The Tar Pit

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Mock gay weddings at California High School

Listen to the sound of a civilization eating it's seed corn:

Mock gay weddings at Silverado

Parents protest, but district attorney gives green light to Gay-Straight Alliance event Friday at Victorville school

By EMILY BERG/Staff Writer

VICTORVILLE — Six simulated gay weddings presented by student members of the Silverado High School Gay-Straight Alliance are scheduled for the school's two lunch periods on Friday.

Three couples — two female and one male — will say vows while another student officiates the ceremonies. The students then plan to address students about their support of gay marriage, alliance members said Wednesday.

"We're not hurting anyone by our actions," said Logan Vigdor, treasurer of the alliance. "We're not trying to promote homosexuality; we're promoting acceptance and tolerance."

Some parents, students and community leaders have already planned to protest the simulated weddings.

Alliance members say the mock weddings are intended as a political statement to raise awareness about same-sex marriages and are being held in recognition of National Freedom to Marry Day, which is Saturday.

Roxana O'Harra, the mother of three Silverado students, is organizing a protest against the simulated weddings.

O'Harra's children plan to join others who disagree with same-sex marriage to protest the ceremonies. Dissenting students plan to wear red T-shirts — the color of courage, they say — and stand with their backs to the ceremony with signs reading "I don't" — meant to oppose the "I dos" that are the traditional vows of a wedding ceremony, O'Harra said.

"The fact that the Gay-Straight Alliance Club is conducting a mock gay wedding of students on campus — an event that factually opposes the initiative passed into law by the California voters — is outrageous and demoralizing to the institution of marriage," O'Harra said.

The alliance's plan is also drawing the ire of legislators.

Senator George Runner, R-Antelope Valley, and Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, R-Antelope Valley, both of whom represent the Victor Valley, sent a letter to the district expressing their displeasure over the "outrageous publicity stunt."

"To use taxpayer dollars to promote illegal activities is simply reprehensible," Sharon Runner said.

But administrators at Silverado and the Victor Valley Union High School District said students have a legal right to hold the simulated weddings in spite of community protest. To stop the ceremony would violate the students' free speech rights, according to the district's attorney, Cathie L. Fields of Margaret A. Chidester & Associates of Tustin.


Fields noted in her written opinion to the district that the school holds simulated heterosexual weddings and there is no objection. She also noted that, like gay marriage, the marriage of minors is also illegal in California.

"The male-female mock wedding no more represents a 'legal' activity than does the same-sex mock wedding," Fields wrote.

Students also have a legal right to hold simulated weddings because the Equal Access Act requires that student clubs must be permitted to meet and conduct their activities on secondary school campuses regardless of the club's viewpoint, Fields wrote.

Prohibiting an event based on the real or anticipated community objections is known as a "heckler's veto," which the U.S Supreme Court has condemned, Fields wrote.

A teacher had originally planned to officiate the ceremonies, but Fields advised district employees to not participate.

Club members believe same-sex marriage should be legalized, which is why they are promoting it, said Richard Espinoza, the club's secretary.

"It doesn't hurt anyone," Espinoza, 17, said. "We just wish there was more tolerance from our school peers and our community as a whole."

Controversy over the event has caused some students to back out of participating in the event out of fear, Vigdor, 16, said. Indeed, Silverado Principal Susan Levine told the alliance that she could not guarantee members' safety, Vigdor said.

"We know it might get ugly, but we're still going to go through with it," said Ceslie Garza, the club's vice president. "We have to. Compared to other more brave students who have done amazing things to make a difference throughout history, this should be easy."

Or maybe the seed corn is out to devour the civilization.