Under clear blue skies, thousands of men, women and children marched down the streets of Seattle on Saturday afternoon in support of same-sex marriage rights. The peaceful demonstration started on the grassy lawn of Volunteer Park and ended at Westlake Center downtown.
The "Seattle March for Marriage Equality" was organized by members of the gay community upset by California voters' passage of Proposition 8, making same-sex marriage illegal in that state. Prop 8 passed with 53 percent of the vote on Nov. 4.
"I think that everyone should be allowed to marry, it should be a fundamental right," said Maxx Sundquist, who attended the rally with her partner, Kristan Mackintosh.
Sundquist explained marriage equality was important to her because it would allow her partner to make decisions on her behalf if she were hospitalized.
She said her partner should have the right to make those decisions if needed, rather than members of her own family, whom she said may not even agree with her sexuality. "I could be at their mercy," said Sundquist.
Several speakers took the stage to address the crowd and show their support for same-sex marriage rights, including Mayor Greg Nickels and King County Executive Ron Sims.
Nickels declared Nov. 15 "Marriage equality day in Seattle."
Prior to the march, many protestors of Proposition 8 talked with each other and danced to music, while holding handmade signs with messages reinforcing their support for marriage equality. One supporter's sign said, "Always a bridesmaid, never a bride," and another was painted with the words, "Say no to H8TE."
For most who attended, the issue was personal. Two members of the gay community in Seattle, Patrick Baroche and Scott Taylor, were impressed with the event and its purpose.
"It's a whole new civil rights movement that finally has light on it," said Baroche.
Taylor agreed. He said the recent election of an African American man for president, Barack Obama, meant a step in the right direction for civil rights.
"It seems like we're moving toward a new era, and I'm here to keep the momentum happening," said Baroche.
The rally was a peaceful gathering with representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union and the International Socialist Organization on hand.
In addition to all the people in the crowd who were there because they wanted to get married, others attended just to show their support.
Marianne Wiley of Bainbridge Island has worked in the nursing profession for 30 years and said, "I've just seen the pain it [inequality] causes."
Bob and Becky Brubacher, who were visiting from Ohio, attended the march in support of their daughter and her partner. The Brubachers married 45 years ago, and Becky said, "We believe everybody should have that chance, whether they're gay or straight."
Among the sea of signs several referenced religion, such as "Separ8 religion from st8." Clint Zehner of Seattle said people are just trying to live their lives like everyone else. Prop 8, he said, is an instance of "people imposing religious values that don't belong to everyone else."
Another sign said, "Mormon cash lied, a nation cried." Members at the Church of Latter Day Saints donated millions of dollars in support of Proposition 8. Since then, Mormon churches in California and Seattle have been targeted by gay rights activists.
However, Mackintosh said she would not participate in any anti-proposition 8 events held outside churches. "It's not about one side or the other," said Mackintosh, who added, "People outside churches are mixing up the message."
Police escorted the peaceful demonstration through the streets of Seattle, and no major altercations occurred.