Gay Activists Rally Outside Mormon Temple In NYC

By: AP
By: AP

Carrying signs reading "Love not H8" and "Did you cast a ballot or a stone?", a large crowd of gay-marriage supporters gathered outside a Mormon temple to protest the church's endorsement of a same-sex marriage ban in California.

The rally Wednesday night outside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple came hours after gay couples exchanged vows for the first time in Connecticut amid cheers and tears of joy.

The milestone did not ease the sting of a major loss for gay-marriage supporters last week. Gay activists planned protests across the country over the vote that took away their right to wed in California.

In the Upper West Side of Manhattan, demonstrators chanted "Shame on you!" outside the temple. Leaders of the Mormon church had encouraged members to support passage of California's Proposition 8, a referendum banning same-sex marriage.

"I'm fed up and disgusted with religious institutions taking political stances and calling them moral when it's nothing but politics," said Dennis Williams, 36. "Meanwhile they enjoy tax-free status while trying to deny me rights that should be mine at the state and federal level."

Church spokesman Michael Otterson said that while citizens have the right to protest, he was "puzzled" and "disturbed" by the gathering since the majority of California's voters had approved the amendment.

"This was a very broad-based coalition that defended traditional marriage in a free and democratic election," Otterson said, referring to the numerous religious and social conservative groups that sponsored Proposition 8.

Organizers of the rally estimated at least 10,000 people participated. Police said they could not give a crowd estimate.

Gay-marriage advocates said they were planning nationwide demonstrations this weekend in more than 175 cities and outside the U.S. Capitol. A Seattle blogger was trying to organize simultaneous protests outside statehouses and city halls in every state Saturday.

Earlier in Connecticut, Jody Mock and Elizabeth Kerrigan emerged from Town Hall in West Hartford to the cheers of about 150 people and waved their marriage license high. The couple led the lawsuit that overturned the state law.

"We feel very fortunate to live in the state of Connecticut, where marriage equality is valued, and hopefully other states will also do what is fair," Kerrigan said.

The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled on Oct. 10 that same-sex couples have the right to wed rather than accept a 2005 civil union law designed to give them the same rights as married couples. A lower-court judge entered a final order permitting same-sex marriage Wednesday morning. Massachusetts is the only other state that allows gay marriages.

Connecticut officials had no information Wednesday on how many marriage licenses were issued to same-sex couples. According to the state public health department, 2,032 civil union licenses were issued between October 2005 and July 2008.

Like the highest courts in Connecticut and Massachusetts, the California Supreme Court ruled this spring that same-sex marriage is legal. After about 18,000 such unions were conducted in California, however, its voters last week approved Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment.

Gay rights groups said Wednesday they may ask California voters to overturn the ban on same-sex marriage if legal challenges to Proposition 8 are unsuccessful.

The California vote has sparked protests in several states, many targeting Mormon churches. Some have been vandalized.

Activists also are aiming boycotts and protests at businesses and individuals who contributed to the campaign to pass Proposition 8.

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Associated Press writers Stephanie Reitz in West Hartford, Conn., John Christoffersen in New Haven, Conn., Susan Haigh in Hartford, Conn., Jay Lindsay in Boston and Lisa Leff in San Francisco contributed to this report.

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