Members of the Belmont Shore LGBT community reflected on gay rights in California this week after New York legislators passed the Marriage Equality bill on Friday, making it the sixth state in the U.S. to legalize same-sex marriage. Gay rights supporters interviewed in Belmont Heights said Tuesday that the same-sex marriage law was cause to rejoice, but they couldn't help but wonder, when is it California’s turn?
Ken Davis, owner of the gay-friendly coffee shop “Hot Java” on Broadway and Junipero in Belmont Heights, said New York’s gay marriage ruling made him “look back at what happened in California,” referring to almost three years ago, when 52.24% of California voters voted yes on Prop. 8, leading to the ban of same-sex marriage in the state.
On August 4, 2010, U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker overturned Prop. 8, but a stay issued by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit prevented any further same-sex marriages from taking place pending an appeal of Walker’s ruling.
California is home to the largest gay population in the nation with more than 1.3 million gay residents, according to the 2000 American Community Survey. Long Beach, just trailing behind West Hollywood, has the second largest gay population in the Los Angeles metropolitan area.
“I don’t get it,” said Gregg Curwick, 51, sitting at a table outside Hot Java Tuesday, referring the majority vote. For a state with such a prominent gay population, many gay residents feel it has taken far too long to get the stay lifted. Frustration and confusion has built up among California LGBT communities. The state court may hear oral arguments regarding the appeal of Walker’s ruling starting this September.
Curwick recalled that when he first came out as gay, the 1978 California Proposition 6 had just “come in.” It eventually failed largely thanks to the No on 6 Campaign, he said, but if it had passed, it would have banned openly gay and lesbian staff and possibly anyone who supported gay rights from working in California public schools. “We’re still fighting the same fight," Curwick added. "The question is why? Why [are gay rights] still such an issue?”
Patrick Condon, 59, who accompanied Curwick, said the New York Marriage Equality bill was smart to explicitly include a protection that would prevent losses of benefits from or lawsuits against churches that refuse to marry same-sex couples. This kind of explicit protection could’ve helped preserve gay marriage in California, as one of the leading arguments of the Yes on 8 Campaign claimed that “Churches may have their tax exempt status challenged or revoked if they publicly oppose same-sex marriage or refuse to allow same-sex marriage ceremonies in their religious buildings open to the public.”
Condon said he hopes that more states will follow New York’s example and legalize same-sex marriage.
Ignoring the religious implications of marriage, however, it is simply a contract, said Curwick, adding: “Marriages are contract cases, not religious cases.”
Davis said that equality won’t be known until gay marriage is federally recognized. “I hope it will be federal in my lifetime,” he said as he finished his egg and sausage bagel sandwich and neared the end of his lunch break. “I know it will.”
Editor's Note: Brian Dinh is among a team of UC Irvine Literary Journalism students or graduates working this summer for Belmont Shore-Naples Patch