By SHALWAH EVANS
For 49-year-old Stephen Moore and his partner Scott Rubin, getting married meant doing something for the benefit of their children. But today the California Supreme Court upheld a ban on gay marriage and ruled that the constitutional challenges to Proposition 8 have no merit.
“We didn’t feel the need to get married until we had children. We trusted that it wouldn’t be taken away,” Moore said. “When Prop 8 came up, we didn’t think it would pass.”
But in November it passed with 52 percent of the vote, and since then the gay community and its supporters have been locked in a legal battle with the opposition. Gay men and women in the Mission District said Tuesday’s decision means more education and campaigning will be needed to get the issue back on the ballot in 2010.
“Everyone in the gay community is disappointed, but I don’t think we’re surprised,” said Danny Della Luna, who lives in the Mission with his partner of 13 years and their seven-year-old son.
Della Luna said they moved from the Castro two years ago when they wanted to live in a place where they could raise a family.
It’s unclear how many other gay families live in the Mission District, which borders the Castro and was once a neighborhood with less expensive housing that attracted lesbian couples. During the 1990s, however, prices rose and many lesbians moved to the East Bay. Della Luna said he and his partner are the only male couple with children at his son’s school, but he’s found the community very supportive.
“The overwhelming majority of teachers support gay marriage,” he said. The school has a Latino majority, and 50 percent of the Mission District’s more than 60,000 residents are Latino, according to the 2000 Census. Della Luna described the Mission as a place so diverse that no one is defined by sexuality.
Although the Catholic Church campaigned heavily for Prop 8 in the Latino community, 83 percent of voters here opposed the measure, compared to 75 percent citywide.
Della Luna and his partner married at City Hall in 2004 when Mayor Gavin Newsom had the city clerk issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The 4,000 marriages, however, were quickly annulled when Gov. Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Bill Lockyer moved to defend the constitutionality of the state’s family code. In May 2008, the state Supreme Court overruled that ban, but the opposition put Prop 8 on the November ballot and voters approved the measure. It changed the state constitution to add that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”
Once again, the issue went to the California Supreme Court, but this time the justices were not ruling on gay marriage, but on the voter’s right to change the constitution through the initiative process. The 6 to 1 ruling, widely expected, upheld that right and in doing so made it clear that it will be the voters, not the courts, who decide the issue of gay marriage in California.
The court ruled unanimously, however, that the 18,000 marriages that took place between May 2008 and November 2008 are legal.
Della Luna, like Moore—who has been with his partner for 14 years and has two children, 8 and 4—said he and his partner plan on taking their time getting married and will wait until the state policy is overturned.
Though not a believer in the institution of marriage, Dipti Ghosh, a gay woman who lives near Dolores Park, said she drove past city hall on her way to work this morning, and wished she could stop to protest with the crowd.
“I believe in the right for people to get married,” said the 54-year-old senior vice president at a financial services company. “The fact that they’re gay shouldn’t be a reason why they can’t. They should have the rights, privileges and hassles of marriage.”
Ghosh, who lived in Ann Arbor, Mich., for years before moving here, expressed surprise that “California is actually behind Iowa,” a Midwestern state that legalized gay marriage in April. She agreed that to repeal the proposition or replace it, residents need more education about the community.
Chagua Camacho, a Mexican immigrant and a research assistant at Aguilas, a nonprofit organization that does HIV/AIDS prevention for Latino gay and transgender men, is also an advocate for more education. She said there is a divide within the Latino community on the issue.
“The Latino community has difficulty understanding individuals [who] are gay,” said Camacho, who married her partner before the November vote. “I see people struggle with that all the time. Many have deep roots in the Catholic Church, which teaches that homosexuality is unacceptable. It’s a complex situation.”
Camacho, who has lived in the Mission District since she moved here almost 15 years ago, works with low-income children with special needs when she isn’t doing work with Aguilas. She is expecting a child with her partner of three and a half years and said she was sorry others would be unable to marry soon.
“They can’t ‘retroact’ our marriage, but what happens to the rest? We’re the same community,” she said.
Some Mission residents said that with so many other states legalizing gay marriage—including Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, Vermont and Maine—it will inevitably become a national right.
No one said they would move. Della Luna said his family has planted roots in San Francisco and they plan to stay and back the community here.
“I could never leave California,” he said. “I’ll never find a more supportive community.”
How about a follow up story on all the folks in the Mission who support Prop 8 and what it might take to change their minds?