Fresno Hosts Marriage Equality Event

May 30, 2009 12:44:31 AM PDT
Fresno is "ground zero" in the new effort to put same sex marriage back on the California Ballot in 2010. Thousands are expected to attend the "Meet in the Middle for Equality" march and rally in Fresno on Saturday. Local same sex marriage advocate and event organizer Robin McGehee described the new tactic in gaining support for the cause. "The only way we are going to win in Fresno, California, is if we reach into the community that doesn't understand us and help them get to know our family, help them to get to know our heart, and where we're coming from." McGehee told a Friday news conference.

Stunned by voter approval of Prop 8, the measure to ban same sex marriage, and shocked by the state Supreme Court's decision to uphold the vote, advocates of same sex marriage picked Fresno as the place to start their new campaign to get the issue back on the ballot. Cleve Jones, of the Courage Campaign said Fresno has nothing to fear.

"We are not here to impose our beliefs on anyone, we are to here to reach out and begin a dialogue on civil rights."

The feeling is that by meeting in Fresno, instead of in LA or San Francisco the movement can gain support from voters who are in the middle, geographically and politically. But, local Prop 8 supporter, Pastor Jim Franklin, believes if voters who turned out to support Barack Obama in 2008 wouldn't approve same sex marriage, then voters never will.

"That was their best shot. In all honesty. It didn't happen. The people spoke, and that's what we're celebrating."

Franklin is organizing a rally at Fresno City Hall on Sunday, to celebrate the court's decision, denying same sex couples the right to marry. But supporters, like Christine Chavez, a granddaughter of farm labor leader Cesar Chavez, hope keeping the focus on civil rights will sway voters their way in 2010.

Christine Chavez: "I've marched all over this valley with my Grandfather, and I know that if he was alive today, he would be right here, marching in front with all of you.

The Meet in the Middle for equality march and rally is expected to attract about five thousand people from around the state, along with several celebrities including actress Charlize Theron. After marching 14 miles from Selma in the morning, the crowd will settle in at City Hall for the rally and speeches.

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