Prop 8 Protesters March Into Night

Protests continue into second day

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Opponents of California's same-sex marriage ban march around the Mormon temple in Westwood.

    LOS ANGELES -- More than 2,000 people protesting California's new ban on same-sex marriage marched through Westside Los Angeles streets Thursday, snarling afternoon rush-hour traffic as hundreds of police officers monitored the situation.

    Two people were arrested after a confrontation between the crowd and an occupant of a pickup truck that had a banner supporting Proposition 8, the ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage. Seven arrests occurred during Los Angeles-area street marches late Wednesday.

    Some spectators cheered from apartment balconies; one person threw eggs at the marchers.

    The demonstration began at a Mormon temple complex in Westwood where marchers protested the church's support of Proposition 8, which won 52 percent support Tuesday for its definition of marriage as a heterosexual union. Same-sex marriage had only been allowed in California for a matter of months since a state Supreme Court decision earlier this year.

    The march was noisy, with chants of "Separate church and state" and "What do we want? Equal rights." Some waved signs saying "No on H8" or "I didn't vote against your marriage," and many equated the issue with the civil rights struggle.

    "I'm disappointed in the Californians who voted for this," said F. Damion Barela, 43, a Studio City resident who married his husband nearly five months ago. "I understand the African-American and Latino communities voted heavily in favor of Proposition 8. To them I say, shame on you because you should know what this feels like."

    Brief violence erupted when marchers surrounded the pickup bearing a pro-Proposition 8 sign. Protesters ripped the sign, and an occupant of the vehicle got out and knocked down a protester. A demonstrator, Maurice Carriere, 27, of Studio City, ended up with a bloody nose in the fracas. He told police he didn't see the punch coming. Officers arrested two people and put them in a patrol car.

    Organizers said another protest is planned for this weekend in Silver Lake's Sunset Junction area.

    Thursday's march initially focused on the Mormon temple because same-sex rights advocates claim the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spent millions to air deceptive advertisements in support of Proposition 8, and the church should lose its tax-exempt status.

    "No one's religious beliefs should be used to deny fundamental rights to others," said Lorri L. Jean, chief executive officer of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center. "Our civil rights are inalienable.

    "It is a travesty that the Mormon Church bought this election and used a campaign of lies and deception to manipulate voters in the great state of California," Jean said. "Today we will send a message to (church President Thomas Monson) that we will not tolerate being stripped of our equal rights in the name of religious bigotry. They're entitled to their beliefs, but not to impose them upon the constitution or laws of California. Let's flood the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City with postcards."

    Jean announced the creation of a Web site at www.InvalidateProp8.org, where people can donate to the legal fight to overturn the proposition. For every donation of $5 or more, the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center will send a postcard to Monson.

    Campaign finance records show the Utah-based church made an in-kind donation of $2,078.97 to ProtectMarriage.com, a coalition of faith organizations and conservative groups that supported Proposition 8. Church spokeswoman Kim Farah in Salt Lake City said the donation covered travel of church leaders who went to California to meet with the coalition.

    "By law, the church is required to report when it uses any expenses to travel in support of things like this," Farah said.

    Farah dismissed the tax-exemption issue.

    "It's a civics 101 lesson. Churches by law are allowed to speak on moral issues," Farah said. "It does not jeopardized the church's tax- exemption status and to suggest otherwise is ridiculous."

    The Church, in a written statement on its Web site had this to say: "Allegations of bigotry or persecution made against the Church were and are simply wrong. The issue for the Church has always been about the sacred and divine institution of marriage -- a union between a man and a woman. While the Church does not endorse candidates or platforms, it does reserve the right to speak out on important issues."

    The full text of the LDS Church's statement is available here: www.newsroom.lds.org.

    Police estimated the protest drew 2,500 people. The event did not have a permit or approved march route.

    Demonstrators spilled into the lanes of Santa Monica Boulevard, and then marched around the sprawling temple complex before taking off through the heavily traveled streets of Westwood and, as night fell, toward Beverly Hills.

    Among the marchers was Ryan Suffern, 31, who said he and his wife came to support gay friends.

    "I find it preposterous, this concept of protecting the sanctity of marriage, when -- looking at divorce -- marriage is a coin toss," he said.

    Also demonstrating was Rakefet Abergel, 29, who married her partner of seven years the day gay marriage became legal this year.

    "We just want to have the same rights as everyone else gets. We're tired of being second-class citizens when we are citizens of America," she said. "You don't have to agree with us but you have to let us be."

    Demonstrator Taylor Miller, 28, was perplexed by the victory of Proposition 8 in the same election that swept Democrat Barack Obama into the presidency.

    "It's strange because with Obama winning there's been a surge of really motivated liberalism," she said. "This is just ignorance and ignorance is so last presidency."