San Francisco police arrested at least 150 protesters on Tuesday after a large crowd blocked a major intersection in response to the state Supreme Court’s ruling upholding Proposition 8, the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage.
Hundreds of people filled the intersection of Grove Street and Van Ness Avenue in the morning after word spread of the ruling. The court also ruled that roughly 18,000 existing same-sex marriages in California remain valid.
Around 12:45 p.m., officers were seen placing plastic handcuffs on protesters and leading them to police vans waiting nearby. With each new arrest, the crowd cheered.
Police Sgt. Lyn Tomioka said the protesters were arrested for failing to obey an officer and being outside a crosswalk.
At 1 p.m. the intersection was still closed to traffic and hundreds of people remained in the street.
The state Supreme Court by a 6-1 vote upheld Proposition 8, passed by California voters in November. The initiative was approved by 52 percent of voters as an amendment to the state constitution.
In its ruling, the court rejected three lawsuits in which same-sex couples and local governments claimed the measure could not be passed simply as an initiative because it was a constitutional revision rather than an amendment.
News of the ruling ignited passion on both sides of the issue, with gay marriage supporters vowing to renew the fight via a ballot measure in 2010.
“It is impossible to square the elation we felt just a year ago with the grief that we feel today,” said Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, at a news conference inside City Hall.
Kendell said it is “impossible to reconcile” the Supreme Court ruling with its previous May 2008 ruling allowing the marriages.
“As soon as I heard the decision, I started crying,” said Eva Paterson, president of the Equal Justice Society. “It’s just wrong. It’s just wrong.”
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said he was disappointed by the ruling but “grateful” the court allowed the approximately 18,000 same-sex marriages to stand.
He acknowledged that there would be a lot of sadness and even anger in the gay community, but asked opponents of Proposition 8 not to vilify the judges for their decisions.
“Courts deserve respect for the difficult job they have to do,” Herrera said.
Herrera said the final decision won’t happen in the courts, but rather in the “electoral arena.”
A crowd gathered near the state building on Tuesday to await the court’s decision. Colorful signs bore slogans like “No H8” and “Marriage = One Man + One Woman.”
The details of the ruling just after 10 a.m. spread through the crowd via cell phones and text messages. Immediately, opponents of Proposition 8 began chanting, “shame on you” to the smaller assemblage of people who support the measure.
George Popko, 22, held one side of a large sign saying “Celebrate Prop 8.” He said he was expecting today’s decision based on the questions justices asked when they heard arguments on the matter in March.
Popko said he traveled from Sacramento with a dozen classmates from American River College. Popko said his student body was the first in the state to officially support Proposition 8.
“I am a Christian, but I’m also here to defend my state constitution,” he said.
Emotions ran high after the ruling. Several people surrounded Popko and his sign, decrying his position.
“I expected some hostility,” he said. “Although it’s a little worse today.”