Almost 100 protesters gather in support of same-sex marriage in downtown Champaign

With nine simple words, Caroline Nappo tried to keep a disappointing day in perspective for her fellow same-sex marriage supporters.

“I don’t think we’ll have to wait that long,” said the Champaign resident.

Nappo was one of the nearly 100 protesters who gathered Tuesday evening at the corner of Neil and Main streets in downtown Champaign in front of the Susan B. Anthony monument. The demonstrators gathered to protest a ruling earlier in the day by the California Supreme Court that upheld Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage in the state.

Nappo spoke of how Anthony delivered a speech in 1870 supporting women’s suffrage in the same place in Champaign. Anthony died and 50 years passed before women finally had the right to vote. But Nappo and the Prop 8 protesters said they don’t believe it will take that long for same-sex marriage to be legally recognized in the United States.

“I was really disappointed,” said Martin Smith, a graduate student who helped organize the protest. “But even in the disappointment, I think there’s room for hope … I think the tide’s on our side in a sense. Opinion polls are showing there’s been a shift of opinion — especially people under 30 — in support of gay marriage. I feel as long as we continue the struggle and build the movement that this will be overturned, and we will have gay marriage all over the country.”

Considering Tuesday’s gathering was organized on short notice, leaders said they were pleased with the turnout of the event, which would have been a celebration had Prop 8 been rejected and was in congruence with a nationwide “Day of Decision.”

“We organized this over the holiday weekend just via e-mail and Facebook,” Smith said. “I think this is a great turnout, especially since school’s out. We were surprised. We thought maybe 20-30 people (would show).”

About 20 protesters took turns at the microphone sharing their experiences and thoughts in support of same-sex marriage. Champaign resident Lynn Sprout was one such speaker.

When her partner was hospitalized and passed away in 2001, Sprout faced many difficulties in helping her sick partner because she was told she was legally not considered family. Tuesday’s ruling left her upset.

“It was extremely sad because I keep hoping that we are going to move ahead,” Sprout said. “We haven’t moved forward. If they defeated (Prop 8), then maybe we’d be taking steps. Maybe in my lifetime or shortly thereafter, things will change. It’s really horrible, we don’t seem to be making headway.”

Tuesday did provide a small victory for same-sex marriage supporters. The California Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples who were legally wed between June 2008 and November 2008 will continued to be married under state law.

“It’s about love,” Smith said of why she feels same-sex marriage should be legalized. “If you believe in the rights of people to love whom they choose … it really is a story about humanity, and it’s hard to be against that.”