On Saturday, J and I got up and drove to Sacramento in the morning to go to what was hoped to be a rather large rally on the steps of the state capitol building. I spent a good deal of my teenage years hanging out and causing trouble in downtown Sacramento, so I looked forward to sharing my old stomping grounds with J. In fact, once I skipped class and attended a Gulf War protest at the capitol. These were my early days of “activism,” my desire to be part of some cool hippie movement. I honestly had no idea what I was doing.
But now we’ve got the real thing, so J and I booked a hotel room, selected a bunch of gay musicians for the drive, made some food, and loaded up the car. We were ready to go. Arrival was simple. The hotel let us check in three hours early, which allowed us time to deposit our things and go for a little walk over to the capitol to scope things out and see if anyone was there yet.
On our way back, we walked through this beautiful alleyway.
We stopped for coffee and encountered all kinds of gay couples fueling themselves up for the rally. There were also wonderful leaves all over the ground and topping the outdoor tables. It was some sort of urban autumn wonderland. I am a lover of fall, and I was in heaven.
At this point, we were closing in on 1:00, and we wanted to get down to the rally early enough to find a little slice of lawn, so we grabbed some snacks, picked up our new and improved rally signs, changed into the t-shirts I made for us (complete with a rainbow fist on the front and our wedding date on the back), and walked on down to the capitol again. By then, people were starting to gather. We set up our blanket near another lesbian couple, and rested for a bit.
As we sat there, people were starting to gather. One woman had an altar of sorts set up amidst the steps of the capitol, and she was burning sage, drumming from time to time, and playing a didgeridoo. She started playing the thing around the outskirts of the forming crowd, and came and blew it at our backs. I can’t say that I have had that experience before. As she was wrapping things up, the crowd was starting to form. It was great watching people walk by. Kids were carrying “I love my moms” signs; parents had signs about how much they loved their gay kids. It was really touching.
Every once in awhile, someone would stop to photograph us, and occasionally, we would get up to photograph someone. It was that sort of day. Everyone wanted to document every moment of the event. People were cheerful, festive, and I think as mesmerized as we were by the huge crowd of people like us.
As we waited for the speakers to start, J encouraged me to get up and go for a walk. I encountered all kinds of people:
No one can accuse us of being a drab community, now can they?
Soon it was time for the speakers to begin, and the crowd had grown quite huge. We picked up our blanket and joined the throngs. We were relatively close to the podium, but with everyone’s signs, it was difficult to see.
As the speakers started, there were many people milling about offering stickers for Day without a Gay and the like as well as white knots, black wristbands, flyers with coupons for drink specials at the after parties at the gay clubs downtown. It was almost festive with hints of both awe that we were all amongst our tribe and sadness that this is what it took to bring us together.
Gloria Allred was the first speaker. She was great and led us in some call and response thanking the Supreme Court. She was encouraging about the upcoming court battle and was generally good to listen to. Unfortunately, although we were close to the stage, we couldn’t see more than the occasional speck of anyone speaking because of the ever-changing sea of signs in front of us.
Honestly, all of the speakers were good, but the highlight of the day was hearing Margaret Cho talk. Before she showed up, the Dykes on Bikes had been circling the block on which the capitol sits, and it turns out she was just as enamored of them as we were. Here’s her talk and her song if you’re interested (I know, this post is embarrassingly multi-media):
The speakers kept coming, and we kept standing and yelling, and shaking our signs. Occasionally, I had to step away to get a sense for the size of the crowd, and to take photos. This one attempts to show just how big it was from the street:
By the time the speakers were finished, we had been standing in one place for a few hours, and we were ready to move. Luckily, it was time to march. The march took place around the State Capitol Park. We were toward the front of the group. Each time we rounded a corner and caught a glimpse of the crowd behind us, it was breathtaking. Unfortunately, none of the photos really does it justice, but we wound around the entire Capitol Park–all 5000 of us.
There were all kinds of law enforcement, following us in squad cars, lining the interior of the park on horses and bikes. Others were simply standing there. Many of us thanked them as we passed. It was somehow reassuring to have them there. We knew they were there to protect us just as much as they were there to enforce the law.
Upon returning to the start point, J and I stopped and watched everyone filter back in to the West Side of the Capitol building.
Drivers were honking for us, and the crowd was electric. Dance music was playing over the huge speakers as we came back in, and people started dancing on the steps of the Capitol. J joined them.
The energy was wonderful. People danced and cheered. Didgeridoo lady started drumming (she was multi-talented).
And soon the MC called it all to a close, inviting all of us to come down to gay town and buy her shots of tequila.
We were tuckered out, but energized. We said goodbye to the Capitol, grabbed our signs, and headed back to our hotel. As we sat in the lobby enjoying a beer (yes, I did have a beer, the bad TTCer that I am), several different gay folk walked by giving us thumbs up or cheering. It seemed the whole of downtown Sacramento had turned into gay town with people driving by waving rainbow flags from their cars.
It was a remarkable time, and I am forgetting to include so much here, but there is really only so much I can say. It is not a day I will soon forget, and sadly, there will have to be more days like these in the months and years to come. We are glad to be a part of history, glad to have joined our tribe to celebrate and mourn and stand in solidarity fighting for our marriage rights.
If you made it this far, and you haven’t yet seen enough photos, there are more to be seen on my Flickr account to the left. It was really a beautiful event to photograph.