More than 1,000 people cried out for equal rights for gays and lesbians Saturday in Las Vegas as part of a string of protests reacting to the ban on same-sex marriage passed 11 days ago in California.
An upbeat crowd gathered in a parking lot outside a gay and lesbian community center just east of the Strip. Many carried brightly painted signs, including one reading “Inequality is soooo not kool” and another declaring “Love is love.”
Like many in the crowd, Candice Nichols, a protest organizer, connected the fight for equal marriage rights for gays to the battle for equal rights for African-Americans.
“Our message is, 'Separate is not equal and not acceptable,’” said Nichols, the executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada. “Second-class citizenship is not acceptable.”
On Nov. 4, Californians passed Proposition 8, a measure defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Nevada passed a similar ban on same-sex marriages in 2002.
The California proposition’s approval has sparked some angry protests against its supporters, particularly members of the Mormon church and other faiths.
But speakers at Saturday’s rally made only passing references to these adversaries on the issue.
“Today we must confront those who wield the Bible as a weapon, who use God as an excuse for their bigotry,” Jennifer Bolton, a gay rights advocate, told the crowd.
Comedian Wanda Sykes, who was in town performing on the Strip, made a surprise appearance Saturday. Sykes said the passage of Proposition 8 has led her to be more outspoken about her sexuality.
“You know, I don’t really talk about my sexual orientation. I didn’t feel like I had to. I was just living my life, not necessarily in the closet, but I was living my life,” Sykes said. “Everybody that knows me personally, they know I’m gay. But that’s the way people should be able to live their lives.”
Similar protests were held nationwide Saturday , drawing thousands of people. A rally also was scheduled in Reno on Saturday evening.