Chicago, IL —
Gays and lesbians in Chicago gathered tonight in the Lakeview neighborhood to protest the California Supreme Court's decision to uphold a state referendum banning same-sex marriages.
Hundreds protest gay marriage ban in Boystown credit :: jay shaff
"Today is a sad day in our history," said Modesto Tico Valle, Center on Halsted Executive Director. "More than ever, we must harness our power as a community and reunite in our fight for human rights."
An estimated 900 or more braved the rain and cooler temperatures to rally in front of the Center on Halsted, Chicago's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community center, located at Halsted St. and Waveland.
After a short rally that included speakers from the Gay Liberation Network, the crowd marched south on Halsted through Boystown to Fullerton Avenue. Carrying a mix of rainbow flags, protest signs and umbrellas the protestors chanted "they say Prop 8, we say stop hate." (View Photos)
Tonight's protest rally was part of a larger event known as The Day of Decision, organized by veteran gay activists Robin Tyler and Andy Thayer, co-founder of Chicago's Gay Liberation Network.
Over 100 cities nationwide participated in Day of Decision activities. Other Illinois cities hosting actions include Champaign/Urbana, Peoria and Springfield.
In San Francisco, nearly 175 people were arrested in peaceful protests. Here in Chicago, police reported no incidents.
The court's 6-1 decision upholds the voter-approved ban on new same-sex marriages in the Golden State, but lets the estimated 18,000 existing marriages stand.
The justices ruled on a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the November results of a referendum that placed a gay marriage ban in the California Constitution.
Proposition 8 effectively overturned the high court's 4 to 3 decision that legalized gay marriage last May and put an end to the thousands of gay and lesbian marriages that took place during the June-to-November "summer of love" when gay marriage was legal.
"The court's decision today is in stark contrast to the most recent movements throughout our country, like Iowa," added Valle.
While the decision was disappointing for gay rights advocates, there was some good news today in Illinois. A House committee approved a bill by a 4-2 vote to legalize civil unions in Illinois and grant same-sex couples many of the same rights as married couples.
The bill is sponsored by State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago).
After tonight's protests Tyler and Thayer see the next step for gay equality to be repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) signed into law by President Clinton in 1996. DOMA prevents same-sex couples in even the marriage equality states from accessing federal benefits that their heterosexual peers take for granted.
"The Democrats control both houses of Congress and the Presidency," said Thayer. "They gave us the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, and now it's their responsibility to clean up their mess, and we will do all in our power to force them to do so."