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Gay rights advocates stage sit-in at San Diego County marriage license office

May 27, 2009 - 3:08 pm

IMG_0848At noon today, Brian Baumgardner and Michael Anderson walked into the San Diego County Clerk’s office and asked for a marriage application. They were surrounded by 35 supporters of diverse age, gender and color, plus a pack of camerapeople and reporters.  When the county staff on duty politely informed them they couldn’t have a license, the group sat down on the floor of the office, and now refuse to leave.

The protest, organized by the San Diego Alliance for Marriage Equality (SAME), has been in the works for months, awaiting a decision by the California Supreme Court on whether or not California’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage would be valid. The decision came down yesterday, finding the amendment was valid, but that marriages already conducted during the few months when they were legal could retain their status.

IMG_0854The group has grown in the hours since noon, now with 60 people packed in, singing, chanting.  On the plus side, they’ve written new chants and songs special for the moment. One song, to the tune of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” with the refrain, “When California is equal to Iowa.” (Same-sex marriages are legal in the Hawk-eye state.) They also read letters of support from officials locally and nationally, including one from Mildred Loving, whose suit against the state of Virginia led the Supreme Court to strike down laws forbidding marriages between white people and black people.

By and large, county representatives, including the County Supervisors, are declining to comment on the events, since it’s state law that same-sex couples cannot marry. County spokesperson Mike Workman told me that as long as the protesters remain peaceful and do not block other people who wish to get married, they will be allowed to remain. He said they had no plans to make arrests, though SAME organizers told me they will not leave when the office closes at 4 p.m. Workman conceded the sheriffs might have to come in at that point.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Jake permalink
    May 28, 2009 - 1:51 pm 1:51 pm

    Hope they got the attention they sought, and didn’t loose support from other members of the public, who wanted to conduct business in the office. A more compelling strategy, than civil protest, would be putting a face on the injustice of the court ruling. The public needs to be educated on how this ruling causes their relatives, friends and neighbors to be sidelined as second class citizens.

  2. Eric Wolff permalink
    May 28, 2009 - 1:56 pm 1:56 pm

    Well, I think putting a face on it was part of their point. They featured Brian and Michael, both of whom became the face of the sit-in on the TV coverage I saw. So that’s something. But you make a fair point about alienating people. They made an effort to keep out of folks way while I was there.

  3. Jake permalink
    May 28, 2009 - 3:47 pm 3:47 pm

    Cool. Your headline, “Gay rights advocates stage sit-in at San Diego County marriage license office” got me to focus on the protest and sit-in. Hope your other readers can relate to Brian & Michael.

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