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Commentary: Equality 9 should not face charges

Posted: March 28th, 2011 | News | No Comments

Cecile Veillard is escorted by police down the stairs of the San Diego County Administration Center on Aug. 19, 2010.

By Cecile Veillard

Nine residents of San Diego including myself are facing charges of up to 90 days of jail time for sitting in at the County Clerk’s Office last Aug. 19 to demand marriage licenses for ourselves and friends. Now known as the “Equality 9,” we need you to sign a petition to the City Attorney asking him not to file charges against us.

On that summer day, I went to the San Diego County Clerk’s Office with the genuine hope that our friends Tony and Tyler Dylan-Hyde might be allowed a marriage license. They had made an appointment after Judge Walker ruled that Prop. 8 was unconstitutional on Aug. 4, 2010, prompting the San Diego County Clerk’s Office to announce that it would begin accepting appointments for same-sex couples to be married, beginning on Aug. 19th. By Aug. 19, however, the Ninth Circuit court had made the decision, based on an appeal from the authors/defenders of Prop. 8, to impose a stay on Judge Walker’s historic decision, delaying indefinitely what ought to have been a final step in the progress of LGBT equality in this state.

For some reason, when Prop 8 was passed—and immediately challenged in court by the ACLU—no stay was imposed on the marriage ban for same-sex couples while its constitutionality could be debated in court. But when the backers of Prop. 8 wanted to delay it’s legal overturning by a California State Supreme Court Judge, their wish was granted.

The Dylan-Hydes and one other same-sex couple, Ditchi Davila and Claire Manning, who asked for their marriage licenses that morning were refused their appointments and their licenses. Nine of us, who had come in support of their right to marry—including another couple, Michael Anderson & Brian Baumgardner, who also sought to get married that day—were not immediately ready to leave. We announced that we would remain peacefully, but stay until the County Clerk could respond to the legal argument presented to him that day by the Dylan-Hydes that it was in fact the duty of all California clerks to uphold the law of this state as ruled by a California Supreme Court Judge on the case.

I don’t believe, and will never believe, that any of us committed any crime during our visit to the County Clerk’s Office that day by staying after some of our friends were denied their appointment. Nevertheless, we were forcibly removed before 9:30 a.m., and brought to jail in hand-cuffs. None of us were able to return to work after our morning’s appointment, since we were not released until late in the day.

Rosa Parks should never have been arrested for defending her right to sit at the front of a bus in Birmingham, Ala. Susan B. Anthony should never have been charged and fined for daring to exercise the same right to vote in this country that her male counterparts had. Neither should any of us be tried or charged for simply demanding the right of our friends to be married by the State of California after Judge Walker ruled Prop 8. unconstitutional.

Please sign our petition at petitiononline.com/equal9/petition.html and demand the City Attorney not file charges against us.

—Cecile Veillard is president of the San Diego Alliance for Marriage Equality.

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