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In Echo Park, opposing views on gay marriage

March 26, 2013|By Christine Mai-Duc
  • Equal rights supporters demonstrate in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, which is hearing arguments on California's Proposition 8.
Equal rights supporters demonstrate in front of the U.S. Supreme Court,… (Win McNamee / Getty Images )

In Echo Park on Tuesday morning, Sean Stentz was among those expressing support for gay marriage as the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on California’s Proposition 8.

Marriage is a fundamental individual right that should be available to everyone, Stentz said.

“The rights and benefits that come with marriage are nice, but I mean, I don’t know anybody that says, ‘Oh, it sucks that we can’t get married because I have this great severance package,’” said Stentz, 34, a record store owner. “Really, it’s because you love someone and care about them.”

Down the street, Cesar Celaya was wiping down the counter at his Spanish-language bookstore. The 59-year-old Mexican immigrant said gay couples should be entitled to the same benefits as straight ones.

The world needs more love, he said, pointing out that he doesn't speak to his 13 brothers and sisters very often.

“We have to make a world where everybody’s happy. We don’t have enough love already,” Celaya said.

But for Maria Valdivia, 52, of Sylmar, gay marriage is against her Catholic faith.

“They should be free to do as they want and live as they want. I don’t care. But they should not be able to marry,” she said in Spanish on her way to visit her mother in Echo Park.

Even among family members, opinions were mixed. John Gallegos and his wife, Maria, were sitting down to breakfast with two of their children at a Mexican restaurant on Sunset Boulevard.

Gallegos, who was raised in East Los Angeles and now lives in South Gate with his family, voted for Proposition 8 but now supports gay marriage.

“I think maybe I just voted for it because of my upbringing,” said Gallegos, who was raised in a Catholic household, but no longer practices.

Gallegos, 56, retired early to help care for his severely autistic son, and said raising a disabled child has opened his eyes to the value of differences. “You can’t put things in a box or think of things only in black and white,” he said, stirring his coffee as his wife ordered the family’s breakfast.

Gallegos, who was raised by his aunt and uncle, says he thinks his gay friends would make good parents.

His wife, however, was of a different mind. “I think marriage is supposed to be between a man and a woman,” said Maria, 42, in Spanish, attributing her belief to her faith. She said she would teach her children what she believes as well, but “if they feel differently later, then I’ll just accept it.”

“There’s too much hate in the world already,” her husband said, adding that he’d recently seen a YouTube video in which a pastor declared that even having gay friends was a sin. “If you go by that logic, you’re not going to have any friends, because we’re all sinners,” he said.

The Times' David G. Savage reported that the justices sounded closely split. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy suggested during oral arguments that the court should strike down the California ban without ruling broadly on the issue of same-sex marriage.

Twice Kennedy questioned why the court had even voted to hear the California case. “I wonder if this case was properly granted,” he said at one point.

His comments suggested that the court’s four most conservative justices voted to hear the California case. Had the justices turned down the appeal, as Kennedy suggested, Proposition 8 would have been struck down as ruled by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Twitter: @cmaiduc

christine.maiduc@latimes.com

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