SAN DIEGO -- As the battle for marriage equality in California drags on, a group of nine San Diegans have been fighting charges filed against them by the City of San Diego for their participation in a peaceful protest against the law that prohibits same-sex marriages.
The nine individuals, who have dubbed themselves the Equality 9, were arrested Aug. 19, 2010 after assembling outside the County Clerk's office to stage a sit-in to support same-sex couples who were requesting marriage licenses that day.
At the time, federal Judge Vaughn Walker had determined that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional, leaving the status of same-sex marriages in limbo. The County Clerk said he was following a statewide directive to not grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples since Walker's decision was being appealed.
Over the past year, the group has been actively collecting signatures asking the City Attorney Jan Goldsmith to drop the charges against the Equality 9.
Over 2,400 signatures were collected on the petition, which was delivered to Goldsmith's office yesterday after a brief press conference at the Civic Center Plaza outside of San Diego City Hall.
Dwayne Crenshaw, executive director of San Diego LGBT Pride, spoke at the press conference expressing his outrage over the prosecution of these individuals.
"I can't believe that just eight days after we have been given the freedom to serve in the armed forces, that we don't have the freedom to be married in California," Crenshaw said. "And these nine people are being prosecuted for their freedoms and civil rights."
The crowd of nearly 50 people also heard remarks from other community leaders including Dr. Pat Washington, president of the San Diego Democratic Women's Club; Linda Perine, community activist and former chair of the LGBT Redistricting Task Force; and Sean Bohac and Chuck Stemke, members of the Equality 9.
Bohac is hopeful that justice will prevail for his group.
“I feel strongly that the Bill of Rights is on our side here,” Bohac said. “California legislators knew the importance of public property as a space for free speech when they wrote this law.”
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Goldsmith was not available to comment on the rally, but said that he provided a legal brief regarding the case, which was filed Wednesday.
“We cannot simply dismiss the case without some acceptance of responsibility by these nine individuals,” Goldsmith wrote. “People who peacefully protest without violating the law are well within their First Amendment rights. But, there is no First amendment right to block public access to a public facility.”
A coalition of community members have organized the "Equality 9 Defense Committee" to organize events and actions in support of the Equality 9. The group is planning a rally for Oct. 17 at 8 am in front of the San Diego County Courthouse, just prior to the Equality 9's next hearing.
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