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The gay point of view

Family | In weighing in on California's Proposition 8, voices from San Diego's gay mecca are hardly of one mind on the measure

SAN DIEGO-Mary Lyons doesn't get it. The manager of Bluestocking Books on Fifth Avenue in the Hillcrest area of San Diego can't understand the views of some of her gay friends on California's Proposition 8. For example, a homosexual male friend of hers who, she said, has been "out and proud forever," told Lyons he doesn't want to get married, and that he might even vote yes on Prop 8, which would restore traditional marriage as the only kind recognized in California.

"That confuses me," said Lyons, 39, who is a lesbian. "It doesn't matter whether someone who's gay doesn't have any intention of getting married. It doesn't mean they should vote to take away the rights of someone else to enjoy all the benefits that go with that contract."

Lyons voted an adamant no on Prop 8, as did many in Hillcrest. While San Diego was the birthplace of the pro-family groundswell that landed the measure on the state ballot, Hillcrest is the San Diego community most likely to hope the measure is stillborn.

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The area, which grew out of an estate more than a 100 years ago, has become known chiefly as San Diego's gay mecca. Beginning in the 1970s, gays and lesbians began moving into area. By the 1980s, amidst the crush of the AIDS epidemic, the neighborhood had evolved into the center of gay life in the city, full of funky urban chic.

One sentiment seems to unify this slice of global culture: "No on Prop 8: Equality for All." But despite a recent buoyant No on 8 rally at The Center in Hillcrest, gays and lesbians are hardly of one mind on the measure. Take Paula and Sheila, for example, a lesbian couple visiting San Diego from Minneapolis. Asked if they had watched developments on Prop 8 from their home state, they looked at each other over a table at Starbucks and shook their heads.

"No, not really," said Paula, 58, a tall, trim woman with stylish glasses and neatly clipped hair. First, Paula and Sheila have in recent years intentionally divorced themselves from the angst of politics. "We don't want to be riled anymore," Paula said.

Second, she and Sheila, 56, agree, they aren't interested in getting married. Marriage is "a system I don't believe in," Paula said, "so why would I want [it] to validate me? I validate myself."

Five blocks away, on a side street off University, Gabriel, 31, voted no on Prop 8 at the polling place inside Hillcrest's gay and lesbian community center. "Someday, I might want to get married," said Gabriel, a pharmacy services and insurance professional who is gay. "I might want to have that recognition by society."

But Gabriel isn't at all sure how his gay friends will vote. "Some agree with Prop 8, some don't," he said. Discussions of same-sex marriage in his circle, he added, had gotten heated enough that his friends decided to table the topic and "just not go there."

Johnny, 18, a first-time voter who also cast his ballot inside the community center, said most of his friends who are old enough would vote yes on Prop 8. But he doesn't think government should be placing gender restrictions on marriage. "If a guy can marry a girl, why shouldn't a guy be able to marry a guy?" said Johnny, a lanky Latino wearing a San Diego Chargers jersey.

Johnny, who voted no on Proposition 8, said he is not gay. But his high school government teacher, Russell Jufiar, is. A short, burly Latino man in a ball cap and long khaki shorts, Jufiar said he was surprised to hear Johnny tell WORLD that he voted no on restricting California to traditional marriage.

In class discussions, Jufiar told WORLD, Johnny said "he was undecided. Plus his whole family is Christian and they're all going to vote yes.

"Yeah," Johnny agreed. "We've got a great big Yes on 8 sign in our yard."

Jufiar had brought Johnny from Aseltine, a nearby special needs school, to cast his ballot at the gay and lesbian community center

"Kind of a field trip," Jufiar said.

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