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San Diego City Attorney Drops Charges Against Marriage Activists

by Mark Gabrish Conlan/Zenger's Newsmagazine Sunday, Aug. 26, 2012 at 11:45 PM
mgconlan@att.net (619) 688-1886 P. O. Box 50134, San Diego, CA 92165

Six members of the Equality Nine, marriage equality activists arrested over two years ago for going to the San Diego County Clerk's office and demanding marriage licenses for same-sex couples, were vindicated August 24 when city attorney Jan Goldsmith filed a motion to dismiss all charges. Originally scheduled for April 30, the scheduled trial had already been delayed until September because the judge in the case found the prosecution had been discriminating against Queer potential jurors and dissolved the jury pool. The Equality Nine regard this as a victory for marriage equality and free speech.

City Attorney Backs Out of Equality Nine Prosecution



SAN DIEGO — Six members of the “Equality Nine,” marriage equality activists arrested on August 19, 2010 for enacting a “sit-in” at San Diego County Clerk’s office and demanding that marriage licenses be issued to same-sex couples, have been vindicated. The legal proceedings against them ended after two years and a “motion to dismiss” by the city attorney August 24. The activists see the end of this case as a victory in the struggle against restrictions on free speech, the inequality of Queer marriage rights, and an overzealous San Diego City Attorney.

The action that began with nine activists and their supporters peacefully asking the county clerks to follow their oath and the constitution to grant same-sex marriage licenses, ended not with an effort to find resolution or with respect for freedom of speech and assembly, but with nearly fifty riot-clad county sheriffs arresting the nine where they sat on public property. The Equality Nine and their dedicated legal team have spent the last two years and four days organizing and preparing to defeat the city’s two misdemeanor charges. “Too often prosecutors bully innocent defendants into taking bad plea deals,” said Zakiya Khabir, an Equality Nine member. “I’m in awe of the support we received from the community and our legal team: Gerald Blank, Todd Moore, Alex Landon, Michael Hernandez, Dan Greene, Michael Crowley and others. Without them it would have been easier to give in to Goldsmith’s intimidation.”

In the years since California was stripped of marriage equality, some have fought to overturn Proposition 8 at the ballot box; some have raised federal civil cases against the state to overturn the marriage ban; others, like the Equality Nine, have pursued direct action against the institution that oversees this state sanctioned discrimination. “We were right to be in the county clerk’s office on August 19, 2010, we are still right to be dissatisfied with any form of discrimination in society and we encourage people to organize and take a stand when they recognize it, ” said Sean Bohac, one of the former defendants and a member of San Diego Alliance for Marriage Equality (S.A.M.E.). “Though we still don’t have equal marriage rights in California, I know from first-hand accounts that our efforts have provided encouragement to those working for justice. I think the City Attorney finally recognized the trend of public opinion on marriage equality, and softened his stand against freedom of speech when he backed out of this expensive legal ego battle.”

While the legal case against them has ended, the nine recognize that the work is not done. “The victory for the Equality Nine is only a victory against our criminalization for speaking out.” said fellow Equality Nine member Cecile Veillard True victory is not ours until Tony & Tyler Dylan-Hyde, Claire Manley & Ditchi Davila, and other couples who had appointments to be married that day are finally allowed to exercise their full equal civil rights in this state, as Federal Judge Walker demanded they be allowed to do when he overturned Proposition 8 in his decision over two years ago, on August 4, 2010.”

Members of the Equality Nine, and S.A.M.E., will join the event host Canvass for a Cause (CFAC) for “Pussy Riot Solidarity Concert” Saturday, August 25, 7 p.m. at the CFAC Headquarters Building, 3705 10th Avenue in Hillcrest. The event will be a combination community performance and social which will give people a chance to meet the Equality Nine and learn about and support current political prisoners like Pussy Riot in Russia. “We are so proud of our colleagues who refused to surrender their civil rights and admit to false guilt just to make these charges go away. Today the charges were dropped, and although this belated justice does not erase the wrongs done to the Equality Nine and all LGBT people daily, it does mark one more victory on the side of equality. Canvass for a Cause is honored to work tirelessly in coalition with San Diego Alliance for Marriage Equality, the Equality Nine, and the community to educate the public and work against oppression.” said Sarah Parish, spokesperson for Canvass for a Cause.

Members of the community are encouraged to attend the next S.A.M.E. meeting held in 2nd and 4th Tuesdays at the San Diego Pride Office at 6:30 pm. See www.samealliance.com for more information.

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