"I don't know any white gay man who sat on the back of the bus."
So spoke Chauncey Killens, a black Pentecostal minister from Salinas, as he stood on San Francisco's Civic Center mall yesterday. Like hundreds around him, Killens had showed up to demonstrate outside the state Supreme Court, which today heard arguments on the legality of Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that several months ago amended California's constitution to outlaw same-sex marriage.
"It's not a civil-rights issue," Killens said, smiling broadly as television news reporters began to shove microphones in his face.
In this city, protests over just about anything showcase a lively back and forth from activists on both sides of the issue. But by any standards, the rallies outside the Supreme Court yesterday offered an unusually colorful spectacle: Fundamentalist ministers, liberal ministers, students, married same-sex couples, drag queens, and fire-and-brimstone anti-gay activists all hoisted signs side-by-side beneath a blue winter sky.
"It's been very respectful from both sides," said Sister Maudlin Masscara, a representative of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence -- an activist group of men who dress as nuns, or something like them -- who looked ready to audition for the role of one of the slain Jedi knights in Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith. Appropriately enough, Masscara plans to stay away from the Dark Side: "You have to return hate with love."
Then there were Krystle Ouellette and Shariah Sanders, a pair of Santa Barbara women who had planned on getting married before Prop. 8 passed in November. Ouellette, 24, is Mormon and Sanders, 23, is black. "My parents are against gay marriage, but they're for my happiness," Ouellette said. "We're trying for a baby this month, with artificial insemination. So it would be nice if we could get married before we have a baby."
Sometime in the next three months -- the justices have 90 days to deliver a ruling after today's hearing -- Ouellette and Sanders will find out if that's possible.
Click here for SF Weekly's slideshow on the demonstrations.