Napa Valley Register - Napa's gay and lesbian community reacts to Prop. 8 decision
By Howard Yune
As the movement to restore same-sex marriages to California took a step forward Tuesday, local backers gathered in Napa to welcome the court decision placing their cause a step closer to victory.
About 15 supporters — from a man already wedded to his male partner, to heterosexual backers, to a teenager ready to marry her girlfriend once the law allows — met Tuesday morning at the Napa LGBTQ Project office to hear a federal appeals court’s ruling on the California law banning the same-sex unions.
“All we can do is keep our fingers crossed,” Paul Boisvert, 62, said about 15 minutes before the announcement.
The Napa man and his partner, who held a commitment ceremony in 1999, were among some 18,000 same-sex California couples to marry in the five months before Proposition 8 halted the unions in November 2008, with 52 percent of voters favoring the law.
The ballot measure overturned a state Supreme Court decision striking down laws restricting marriage to between a man and a woman.
“If it’s more protected, I can feel more secure. It’s been quite a roller coaster,” Boisvert said. “I’m really reticent about getting enthusiastic but I remain hopeful,” he added, pointing to developments like New York State’s legalization of same-sex marriages last year.
At 18, Jessica Alvarez was the youngest of the spectators hoping for the return of gay marriage, and possibly the most sanguine about the outcome.
“I want to get married to my partner, hopefully in the next couple of years,” she said. “I feel pretty hopeful things will turn out OK, that this will go the way it should be.”
Newspaper websites started releasing the court’s statement at 9:56 a.m. The 9th Circuit’s three-judge panel had ruled 2-1 that Prop. 8 violated gay and lesbian couples’ constitutional equal-rights protections under the 14th Amendment.
Cheers, whoops and clenched fists erupted from the spectators in the lounge as the news update flashed on the laptop projector.
“I think we ought to take up a chorus of ‘Chapel of Love,’ one of the men called out jocularly. But Debra Sherman, a straight supporter of gay marriage, immediately began singing a verse the 1964 Dixie Cups hit, “Going to the chapel, and I’m - gonna get a-ma-ar-ar-ied...”, quickly getting the others to harmonize with her.
“I thought it was important for heterosexuals to show their support,” said Sherman. “You don’t get to pick (orientation). Why don’t people get it still?”
“I’ve been married to the same man for over 55 years, and I just don’t think denying other people the chance to have that kind of relationship is right,” said Napa resident Jane Bledsoe. “It’s like not letting them grow up, not letting them have a full life.”
Gay marriage supporters announced a rally Tuesday evening at the Oxbow Public Market celebrating the court decision.
Despite the appeals court’s show of support, celebrators in Napa tempered their enthusiasm with the knowledge that the legal battle almost certainly will go on.
Tuesday’s ruling puts same-sex marriages in California on hold until a 14-day period passes for the measure’s sponsors to seek a rehearing before a larger section of the 9th Circuit, and the ruling would stay on hold until the appeal is resolved. Napa County Clerk-Recorder John Tuteur announced his department would hold off on granting marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples until all appeals are exhausted.
Opponents of gay marriage planned to ask the Supreme Court to overturn the ruling, which came more than a year after the appeals court panel heard arguments in the case.
“We are not surprised that this Hollywood-orchestrated attack on marriage — tried in San Francisco — turned out this way. But we are confident that the expressed will of the American people in favor of marriage will be upheld at the Supreme Court,” said Brian Raum, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal aid group based in Arizona that helped defend Prop. 8.
Meanwhile, Napa County’s congressman called on the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the blocking of the gay marriage ban.
“Laws that deny equality are not only immoral and unjust, but unconstitutional and against our most basic principles,” Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, said in a statement. “Should they hear this case, I hope the United States Supreme Court follows the 9th Circuit’s example and comes down on the side of marriage equality.”
With the battle to overturn Prop. 8 more than three years old, another same-sex marriage supporter urged courts to stand firm in the face of future attempts to block gay unions through the ballot box.
“It’s about protecting against the tyranny of the majority,” said Michael Muir of Napa, who arrived at the gathering with his partner, Vince Hangman. “That’s what these so-called ‘activist’ judges are all about.”