Jessica Christensen, left, celebrates with others during a candlelight… (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles…)
This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.
Gay marriage proponents are riding into Wednesday’s U.S. Supreme Court discussion about the Defense of Marriage Act on a wave of support from Proposition 8 debates a day earlier.
The court Wednesday was hearing arguments on the legality of withholding tax and Social Security benefits from same-sex couples in states where gay marriages are legal.
On Tuesday evening, gay marriage proponents and opponents of California’s Proposition 8 rallied around the country. In Orange County, Proposition 8 opponents gathered in Santa Ana.
In the chilly evening air, toddlers, schoolgirls, undocumented immigrants and activists all came out to support LGBT rights at the Ronald Reagan Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Santa Ana. Most wore red, letting the rainbow flags and signs above them speak for what they carry in their hearts.
Shannon Cornwell arrived with her two sons – Thomas, 7, clutching a poster he had drawn asking to “Change the Law,” and Toby, 1, giggling from his stroller under a placard that read “Let My Moms Marry.”
“We are here for full equality,” said Cornwell, a physician’s assistant from Anaheim Hills. “We want what everybody aspires to: the American dream, the hopes for happiness with family and friends. We want to teach our kids that we’re no different than straight couples. We’re the same as others in their classrooms, [same] as our neighbors.”
By 7:25 p.m. Tuesday, more than 250 people had gathered, with candles flickering in the coming darkness. The vigil had started with song as a multicultural trio led the crowd:
“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…”
Kevin O’Grady, an LGBT leader, introduced himself to the sound of cheers.
“How many of you know we have a gay and lesbian center for Orange County?” he asked, citing his job as executive director of Santa Ana-based The Center OC.
“Today, advocates stood and argued that we have the right for equal rights,” he said. “I’m sick and tired of going to the courts to ask to be treated like everybody else. I want to be treated like everybody else – now.”
The cheers grew even louder.
“I want you to look around you for the people with gray hair or no hair,” O’Grady said. “These are the people who have spent the last 30, 40 years fighting for you.”
Bao Nguyen, a Garden Grove Unified School District board member, said he didn’t want to miss the vigil.
“As the successive generations take leadership, they must understand we have to be tolerant,” Nguyen said. “As a refugee, I carry with me the ideals for a free and just society. This is really about love. When we look back at this time in history, we’ll say, ‘What’s the big deal?’”
Drivers honked in solidarity with those gathered. Members of Orange County LGBT Pride and Orange County Equality Coalition organized the rally. Speakers stepped up to the podium one by one, including representatives from the Lavender Bar Assn. and the Williams Institute, a think tank at the UCLA School of Law working to advance LGBT legal and policy issues.
Signs bobbed up and down after they spoke, quoting the late openly gay San Francisco County Supervisor Harvey Milk: “Hope Will Never Be Silent.”
For the Record, 7:27 p.m., March 27: A previous version of this post incorrectly said that supporters of Proposition 8 gathered in Santa Ana. Opponents of the proposition gathered in Santa Ana.
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