Protests sweep across Calif. on post-Prop 8 Sunday

LOS ANGELES (AP) – On the first Sunday after a gay marriage ban passed in California, activists rallied in defiance, including hundreds of protesters outside an Orange County megachurch whose pastor brought Barack Obama and John McCain together last summer for a “faith forum.”

About 300 gay-rights advocates fanned out along sidewalks leading to Saddleback Church in Lake Forest to voice their anger of the church’s support of Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment approved by voters Nov. 4 that overturns a state Supreme Court decision in May legalizing same-sex unions.

Ed Todeschini, a Human Rights Campaign volunteer, accused Saddleback in particular of helping propagate what he called misinformation about the Supreme Court ruling, including that gay marriage would have to be taught to kindergarteners.

A message seeking comment left at the church’s main office, which was closed Sunday, was not immediately returned.

“They told such obvious lies. They used their lies to deceive the public,” Todeschini said of the church, which gained national attention in August when its pastor, Rick Warren, brought Obama and McCain together to discuss their religious faith. The two candidates embraced during an often-contentious presidential campaign.

Todeschini said Sunday’s rally was peaceful, with demonstrators waving placards with slogans including “Equality for all” and “Shame on you.”

The amendment was passed last week with 52 percent of the vote, and backlash swept across California on Sunday after days of protests.

In Oakland, a large protest at the city’s Mormon temple led the California Highway Patrol to close two highway ramps to ensure pedestrian safety. Protest organizers said they hoped to tone down the anger that has characterized some previous demonstrations.

“Our intent is not to disturb churchgoers,” organizer Tim DeBenedictis said in a statement. “Our goal is to mend fences and build bridges so that all Californians can achieve marriage equality under the law.”

The pastor of the 4,000-member All Saints Church in Pasadena spoke out against Proposition 8, calling the religious community’s support of it “embarrassing.”

The church announced while it could no longer legally marry same-sex couples, it would continue blessing gay civil unions.

“It’s very unfortunate and embarrassing that the (Christian religion) is in large part responsible for this act of bigotry,” the Rev. Ed Bacon said after his sermon.

In Sacramento, a protest at the state Capitol was boisterous but peaceful as speakers led the crowd in noisy chants. Protesters waved rainbow flags, a symbol of the gay rights movement, and “No on 8” signs as police watched from the side.