A large and colorful crowd gathered in downtown Sacramento on Saturday morning to rally for marriage equality for gays and lesbians.
Roughly 1,500 people took over Cesar Chavez Park across from Sacramento City Hall for a rally and demonstration led by Equality Action Now, a grassroots gay rights group in Sacramento. Many brought homemade signs with slogans like “Equal treatment under the law” and “Protect marriage – ban divorce.“
Across the street, a group of about 15 people quietly held signs opposing the rally. The event was peaceful, with no incidents or arrests, said a spokesperson for the Sacramento Police Department.
Several local leaders spoke to demonstrators, including Sacramento mayor Heather Fargo and West Sacramento mayor Christopher Cabaldon.
“Injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates,” said Cabaldon, who is openly gay. “As Martin Luther King said, we are merely bringing to the surface the hidden tension that was already alive.“
Cabaldon called on gay rights supporters to connect with their families, friends and coworkers to help them understand why marriage equality is important.
Yolo County clerk-recorder Freddie Oakley also gave a speech, saying the people who voted for Prop 8 were good people who had been misled by a deceptive campaign. She spoke about the need to not vilify the people who supported Prop 8 and to maintain a positive message of love and equality. Oakley is well-known among local activists for her outspoken support of gay marriage.
After hearing speeches from local leaders, the demonstrators weaved through downtown on the way to the State Capitol hoisting signs and chanting, “What do we want? Equality! When do we want it? Now!”
The march was one of several hundred that took place across the nation Saturday. The nationwide protest was organized in a matter of days through Facebook and text messaging, with little to no involvement from established groups like the No on 8 campaign, Equality California or the Human Rights Campaign.
Rallies and marches were also held in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Walnut Creek, Pittsburg, San Rafael, Santa Rosa, Sonoma, Monterey, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Modesto, Fresno, Bakersfield, Merced, Colton, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Ventura, Riverside, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, Hemet, Palm Springs, Escondido and San Diego, in addition to dozens of other cities around the country.
Eric Lee, a first-year political science major at UC Davis, was at the rally.
“I have a lot of friends who are losing rights and who don’t deserve to be treated as second-class citizens,” he said. “We did take a huge step forward on Nov. 4 [by electing Barack Obama], but we also took a huge leap back by voting Prop 8 into law.“
Prop 8, the constitutional amendment limiting marriage to heterosexual couples, won on Nov. 4 with 52.5 percent of the vote.
JEREMY OGUL can be reached at email@example.com.