Hundreds of demonstrators waving signs and rainbow-colored flags gathered in downtown Salt Lake City Saturday as the fight over gay marriage continued to intensify more than a week after California voters passed Proposition 8.
More than half of California voters were in favor of the constitutional amendment to define marriage as the union between one man and one woman, but Proposition 8 detractors have lashed out against members of the LDS Church in recent days.
Demonstrators held signs that read, "When do I get to vote on your marriage?" and "Proposition h8."
"It's upsetting to see churches pouring so much money and time and effort into taking away rights," said Davida Wegner, who waited for more than 40 hours at a Massachusetts courthouse to be married 18 months ago.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement Friday in response to recent demonstrations and in some cases vandalism at church buildings.
"Attacks on churches and intimidation of people of faith have no place in civil discourse over controversial issues," the statement reads. "People of faith have a democratic right to express their views in the public square without fear of reprisal. ... We call upon those who have honest disagreements on this issue to urge restraint upon the extreme actions of a few that are further polarizing our communities and urge them to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility toward each other." (See entire statement at www.newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/)
Three smaller rallies two in support of Proposition 8 and one against also took place in downtown Salt Lake City Saturday afternoon and evening.
Saturday night, about 400 anti-Proposition 8 demonstrators descended on the south lawn of Utah's Capitol Hill to spell the word "equality" in 20-foot block letters using 10,000 candles.
It took about 45 minutes to get candles lit, as a light wind threatened to blow them out. Vigil organizer Patrick York said he hoped people would see the vigil as show of solidarity. Gay and straight Utahns participated.
Eventually, he said, "equality is going to shine from every capital."
Trent Romijn and Jacob DeGering, a gay couple who attended the vigil, said they hope one day that Utah will recognize same-sex marriage or at least a civil union.
But right now, they just want to feel like a part of the community and approved of the vigil's peaceful nature.
"This is a huge snowball, and it's starting to roll," Romijn said.
Earlier in the day, at the large anti-Proposition 8 rally, Salt Lake City resident Dominique Storni said she is "thankful to our Mormon brothers and sisters. I am thankful they have awakened our sleeping giant."
As Sandra Rodrigues of Cottonwood Heights stood on the outskirts of the rally, holding a sign that read "Please Respect Democracy," several people confronted her and asked her to "stop the hate."
Rodrigues, however, said she has no ill will toward the gay community. She just wants everyone to accept the decision of a majority of California voters.
"They are questioning the vote of the people and the right that they have to vote for whatever they want," Rodrigues said. "They should not be intimidating and harassing people."
Also on the outskirts of the crowd, Paul Trane and Richard Teerlink held flags with 50 white stars against a blue background and rainbow stripes. Both former Mormons who served missions and were married to women in LDS temples, Trane and Teerlink married each other last June in California after being together for more than 15 years.
"We are tired of being treated as second-class citizens," Teerlink said.
Jeff Key, a gay Iraq war veteran, told the crowd that the LDS Church's involvement in Proposition 8 has turned Utah into "ground zero" for the gay civil rights movement.
"You called us out," Key said. "You did this."
In one of the smaller rallies, local street preacher Lonnie Pursiful marched five city blocks with a small group of supporters from City Creek Park to the City-County Building, carrying anti-gay signs and wearing T-shirts with similar messages.The group gathered on the east side of Washington Square, surrounded by Salt Lake City police, but that didn't stop a few shouting matches from breaking out as those protesting Proposition 8 arrived at the rally.