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SAN DIEGO – Hundreds of supporters of marriage equality gathered late Monday afternoon at the Federal Courthouse downtown, cheering speakers who called for the striking down of California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
"We stand here on the shoulders of great civil rights leaders who fought before us," said Navy veteran Sean Sala, the local LGBT activist who organized the "Light The Way To Justice" rally.
The San Diego event, Sala said, is just one of 180 rallies across the country organized by the United for Marriage coalition in the run-up to the U.S. Supreme Court oral hearings on Prop 8 on Tuesday and DOMA on Wednesday. The nation’s highest court is expected to make rulings on both cases by the end of June, when the current court session expires.
Spotted in the crowd were San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and her partner, Denise Neleson; former San Diego City Councilmember Carl DeMaio and his partner, Johnathan Hale, publisher of SDGLN and SDPIX; and San Diego school board member Kevin Beiser and his partner, Dan Mock.
Speakers included Dr. Lori Hensic, director of educational affairs at American Military Partner Association, and pastor Rich McCullen of Missiongathering Church in North Park.
Hensic elaborated on why Prop 8 and DOMA must fall. "I demand to be treated equally," she said, "and I'm tired of asking."
She also shared with the crowd how her parents, who do not believe in same-sex marriage, don't plan to attend her upcoming wedding to her partner, Shaina, an active duty Marine Corps helicopter pilot and squadron department head.
Fernando Lopez, who works at San Diego Pride and is a long-time advocate for marriage equality, waxed poetry.
"We are on the sunset of justice," Lopez said. "What if we could wake up tomorrow and all be free and equal? How about that? That is the tomorrow we pursue.
"Our futures will be told by those who are brave enough to be there. Whether you were at stonewall or are here today, the world is better because of you," he said.
Lopez urged the crowd to keep up the good fight.
"When you leave today do not stop. Do not leave our fate into the hands of nine justices," he said.
Pastor McCullen looked back to November 2008 when California voters narrowed approved Prop 8.
"We never dreamed that our friends, family members and neighbors voted to take away our rights to marry the one we love," he said.
"Time for the religious fundamentalists and their politics to get out of our legislatures," McCullen said. "They are on the wrong side of history. Love will win.
"Shame on evangelical churches for spending over $40 million on Prop 8 when kids on the streets of San Diego go hungry. Shame on you!" he said.
McCullen extolled the message behind the fight for marriage equality.
"We choose love, commitment and devotion," he said.
There were no signs of anti-gay protesters in the crowd or nearby, but the rally was briefly interrupted by a drunken woman, who was quickly escorted away by San Diego police.
The rally ended with a sing-along led by Colby Martin, a straight ally from Missiongathering Church. The crowd, in a joyful and hopeful mood that the Supreme Court will rule in favor of marriage equality, joined in the singing of John Lennon's "Imagine," "One Love," "Hallelujah" and the civil rights anthem "We Shall Overcome."
Top left: Crowd scene, early
Middle left: Dr. Lori Hensic, director of educational affairs at American Military Partner Association, and rally organizer Sean Sala
Bottom left: Carl DeMaio and his partner, Johnathan Hale; Dan Mock and his partner; Kevin Beiser; Denise Neleson and her partner, Bonnie Dumanis.
San Diego Women's Chorus sings after rally in an impromptu moment