives.
“Find your voice,” she said of her message to the kids, “and stand up for what you believe in.”
They said the court decision was little more than a bump in the road.
“Being legally married is important, but the piece of paper doesn’t keep us apart or together,” Scales said. “We’re kept together by our heart.”
Staff Writer Colin Rigley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.