Prop. 8 Unites Priests, Pols and Parents

Peninsula residents fight controversial ballot measure

A group of San Mateo County residents, reverends, church members,  business people, a county supervisor, parents, labor leaders and students  gathered on the steps of the historic courthouse in downtown Redwood City  Thursday morning to garner support for an effort to defeat Proposition 8, a state  measure that if approved would change the California Constitution to  eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry.

Opponents of Proposition 8 gathered on the steps, with more  joining the group as the rally continued, holding signs reading "Keep the  Freedom to Marry," "Equal Rights for All," "Menlo Mom says No on 8."

Rev. Vail Weller of the Unitarian Universalist Church in San  Mateo, which has gathered groups of church members twice a week for phone  banking against Proposition 8, opened with a prayer before she spoke to the  crowd that had gathered behind her and the smaller group of people watching  from the courthouse square.

"Together we are standing on the side of love," Weller said. "As a  person of faith, as a religious leader, as a friend, an ally, a mother and a  citizen of California, that's where I want to be."

Weller said she has officiated at many weddings and, since the  California Supreme Court ruled in May that the state constitution provides a  right for same-sex couples to marry, has officiated a number of weddings for  same-sex couples.

"I will tell you, it is something to behold when two people who  happen to be gay are able to join their lives in legal marriage," Weller  said. "It is a blessing when any couple chooses to commit to a life of  partnership."

Rich Gordon, who has been elected a member of the San Mateo County  Board of Supervisors four times, married his partner of 26 years in August.  Gordon said there are thousands of other gay and lesbian couples in San Mateo  County, and taking away their rights to a legal marriage threatens the  community.

"Prop. 8 threatens the fabric of our community, because it says  some of the threads in that fabric are not equal to others," Gordon said. "It  threatens to pull us apart."

"(To vote no on Proposition 8) guarantees that my rights will not  be taken away, and that the rights of your friends and neighbors will not be  taken away," Gordon said to cheers from the crowd.

Amanda Gelender, a student at Stanford University who founded the  Stanford Activist Mobilization Project, or STAMP, spoke fervently of her  opposition to Proposition 8.

"At Stanford we know that same-sex couples are an integral and  esteemed part of our educational community: our professors, our librarians,  our custodians, our counselors, our friends and our peers," Gelender said.  "We know that a vote for Prop. 8 is a vote for discrimination."

Gelender, who said STAMP has created proposal scenes around the  university campus to convey the joy of those who have been allowed to marry  since May, compared the state Supreme Court's May decision to legalize  same-sex marriage to the 1948 Supreme Court decision that found bans on  interracial marriages unconstitutional.

"Just 50 years ago our country was emblazoned with a controversy  over interracial marriages," Gelender said. "We were told that interracial  marriages would devalue the institution of marriage and that interracial  marriages would harm our children. Today, proponents of Prop. 8 have tried to  use similar scare tactics to frighten voters into eliminating fundamental  rights for our fellow Californians."

Gelender and others who spoke passionately during the 45-minute  rally urged state residents to oppose Proposition 8 to protect same-sex  marriages and the constitutional right to equality under the law.

Shelley Kessler, executive secretary treasurer of the San Mateo  County Central Labor Council, said the rights of same-sex couples should be  the same as the rights of every other citizen.

"Working people feel that all rights should be civil rights and  human rights and workers' rights. All those rights are bound together,"  Kessler said.

"When you discriminate against one group of people, it gives  permission to discriminate against others, and we stand definitely opposed to  those forms of discrimination. Any forms of discrimination" Kessler said.

The rally this morning ended with cheers and chanting of "No on 8"  as attendees collected their signs, descended from the steps and gathered  with their fellow activists, church members, spouses and classmates.

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