SAN DIEGO – All charges against the “Equality 9” have been dropped and the case against them has been dismissed, said Zakiya Khabir, a member of the San Diego Alliance for Marriage Equality (SAME).
The Equality Nine are a group of nine activists who were arrested on Aug. 19, 2010 after staging a sit-in at the San Diego County Administration Building to express their support of marriage equality. Proposition 8 had been ruled unconstitutional on Aug. 4, 2010, and Aug. 19 was the date that marriages were supposed to resume in California, but the appeals court issued a stay to prevent that.
Since that time, the group had been involved in a lengthy court battle, including proceedings that were adjourned May 1 by Superior Court Judge Joan Weber, saying that prosecutors violated the defendants rights by dismissing a potential juror because he is gay. Jury selection selection had taken place a day earlier.
The prosecution, represented by Assistant City Attorney Dan Rawlins, maintained that the case was not about Proposition 8 or discrimination against LGBT couples, while Judge Weber said that prosecutors improperly introduced bias when they dismissed all openly gay potential jurors from the jury panel.
The case was scheduled to be heard Sept. 18, prior to today’s announcement of dismissal.
Cecile Veillard, a member of SAME and one of the “Equality 9” said that today’s decision shows that justice is possible when fought with a community standing up together.
“We didn't fight these charges alone,” Veillard told SDGLN. “We had tremendous support from members of SAME and Canvass for a Cause (CFAC). CFAC, on their own initiative and without our request, gathered over 1000 signed petition letters and delivered them, in person, to the City Attorney. Dwayne Crenshaw, executive director of Pride, spoke at a rally for us about the outrage of these charges. We could not have won this victory without so much support from our own community.”
Sarah Parish, a spokesperson for CFAC, released this statement today:
“We are so proud of our colleagues who refused to surrender their civil rights and admit to false guilt just to make these charges go away. Today the charges were dropped, and although this belated justice does not erase the wrongs done to the Equality 9 and all LGBT people daily, it does mark one more victory on the side of equality. A world where we must fight to be given the same voice is a world of struggle, and Canvass for a Cause is honored to work tirelessly in coalition with San Diego Alliance for Marriage Equality, the Equality 9, and the community to educate the public and work against oppression.”
Sean Bohac, another member of the Equality 9, said he is pleased with today’s dismissal.
“I am taking great pride out of the efforts that lead to the Equality Nine action and aftermath,” Bohac said. “We were right to be in the county clerk’s office on Aug. 19, 2010, we are still right to be dissatisfied with any form of discrimination in society and we encourage people to organize and take a stand when they recognize it. Though we still don’t have equal marriage rights in California, I have heard first-hand that our efforts have provided encouragement to those working for justice."
SDGLN will report additional details of this case as they become available.