Online Extra: Wedding Bell Blues: South Bay city leaders
set tovote on resolution
by Seth Hemmelgarn
Today (Tuesday, February 12), marks the ninth anniversary of the beginning of the "Winter of Love," when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered city officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. That shot across the bow galvanized the marriage equality movement and California remains a major player through a federal lawsuit challenging Proposition 8, the same-sex marriage ban passed by state voters in 2008.
In an effort to broaden support for the plaintiffs in the Prop 8 case, the San Jose City Council is expected to pass a resolution Tuesday supporting San Francisco's efforts at the U.S. Supreme Court to challenge the constitutionality of the ban. The high court will hear arguments next month in the Prop 8 case and a federal challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act.
Last week, the council voted to discuss a memo Councilmembers Ash Kalra, Xavier Campos, Kansen Chu, and Don Rocha authored on the matter. The proposal needs six votes to pass, and it appears at least seven will be supporting the resolution. Kalra is expected to be among the speakers at a 12:30 p.m. rally at San Jose City Hall, 200 East Santa Clara Street. The council meeting starts at 1:30.
"This is San Jose's chance to affirmatively stand on the side of equality for all and on the right side of history," Kalra said in a statement last Tuesday. "I am glad that the City Council agreed to discuss this critically important issue ... and I am confident that the council will stand with me and vote to join in San Francisco's fight for marriage equality."
The San Jose resolution says, "The city attorney is authorized to join efforts as amicus curiae [friend of the court] to support the city of San Francisco in their upcoming submission to the United States Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8 (California Marriage Protection Act)." A call to the San Jose City Attorney's office wasn't returned Monday, February 11.
The city of San Francisco is a party in the federal Prop 8 lawsuit, Hollingsworth v. Perry, which seeks to overturn Prop 8. The case was brought by the American Foundation for Equal Rights on behalf of two same-sex couples. After a federal appeals court upheld a district court judge's ruling that the law is unconstitutional, opponents of marriage equality appealed to the high court. Oral arguments are scheduled for March 26.
Support for marriage equality among San Jose's council members appears strong.
"I will be voting in favor of joining San Francisco's submission to the Supreme Court in the Prop 8 case," Councilwoman and Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen said in an email.
In a phone interview, Councilwoman Rose Herrera said she would also be supporting the resolution.
There are "a number of reasons," Herrera said. Among them is the country's history of expanding human rights to more groups. Supporting such efforts is "fundamentally what it means to be an American," she said.
Herrera said her position on LGBT equality has evolved ever since someone in high school told her secretly that he was gay "and how hard it was for him to tell people about it."
Ragan Henninger, chief of staff for Councilman Sam Liccardo, said he'd likely be supporting the resolution, as well.
At least one council member, however, while supportive of marriage equality, won't be voting for the proposal.
"I most likely will not be voting in favor" of it, Councilman Johnny Khamis said. He said that despite being "very much in support of having the gay, transgender, and lesbian community have equality," he's "having a hard time trying to tell another branch of government what to do."
"Trying to influence politicians, I can understand," Khamis said. "Trying to influence judges, I just think it's crossing the line."
He continued, "I want to have a free and fair trial, basically. They need to make their mind up free of having political pressures."
Khamis said his chief of staff, Shane Patrick Connelly, is gay, and "I love him dearly."
"I would love to work on equality for everybody," he said. "I just don't feel influencing judges is the right way to go."
"I'm certainly hopeful that the court will rule favorably," he said. However, he added, "The city has enough to worry about with our issues over public safety and the budget and any number of things that are coming before it, so it does not necessarily behoove us to be telling the courts what to do at this point."
Mayor Chuck Reed, who wasn't available for comment Monday, has refused to come out in support of marriage equality, and is also expected to vote against the proposal Tuesday. Unlike San Francisco, though, the mayor's approval isn't needed for resolution to take effect.
Staff for Councilmen Pete Constant and Pierluigi Oliverio didn't provide comment for this story.
Jo Kenny, 60, a married lesbian and labor leader in San Jose, said she expects "a lot of opposition" to marriage equality at the council meeting.
"For me, the important thing is we show the young people we are an overwhelming majority" in support of them living their lives and supporting them in being "truthful to who they are," Kenney said.
"The naysayers and the haters are in the minority, and they're going away," she said.
Herrera expressed more patience for people who don't yet support marriage equality.
"I don't think it's right to demonize people," she said. "I think we need to bring them along."
Because San Francisco is serving as co-counsel in the Prop 8 case, it will be filing briefs in the case later this month, said Matt Dorsey, spokesman for the city attorney's office.
Marches, rallies planned for day of marriage arguments
LGBT community leaders are beginning to get the word out about nationwide actions in towns and cities March 26-27, as the Supreme Court justices hear oral arguments in the Prop 8 case and the lawsuit involving DOMA. That law prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriages.
In San Francisco, there will be a march on March 26 at 7 p.m. beginning at Market and Castro streets. A planning meeting is set for March 2 from 2 to 4 p.m., at Metropolitan Community Church, 150 Eureka Street.
A peaceful action is also planned from 4 to 7 p.m. March 26 and 27 at the federal courthouse in San Francisco, 455 Golden Gate. For more information, see the "San Francisco Light the Way to Justice" Facebook page.
"... [N]ow it is our time to show that the United States is a place of equality and justice for all," backers of the march say on the website http://www.lighttojustice.org.
According to the site, the idea began as a post on Facebook among a few organizers at the national rights group GetEqual and a series of Marriage Equality USA planning meetings. Longtime activists Cleve Jones and David Mixner also co-wrote an essay about the plan.
Wedding Bell Blues is an online column looking at various issues related to the marriage equality fight in California and elsewhere. Please send column ideas or tips to Seth Hemmelgarn at or call (415) 861-5019. Wedding Bell Blues appears every other Tuesday.