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San Mateo Daily News

 

February 15, 2007

 

By Shaun Bishop / Daily News Staff Writer

 

 

Gay marriage supporters rally
Some local leaders express support for change in laws

 

 

A cast of characters consisting of government officials and others lined up to support same-sex marriage during a Valentine's Day rally in front of the San Mateo County Clerk's office.

 

The event, in its second year at the county seat in Redwood City, drew a crowd of more than 100 people at its peak as supporters hoped to influence upcoming legislation to legalize gay marriage.

A star of the show was state Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, the author of Assembly Bill 43, also known as the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act.

"People ask, 'Why do we need to fight a war over a word?' This word, 'marriage,' means everything," Leno said.

A similar bill also authored by Leno passed the state Legislature in 2005 but was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

On Wednesday, the focus was on celebrating the relationships of more than a dozen same-sex couples who gathered on the steps of the county center. Other officials in attendance included state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Mateo/San Francisco, and county Supervisor Jerry Hill.

A newly outspoken supporter was Assessor/County Clerk/Recorder Warren Slocum, who said he believes he became the first county clerk in California to public take a stand in favor of gay marriage when he sent a letter to other county clerks in January.

"It just became clear that the right thing to do was support the idea of equal rights for all people," Slocum said.

The rally was organized by Marina Gatto, whose two moms Ramona and Arzu had for years asked the county clerk for a marriage license, only to be turned down each time.

"Today we stand together to show others by our own example what true community is," said Marina, a first-year student at UC Berkeley.

Several speakers emphasized that denying gay people a marriage license promotes inequality and sets a bad example for children.

A number of children stepped up to the microphone to express their support, including 7-year-old twins Miles and Zachary Kleiman, who needed a stepstool to reach the podium but didn't seem a bit nervous about facing the crowd.

"I think people should do whatever they want in their lives," Miles said.

Michaela Green, 16, and Chelsea Capone, 15, both members of the Woodside High School Gay-Straight Alliance, said they were proud of the government leaders for speaking up in favor of gay marriage.

A book in which same-sex marriage supporters can leave notes has been set up in Slocum's office.

"We're going to sign that book and let the world know we want our equal rights," said county Supervisor Rich Gordon, who attended the rally

with his longtime partner Dennis McShane.

E-mail Shaun Bishop at sbishop@dailynewsgroup.com.