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Originally published Sunday, November 16, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Thousands rally for gay marriage in Seattle

Gay-marriage advocates at Seattle rally vow they are in it for the long haul — and their opponents say the same.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Even as thousands of newly energized activists took to the streets Saturday to rally for gay marriage, veterans of the battle for marriage equality warned it will take more than a spirited march on a sunny day to win the fight.

State Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, one of the state's openly gay legislators and a longtime leader of the effort to win gay marriage in Olympia, said that during the upcoming session of the Legislature he will once again introduce a bill to legalize same-sex marriage.

"The challenge is to march by the thousands not just here, but in Olympia. Are you willing to do that?" he asked the crowd, which gathered for a rally at Volunteer Park before marching to Westlake Park.

"Are you willing to doorbell in suburbia and rural Washington, and seek the friendship of African-American evangelicals and Catholics and Mormons? If you are willing to do that, you will achieve equality."

Seattle police estimated the crowd at about 3,000 — organizers counted about double that. The march was peaceful, according to Seattle police.

Event organizers urged the demonstrators to steer clear of divisive rhetoric or tactics.

After the recent passage of California's Proposition 8, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, some protests turned angry, with demonstrators targeting the Mormon church and other faiths that supported the gay-marriage ban.

"Hateful or hurtful remarks do nothing but drag the conversation away from progress," march organizer Kyler Powell warned the crowd.

Powell, 21, organized the demonstration in less than a week, spurred by the passage of Proposition 8.

"This is the beginning of the civil-rights movement of the 21st century," Powell said. "We are not going to sit like a lame duck and take the injustice that has been dealt the gay community."

It was a crowd with a sense of conviction — and humor: "If you like my decorating, you'll love my revolution," read one demonstrator's placard.

There were dogs in tutus and rainbow collars, gay parents pushing strollers, straight friends of gay people, and many, many, wannabe brides and grooms. "Always the bridesmaid and never the bride should not be the law," one sign read.

Opponents mostly stayed away from the rally and march. But their opposition is steadfast.

State Sen. Dan Swecker, R-Rochester, a longtime opponent of same-sex marriage, said if a gay-marriage bill is passed by the Legislature, he will work to put it on the ballot statewide and defeat it.

"For me, this is the biggest issue," Swecker said. "Marriage is something that needs to be set apart and protected."

Pastor Joseph Fuiten, of Cedar Park Church in Bothell, said the march didn't matter. "I am going to mow my lawn. Their demonstration is of no consequence to me. People walking the streets in Seattle, that is not intelligent, this is juvenile. It's not intellectual discourse, it's a nonevent."

But advocates said Saturday their march is just the beginning of a sustained fight. Dressed in wedding finery, Cambrea Ezell and Robin Romeo, of Seattle, said as residents of Washington, they won't give up on getting married in their home state.

"We live here, we work here, and we pay taxes here," Romeo said. "And we want to be treated like anyone else."

King County Executive Ron Sims exhorted the crowd to stay in the fight as long as it takes, drawing from his own experience advocating for civil rights all his life.

"Nobody told me the road would be easy. Are you tired? I am not," Sims thundered.

"If you are going to talk about immortality, talk about hunger. That is immoral. Talk about war. That is immoral. But do not tell me when two people love each other that's immoral. It is right."

In an interview, Murray said that gaining marriage equality will take sustained effort.

"Sending off hundreds of e-mails that all say the same thing is not activism. We call that slackivism.

"It's going to take ... building coalitions with people different from you. It's a new group of people, and a younger group of people that is getting involved and that is very exciting, and very refreshing.

"But it won't work unless it translates into other action. Walking the streets of Seattle is great. Walking the halls of Olympia is closer to how you make change."

Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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