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Breaking: Chicago Anti-Prop 8 Protest Draws Thousands, Closes Streets
Gay rights advocates voice dissent to California’s reversal on same-sex marriage
Thousands of protesters flooded Chicago's Federal Plaza this afternoon in opposition of Proposition 8 as part of an 80-city movement against the California ammendment that passed earlier this month.
Chicago police had to close down a lane of traffic to accommodate the huge crowds this afternoon.
Event spokesperson Andy Thayer said the protestors were "ecstatic to see so many of their peers standing up for equality. We are angry that our community has been vilified by those who hate us, but determined to fight on for equality."
The amendment to California's state Constitution won 52% of the popular vote, restricting the definition of marriage to a union between a man and a woman. This overrides a recent California Supreme Court decision that had recognized same-sex marriage in the state as a fundamental right.
Currently, the California Supreme Court is considering three filed lawsuits, challenging the legal validity of Proposition 8 on the grounds that the "amendment" is actually a Constitutional "revision," and therefore must pass state legislature. The suits claim that a majority of voters cannot revoke rights deemed suitable for everyone under the equal protection clause in the state's Constitution.
Until a decision is made, gay rights advocates plan on remaining highly visible, hoping to influence the courts.
Compared to the movements of women's and African-American rights, the gay-marriage controversy has been called "the most crucial civil rights issue of our generation."
Event spokesperson Thayer felt that even though Proposition 8 was on the books half a country away in California, it is still an important issue in Illinois. "Chicago's got everything to do with it. We want equal marriage rights right here in Illinois," Thayer told NBCChicago.com. He also noted that successful legal battles for rights in America have often been accompanied by vocal public support. "Today we have a massive gay rights movement with our allies demanding equality for gay people and we hope that that pressure will be enough to for the California courts to do the right thing."
This may be the first time civil rights have been put to a popular vote. (Both the women's right to vote and the civil rights acts of the '60s were the result of legislation in the House and Senate.) California was also the first state to strike down bans on interracial marriage in 1948, and now has become the first state to take away a currently existing civil right from a group of citizens.
Thayer agrees that marriage equality for all is a civil rights issue. "Civil rights are about rights, no one owns them. Everyone should have them."
A small counter-protest voicing support for Proposition 8 was held nearby the large crowds in the Plaza.
A spokesperson from Chicago's Office of Emergency Management and Communications said no major incidents were reported related to the Proposition 8 protest and it was a peaceful demonstration that ended approximately 2pm.