Gay-rights supporters waving rainbow colors marched, chanted and danced in cities coast to coast Saturday to protest the vote that banned gay marriage in California and to urge supporters not to quit the fight for the right to wed.
Crowds gathered near public buildings in cities large and small, including Boston, San Francisco, Chicago and Charlotte, to vent their frustrations, celebrate gay relationships and renew calls for change.
“Civil marriages are a civil right, and we're going to keep fighting until we get the rights we deserve as American citizens,” Karen Amico said in Philadelphia, holding up a sign reading “Don't Spread H8”.
“We are the American family, we live next door to you, we teach your children, we take care of your elderly,” said Heather Baker a special education teacher from Boston who addressed the crowd at Boston's City Hall Plaza. “We need equal rights across the country.”
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Connecticut, which began same-sex weddings last week, and Massachusetts are the only two states that allow gay marriage. The practice is not allowed in other states, but a handful allow civil unions or domestic partnerships that grant some rights of marriage.
Protests following the vote on Proposition 8 in California, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman, have sometimes been angry and even violent, and demonstrators have targeted faiths that supported the ban, including the Mormon church.
However, representatives of Join the Impact, which organized Saturday's demonstrations, asked supporters to be respectful and refrain from attacking other groups during the rallies.
Seattle blogger Amy Balliett, who started planning for the protests when she set up a Web page three days after the California vote, said persuasion is impossible without civility.
“If we can move anybody past anger and have a respectful conversation, then you can plant the seed of change,” she said.
Balliett said supporters in 300 cities in the U.S. and other countries were holding marches, and she estimated 1 million people would participate, based on responses at the Web sites her group set up.
“We need to show the world when one thing happens to one of us, it happens to all of us,” she said.
The protests were widely reported to be peaceful, and the mood in Boston was generally upbeat, with attendees dancing to the song “Respect.” Signs cast the fight for gay marriage as the new civil rights movement, including one that read “Gay is the new black.”
But anger over the ban and its backers was evident.
One sign in Chicago read: “Catholic Fascists Stay Out of Politics.”
“I just found out that my state doesn't really think I'm a person,” said Rose Aplustill, 21, a Boston University student from Los Osos, Calif., who was one of thousands at the Boston rally.
Demonstrators in Washington marched from the U.S. Capitol through the city carrying signs and chanting “One, two, three, four, love is what we're fighting for!”
Opponents of same-sex marriage said the rallies may have generated publicity but ultimately made no difference.
“They had everything in the world going for them this year, and they couldn't win,” said Frank Schubert, co-manager of the Yes on 8 campaign in California. “I don't think they're going to be any more successful in 2010 or 2012.”