Paul Schappaugh shouted into the bullhorn, “We’re here, we’re queer and we’re not going anywhere!” to cheers from the crowd of more than 50 people gathered at the corner of 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue this evening.

Gay Atlanta celebrates federal victory in favor of gay marriage after Prop 8 ruled unconstitutional

The gathering, organized by Atlanta’s Queer Justice League, was to celebrate U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruling today that Proposition 8 in California is unconstitutional. Prop 8 was an initiative passed by California voters in 2008 to ban same-sex marriage. Local activists organized a rally in 2008 at the Georgia State Capitol to protest the vote and more than 1,000 people attended.

“Why is this important to me as a gay Georgian? Each victory should be celebrated,” Schappaugh said Wednesday while standing in front of Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse.

“This is a long road and this is just one more victory in a long road to the Supreme Court,” he added. “Georgia does not have a clear path to victory, so we gay Georgians know it’s the federal government that is going to have to tell our citizens of Georgia to give us equality.”

Smiles were evident everywhere as people cheered the decision, holding up signs that said “NO H8,” “Honk for Equality,” and even “Will you marry me?”

Shelley McHugh and her partner, Alicia Harday, moved to Atlanta from California four weeks ago. Both are chemistry teachers and were wearing T-shirts that said, “I Do,” purchased from Equality California.

“Late last night I was looking online for cheap flights to California, unfortunately there’s a stay, so …,” McHugh said, trailing off. Judge Walker issued a temporary stay on marriages shortly after his ruling was made to the public until at least Friday. On Friday, defendants and plaintiffs will argue whether a stay should remain in effect while the case is appealed.

“The six month window when marriage was legal, we had only been dating a year, so we thought, no, we can’t get married, that’s ridiculous. But then Prop 8 just killed it,” McHugh said as she teared up.

“I’m finally proud of California again. It really hurt two years ago,” she said.

Other people showing up to the rally included Atlanta City Council member Alex Wan, the council’s only openly gay council member; Joan Garner, lesbian candidate in a runoff against Keisha Waites, also a lesbian, for the Fulton County Commission District 6 post; and state Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) and state Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta).