Rachel Gordon, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, March 5, 2009
(03-05) 10:38 PST San Francisco -- Scores of people lined up this morning outside the California Supreme Court building in San Francisco, hoping for a seat in the chambers as the justices hear arguments on whether the voter-approved state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages should be overturned.
Some people arrived outside the building on McAllister Street at the Civic Center at 4:50 a.m., more than four hours before the arguments began at 9 a.m. The crowd grew as the hearing approached.
Motorists honked their horns, mostly in support of those who want the marriage ban overturned.
First in line was Sara Taylor of Novato, 54, an attorney who married her lesbian partner last June after the court ruled that same-sex marriages were constitutional - a decision that voters overturned five months later in approving Proposition 8.
"This court made the bold decision in the first place declaring that homosexuals have the right to marry," Taylor said. "For me, it's a gift to be sitting in front of them."
On the other side of the issue was Jack Warner, a 60-year-old printer who traveled from Los Angeles for the arguments.
Holding a banner that read, "The Bible says the wages of sin is death," Warner said he was standing outside the court because, "I want to give our side, God's side."
Another Prop. 8 supporter, Thomas Koors, a 63-year-old self-employed window and gutter cleaner from Novato, said he had spent the night in his Subaru near the courthouse and was there to "uphold democracy."
"If we're going to have democracy, we have to abide by the will of the majority of the voters, whether we like it or not," said Koors, who waved an American flag and held a sign that read, "In God we trust."
The Rev. Amy Morgenstern, 40, who is in a same-sex marriage and is a Unitarian Universalist minister at a Palo Alto church, countered, "It's just crazy to think that majority rule should be able to take away a fundamental right."
By 8:15 a.m., the line waiting to get into the courthouse took up two-thirds of the block. Others were gathering in Civic Center Plaza, where the three hours of arguments on the legality of Prop. 8 were televised on a JumboTron set up directly across from City Hall.
When the court clerk kicked off the proceedings with the words, "All rise," cheers erupted from the crowd and people moved toward the giant outdoor screen to hear the arguments.
Natalie Garcia, a 13-year-old from King Middle School in Berkeley held a "No on 8" sign. It was her first demonstration.
"I think it's wrong that people are for the ban," she said. "Marriage is about love, and love is love."
She was there with more than three dozen classmates for a real-life civics lesson, said Yvette Felarca, an American history teacher who helped organize the parent-sanctioned field trip.
Mayor Gavin Newsom, whose decision to marry gays and lesbians in San Francisco five years ago fueled the cultural and legal battle, stood briefly in Civic Center Plaza to watch the court hearing at the public screening. But he moved on quickly when he was spotted. "I've got to get going," said Newsom, who said he was on his way to perform a marriage. "How ironic is that?"
The people who gathered in front of the JumboTron remained relatively quiet, except for the occasional good-natured jostling by sign-wielders on both sides of the debate who wanted a prime spot in front of the news cameras.
The same wasn't true on the north side of the plaza, where adversaries pointed fingers in their foes' faces and tried to shout each other down. Competing chants -"Yes on 8," "No on hate" - were pervasive.
"You're going to be burning in hell forever," Rod Warner shouted to same-sex marriage proponents through a megaphone. "A moral wrong is never a civil right."
Warner, no relation to Jack Warner from Novato, is a 65-year-old retired iron worker from Orange County and has been to numerous protests to speak up for preserving traditional marriage between a man and a woman. "And I'll keep showing up," he said.
The plaza was the end point for a march Wednesday night by several thousand supporters of same-sex marriage. The peaceful march started in the Castro and filled two city blocks as people made their way down Market Street to City Hall.
The state Supreme Court is hearing arguments on whether Prop. 8 deprives gay and lesbian couples of fundamental rights that the justices sought to protect when they legalized same-sex marriages in their 4-3 ruling last May.
Plaintiffs seeking to overturn Prop. 8, who include several same-sex couples and local governments led by the city of San Francisco, also argue that the ballot measure overreached the limits of a constitutional amendment and amounted to a constitutional revision. A revision must be put on the ballot either by a two-thirds vote of the Legislature or through a constitutional convention.
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Tags: crowds line up, prpp 8, proposition 8, california ballot, same-sex marriage, right to marry, domestic partnership, unconstitutional, smitten_kitten
Location: San Francisco, California, United States (load item map)
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