The U.S. Supreme Court will hold back-to-back hearings this week as justices consider Prop 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), setting the stage for historic discussions concerning LGBT civil rights. Tonight, hundreds are expected to gather at Castro and Market streets for a 6:30 p.m. rally, followed by a march to City Hall. Prop 8, a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, passed in California with 52 percent of the vote in November of 2008. Challenges to the discriminatory law have been working through the court system ever since.
LGBT activists also plan to mark Tuesday and Wednesday evenings with vigils outside the California Supreme Court building. The vigils will coincide with about 150 events scheduled throughout the country, organized to demonstrate support for marriage equality.
Shortly after longtime gay rights activists Cleve Jones and David Mixner put out the call to local activists that the Supreme Court would be hearing arguments on Prop 8 and DOMA, Patrick Connors started helping to organize the rally, march and vigils in tandem with activists Greg Chasin, Billy Bradford, Aaron Baldwin and others, Connors said. Over the past several weeks, they’ve been posting fliers, Tweeting to get the word out and urging support for marriage equality as the historic twin hearings get underway in D.C.
“We’re cautiously optimistic that there will be hundreds of people in the Castro” for the Monday night rally, Connors told the Guardian. About 200 have also signalled interest in attending the vigils March 26 and 27.
San Francisco has been at the epicenter in the battle for marriage equality. Just after Prop 8 passed, it was immediately challenged in parallel court proceedings by same-sex couples and the city of San Francisco, with City Attorney Dennis Herrera leading the charge with support from other California municipalities.
Connors and his husband, Robert Dekoch, were initially married in February of 2004, but their marriage was invalidated after the California Supreme Court held that city officials lacked the authority to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Following a subsequent court victory that opened the gates for same-sex couples to be married in San Francisco City Hall once again, Connors and Dekoch returned and were re-married in August of 2008.
Although Prop. 8 passed the following November, banning same-sex marriage, “our marriage, along with 18,000 others, is recognized by the state of California,” Connors explained. Yet their marriage still isn’t recognized at the federal level, so “there’s the potential of what could happen” during out-of-state travel, he said.
In May of 2009, Connors was arrested along with some 200 protesters who took to the streets following a California Supreme Court decision upholding Prop 8. “A whole bunch of us sat in the middle of Van Ness,” he recounted, “And blocked traffic for hours until the paddy wagons came.”