Valentine’s Day demonstrations planned

By Lisa Neff, Staff writer

Before the candlelit dinners or the exchange of flowers, San Francisco couples will mark Valentine’s Day as they have for some years – with a protest.

Gay and lesbian couples will gather early on Feb. 14 at San Francisco City Hall to ask for marriage licenses.

And they will be refused, because California’s Proposition 8, while declared unconstitutional by federal district and appeals court judges, remains in force. The measure, approved by a narrow majority of voters in November 2008, defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman in California. With vows to appeal last week’s landmark Prop 8 court ruling as high as the U.S. Supreme Court, the battle over the measure could last another year.

“The Ninth Circuit’s ruling that Prop 8 is unconstitutional was an early Valentine to loving couples and fair-minded citizens everywhere,” said Stuart Gaffney of Marriage Equality USA. “While the court’s ruling gives us renewed hope for the restoration of marriage equality in California soon, lesbian and gay people still can’t wed pending any further appeals.”

So, to commemorate Freedom to Marry week, San Francisco couples will participate in the license demonstration, an action that has become an annual event.

“This Valentine’s Day, couples are again asking for marriage licenses – hoping that soon the endless appeals will stop, so the wedding plans can start,” Gaffney said.

Gay and lesbian couples will seek marriage licenses from clerks elsewhere in California and in other states that ban same-sex marriage. Events are scheduled in Texas, New Mexico, Virginia, Ohio and Florida.

The actions have been taking place under the Freedom to Marry banner for 12 years and, in addition to challenging state laws, target the U.S. Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage for federal purposes as the union of a man and a woman.

“The struggle for marriage equality is a critical element in the broader movement for … equality. Denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry undermines their dignity as human beings and excludes them from over 1,000 rights and protections under federal law,” said Billy Bradford of Marriage Equality USA and the GetEQUAL civil disobedience group.

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