The Santa Barbara queer community gathered this week to discuss marriage equality in the wake of Proposition 8.

The meeting served as an information-exchange and forum focusing on how the queer community of Santa Barbara – and California as a whole – can continue to campaign against the implementation of Prop 8. Pacific Pride Foundation hosted the meeting and invited local attorneys to serve as panelists in order to answer questions from community members.

David Selberg, executive director of the Pacific Pride Foundation, said Proposition 8 has prompted communities across California to reconsider the campaign and prepare for future political action.

“It took [the queer community] a while to get pissed off,” Selberg said. “Throughout California, town hall meetings are occurring and we want to reflect on what we did wrong and what we did right.”

The fight over marriage equality is not new to California. In 2000, Proposition 22 was passed, stating that only marriage between a man and a woman was valid. That statute was challenged in court under the California constitution’s clause guaranteeing every citizen’s right to marriage. Currently, same-sex couples can enter into a “domestic partnership” that grants similar but unequal status as marriage.
Local attorney and panelist Nicole Champion said the legal battle must continue because the institution of marriage represents much more to the queer community.

“Marriage is a stepping stone to federal rights,” she said.

At the meeting, Selberg composed a list of problems with the “No on 8” campaign and said he felt the anti-Prop. 8 campaigns were not proactive enough.

“We were always playing catch-up… we were always reacting to the other side,” he said.

The panel members expressed their concern that the tone of the “No on Prop. 8” campaign was “timid and closeted.” Additionally, Selberg said he felt that there was a lack of vested interest from the community as a whole.

“A lot of us felt that we would defeat Prop. 8, and we were disappointed,” Selberg said.

UCSB student Urvi Nagrani voiced concern at the meeting, and noted the lack of youth involvement with the “No on 8” campaign.

“We need T-shirts,” Nagrani said. “We need to start making it a fashion statement to say, ‘Equality is cool.'”

Despite the legal challenges ahead, Selberg expressed his pride in Santa Barbara County for rejecting Prop. 8 – the only Southern California county to do so.

“We did a lot in Santa Barbara,” Selberg said. “The entire country right now is watching what California does with Proposition 8.”

The only opposition to the town hall meeting occurred outside, where a man wearing a “Yes on 8” shirt stood, offering fliers to those attending the meeting.