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Gays in limbo due to Proposition 8

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Posted: Wednesday, November 5, 2008 10:00 pm

A lesbian couple from Lodi got married in August, but they're anxiously waiting to see if California law will allow them to remain legally married.

Proposition 8, which would overthrow the California Supreme Court's ruling in May that legalized gay marriage, appears to have been passed by voters, though opponents refuse to concede the election.

Complete local election results.

And if the highly controversial proposition passes, it's up in the air whether gay couples who got married after same-sex marriages were allowed to be performed on June 17 will stay married.

"They talk about change - we have a great new president, but we can't stay married potentially," said Amber Williams, who lives with her wife, Rachel Drake, and their three children in Lodi.

Sharon Morris, assistant court executive officer at San Joaquin County Superior Court, confirmed that the legality of gay marriages performed this year in California will likely be tried in the court system.

"You can't give someone a right and then revoke it," Drake said Wednesday afternoon. "I'm not asking anyone to accept me. I just want them to allow us to live our lives."

Meanwhile, the founder of Lodi-based Christian Community Concerns is optimistic that Proposition 8 will pass and sustain any court challenges.

Amber Williams reacts to the passage of Proposition 8 at the home that she shares with her partner, Rachel Drake, on Wednesday in Lodi. (Brian Feulner/News-Sentinel)

"There's a homosexual agenda, which is an evil, wicked thing," organization founder Ken Owen said. "They want to destroy marriage."

Nevertheless, Owen said he doesn't harbor any ill will toward gay people.

"I don't hate a homosexual any more than I hate a drunkard or a drug addict," Owen said. "But the alcoholic and drug addict are not in my face trying to get me to accept their lifestyle."

Owen added that gay people have successfully changed American culture to more broadly accept homosexuality.

"Politics doesn't change culture; culture changes politics," he said. "Twenty years ago, it wasn't acceptable, but they have changed culture so that it has made it acceptable - almost, but not quite."

Drake and Williams say they lead completely normal lives. Drake, 31, manages a Lodi coffee shop, while Williams, 29, works in campus security at Cleveland Elementary School in the Stockton Unified School District.

"Our work people are our biggest supporters," Williams said. "They were as devastated as I was that Proposition 8 was winning."

Drake said that some of her customers support their relationship.

"I don't hide my sexuality at all (at work)," Drake said. "Everybody knows I have a wife."

Drake and Williams say that the right to remain married is significant because they didn't have the same rights through a domestic partnership. The only right domestic partners have, Drake said, is that one partner can carry the other on insurance policies.

Proposition 8 at a glance

Proposition 8 was leading in votes on Wednesday, but the final tally to the measure that would ban gay marriage in California has not been tabulated.

Additionally, the American Civil Liberties Union and Equality California filed a lawsuit on Wednesday seeking to retain the legality of gay marriage. San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera announced that will file a legal challenge with the California Supreme Court if Proposition 8 passes.

With 95 percent of precincts reporting, Proposition 8 is leading with 52 percent of the vote. But there are still as many as three million ballots left to be counted statewide.

- Associated Press

But unless they are legally married, gay partners can't make medical decisions for each other, Williams said. And if a partner dies, the surviving partner's family can enter the gay couple's residence and take all the deceased person's possessions, Drake added.

There are more gay people in Lodi than most people think, the couple said.

"Rachel and I were talking about getting an equality group together," Williams said. "There's a lot of closet people here."

A lifelong Lodi resident, Drake is a 1995 Lodi High graduate. She thought she was gay in high school.

"I had a feeling, but I was trying to do the right thing," Drake said. "You couldn't be who you were in 1995."

Williams has lived in several cities in San Joaquin County. The couple met while each had children in second grade at Lakewood Elementary School in north Lodi.

"I fell in love with Amber the first time I saw her," Drake recalls.

They moved in together in Woodbridge a year-and-a-half ago and moved recently to a house in Lodi.

Williams was married - to a man - for 10 years, while Drake had a relationship with a man for eight years before the two began their relationship. None of their children are adopted. Drake gave birth to Ryan, while Williams gave birth to Isaiah and Jewel.

So how do the children address their two moms?

Jewel, for example, calls Drake either "Rachel" or "Mama Rach," and she calls Williams "Mom."

The couple maintains that their life is quite routine.

"You take (kids) to school, go to work, have dinner," Drake said, as Jewel lay on both her moms' laps.

"We're just as boring as anybody on earth," Williams added.

"Aren't we so?" Drake added.

The couple said they were proud of their sons, who stood on Kettleman Lane during the weekend urging Proposition 8's defeat. Drake chuckled as she related what the two boys said on Kettleman.

"Vote 'no' on 8 - gays are great!"

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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