November 9, 2008 / 4:14 AM / in 9 years

Same-sex marriage ban stirs LA gay district protest

<p>Robert Oliver (L) holds a rainbow colored flag as a woman who identified herself as Mama Joi (R) talks to a crowd outside the Los Angeles California Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during a "No on Prop 8" march and rally on Santa Monica Blvd. in Los Angeles, November 6, 2008. The protesters were marching to the Mormon Church which supported Proposition 8, the ballot measure that banned gay marriage, local media reported. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok</p>

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Several thousand people gathered in Los Angeles on Saturday evening to protest a voter-approved ballot measure that bans same-sex marriage in California.

A diverse crowd, estimated at 5,000, stretched for blocks in the Silver Lake district, east of Hollywood, carrying signs and chanting against Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment that bars the state from recognizing same-sex marriages.

“Equal rights,” the protesters chanted, “When do we want it? Now!”

The measure overturned a California Supreme Court ruling in May that refusing homosexuals the right to marry violated the state constitution. Voters in Florida and Arizona joined California on Tuesday in banning same-sex marriages.

Dozens of states have similar laws. Only two U.S. states, Massachusetts and Connecticut, allow same-sex marriage.

Many of the protesters’ signs mocked the Mormon church, which spent millions promoting the measure, helping make it one of the most expensive ballot campaigns in U.S. history.

Others expressed despair the gay community had not benefited from U.S. President-elect Barack Obama’s lopsided election victory.

“Yes we can (unless you’re gay),” read one sign.

The march began at Sunset Junction, once a strip of bars where the U.S. gay community first made a stand against police harassment in the late 1960s.

The action was one of a number of largely peaceful protests that took place across the state on Saturday, and have clogged Los Angeles streets every night since the proposition passed.

HISTORIC PLACE

“This is a historic place for the (lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender) community,” said Ian Thompson, spokesman for protest organizer the ANSWER Coalition. “We are remembering the fact that the gay community started standing up for itself here. People are just very angry.”

Activists, both gay and straight, listened to speakers and marched about a 1 mile through Silver Lake, watched by police on horseback and several hovering helicopters.

Participants in the rally included Robin Tyler and Diane Olson, a lesbian couple whose lawsuit led the state Supreme Court to permit more than 18,000 couples to marry over the summer. Those couples now find their unions in legal limbo. California state law recognizes civil unions between gays and lesbians.

Supporters of the proposition argued that gay marriage would be taught in schools if the ban failed, a position that opponents of the ban reject.

Tyler and Olson had their attorney file a writ with the high court on Wednesday challenging the initiative. Civil rights groups have filed another lawsuit and leaders of some California cities were contemplating joining those actions.

The ballot measure, whose campaign drew a record total of $70 million in contributions from supporters and opponents, amended the state constitution to add, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

Reporting by Gina Keating; Editing by Todd Eastham

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