Speakers at rally warn that the fight isn’t over; lawyer with California’s National Center for Lesbian Rights calls ruling ‘an absolute grand slam’

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Prop 8 rally
CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES | Dallas activists Michael Robinson and C.D. Kirven of GetEqual Now celebrate the court ruling overturning California’s Proposition 8 at a rally in Oak Lawn on Wednesday, Aug. 4. But speakers at the rally warned the ruling will be appealed, so the battle isn’t over yet. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

About 100 people gathered at the Legacy of Love monument on Cedar Springs Road on Wednesday evening, Aug. 4, to celebrate the Proposition 8 ruling by Judge Vaughn Walker.

“There’s no such thing as equality for some,” said George Freeman, a candidate for Justice of the Peace District 3. He attended the rally with his family.

“This decision is important to me because it protects all citizens of this country,” Freeman said.

Activist C.D. Kirven led the rally from the top step of the monument.

“Love between people should never be regulated,” Kirven shouted into her megaphone. “We need to celebrate.”

But Rick Vanderslice from Queer LiberAction warned that this victory could be followed by setbacks.

“We have not won yet,” he said. “We have a victory but we have a few more years of this fight.

He was referring to the expected appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and an eventual appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court

Stonewall Democrats of Dallas President Erin Moore hailed the ruling, But she, too, warned that the fight isn’t over, and the LGBT community must get involved politically to ensure a final victory

“Nationally, we need to send people to Washington who will make us first class citizens,” Moore said.

“This ruling is about human rights,” said the Rev. Jo Hudson of Cathedral of Hope.

She said that her church has been performing same-sex marriages for 40 years, and she called the ruling a victory for liberal denominations that already treat gays and lesbians equally.

“We stand with every gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender person who has courageously made covenant with someone they love despite the laws in our nation,” Hudson said.

The Rev. Jon Haack, senior pastor at Promise Metropolitan Community Church, also welcomed the decision, calling it a resounding victory.

The ruling affirms “the sanctity of marriage commitments regardless of sexual orientation, and the importance of equal protection under the law, specifically under the constitution of the United States,” Haack said.

Eric Crawford, attending the rally with his partner, said Walker’s ruling gives him hope for the future.

“We just got engaged,” Crawford said. “Someday we hope to get married in Texas.”

Crawford is forming a Dallas chapter of Marriage Equality USA and plans an organizational meeting on Aug. 17. The meeting will be held at in the Park Room at Park Towers, 3310 Fairmount St., at 7:30 p.m.

Chris Stoll, senior staff attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights in San Francisco that had filed a friend of the court brief in the case, called the ruling “an absolute, grand-slam victory and a day for all gay and lesbian people to be proud.

“It dismantled every rationale that’s ever been used for banning same-sex marriage,” he said.

Stoll said that the 9th Circuit, which will hear the appeal, will give weight to the evidence and no new evidence could be introduced.
“But the purpose of the appeal is to look at the legal determination,” he said.

To overturn the case, the court would have to find that the judge was wrong about the factual findings or that those findings don’t matter legally, Stoll said.
He called the ruling the most thorough analysis of the evidence that any court has presented and said he thought overturning it would be very difficult.

Ken Upton, supervising senior staff attorney in Lambda Legal’s South Central Regional Office in Dallas, noted that while the higher court would not look for new evidence, amicus briefs filed by either side could support existing evidence and give new data to the court.

“In terms of law, the appellate court doesn’t give the trial court deference,” Upton said.

He said the 9th Circuit could disagree on Walker’s interpretation of the law and overturn the ruling.

Once the appeal is filed, Upton said he expected it to be heard by a three-judge panel within a year. Either side could petition for their ruling to be heard en banc, or by a full nine-judge panel.

If that happens, Upton doesn’t expect it to reach the Supreme Court until October 2012. If the court decides to hear the case then, a decision probably would not be issued until the end of the session in June 2013.

The high court could rule for or against marriage rights or could issue a narrow ruling. Upton suggested they might rule that the case only applied to California. He said that state was different from other states because their courts had already determined that marriage was a fundamental right and this vote took rights away from a class of people. That has not happened in other states.

However, any positive ruling, even if it did not apply to other states, could be cited in future rulings, Upton noted.

“If the Supreme Court upholds this ruling, it raises the question of the effect of constitutional amendments throughout the country,” he said.
Although the 9th Circuit’s ruling will not have any effect on Texas, differing opinions between circuits could eventually force the Supreme Court to make a broader ruling.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 6, 2010.