Thursday, August 5, 2010

Prop 8 Ruled Unconstitutional, New York City Activists Celebrate -

Prop 8 Ruled Unconstitutional, New York City Activists Celebrate -

By Jill Colvin and Heather Grossmann

DNAinfo News Editor

MANHATTAN — Hundreds of supporters waving rainbow flags and white carnations gathered outside the Manhattan Supreme Court Wednesday evening to celebrate a federal judge's decision overturning California's ban on gay marriage.

Two same-sex couples and the City of San Francisco filed the successful lawsuit in response to Prop 8, a state voter initiative which barred gay marriage in California in November 2008, only a few months after the State Supreme Court legalized it.

Judge Vaughn Walker's decision in favor of the couples was announced just before 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

Hours after the decision was announced, revellers in New York began gathering at the steps of the courthouse to celebrate the decision, which they hope will pave the way for legalization in New York.
Prop 8 Unconstitutional Judge Rules, New York City Pols and Activists Celebrate"The country got it right today!," City Council Speaker Christine Quinn told the crowd. (Juan Carlos Mosquera/Zoma Rosa Magazine)

"The courts got it right today," City Council Speaker Christine Quinn told the joyful crowd as they waved signs calling for marriage equality in New York.

"This is not just a win for same sex couples in California; it's a victory for all of those who believe in full equality for all Americans," Quinn said.

Marriage Equality New York's Brian Silva, 31, which organized the rally along with activist group Queer Rising, said the ball is now in New York's court.

"We wanted to celebrate the decision and focus New Yorkers' attention in the upcoming election, which is how we'll finally achieve marriage equality," he said.

Michael Sabatino, 59, who has been with his partner Robert Voorheis, 55, for 32 years, cheered as local politicians took to the stage.

"It is justice. It is really justice," Sabatino said as he waved a sign reading, "Our Love Wins!!"
Prop 8 Unconstitutional Judge Rules, New York City Pols and Activists CelebrateCelebrants left white carnations on the court steps to symbolize that the battle has not been won yet. (DNAinfo/Jill Colvin)

"We've been fighting this battle for 13 years," he said. "We're on our way."

A message delivered to the crowd from Gov. David Paterson praised the decision, calling it "one important step in a long struggle and that struggle must continue until equality is achieved."

Civil rights lawyer and former City Council candidate Yetta Kurland, who ran against Quinn in 2009, noted that California's decision comes just six weeks before New York's primary, which she says brings "very significant" publicity to the issue during a key point in the election cycle.

"It's incredible. I feel so proud and this is why I love the United States Constitution," said Kurland. "It's a beautiful and profound statement that makes clear that we don't tolerate discrimination."

Several New York City officials have tried repeatedly to get a marriage equality law passed in New York State, but have so far been unsuccessful.

The executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, Ross D. Levi, issued a statement saying that the organization was emboldened by the news that Prop 8 had been struck down, but warning that there was still a long road ahead in New York.

"Our movement is not only about lawyers in a far away courtroom; it’s about everyday New Yorkers who support the freedom to marry and are willing to fight until we achieve it," Levi said.

"The victory in California provides continued momentum here in New York that will allow the Pride Agenda and our community to continue pushing equality and justice on all fronts and with every tool at our disposal."

Supporters of Prop 8 are likely to appeal the judge's decision. If it is appealed, the case will go to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, and may eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

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