More than two years after the arrest of the “Equality Nine” ― activists who enacted a sit-in at the San Diego County Clerk’s office and demanded that marriage licenses be issued to same-sex couples ― six of the members have been vindicated.
The legal proceedings against group ended yesterday with a “motion to dismiss” by the city attorney.
The activists said they see the end of this case as a victory in the struggle against restrictions on free speech, the inequality of LGBT marriage rights, and an overzealous San Diego City Attorney.
The action began when a group of activists and their supporters peacefully asked the county clerks to follow their oath and the constitution by granting same-sex marriage licenses. It ended with nearly fifty riot-clad county sheriffs arresting nine people 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 support we received from the community and our legal team …. Without them it would have been easier to give in to Goldsmith’s intimidation.”
Among others, the legal team consisted of Gerald Blank, Todd Moore, Alex Landon, Michael Hernandez, Dan Greene and Michael Crowley.
Officials say 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 Aug. 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 (SAME).
He continued: “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 legalities of this case in now in the past, members of the Nine understand the work is far from finished.
“The victory for the Equality Nine is only a victory against our criminalization for speaking out,” said Equality Nine memeber 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….”
On Saturday, Aug. 25, members of the Equality Nine and SAME, together with Canvass for a Cause (CFAC) for the “Pussy Riot Solidarity Concert” met to network at the CFAC Headquarters Building in Hillcrest.
A sort of meet-and-greet for the likeminded, people learned about ways in which they can support current political prisoners like Pussy Riot―a Russian rock band facing political whiplash over a recent performance.
“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,” said Sarah Parish, spokesperson for Canvass for a Cause on Saturday. “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.”
Members of the community are encouraged to attend the next SAME meeting held at 6:30 p.m. on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of every month at the San Diego Pride Office. For more information, visit samealliance.com.