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Demonstrators walk across Civic Drive during a protest and rally attended by hundreds against Prop 8 and calling for equal rights in front of City Hall on North Main Street and Civic Drive in downtown Walnut Creek, Calif. on Saturday, November 15, 2008. Protesters around the nation held protests against prop 8 as well. (Dean Coppola/Staff)

Hundreds of gay rights supporters turned out in downtown Walnut Creek in one of a string of protests across the nation Saturday against the California ballot proposition that banned same-sex marriage less than two weeks ago.

"My husband and I, we have 16 years together, we got legally married this summer, something I thought I'd never be able to do in my lifetime," said Storm Doyle, 37, of Antioch. "Now that the vote has gone the way it has, we're outraged that our rights could be submitted to a vote."

The protesters, estimated by police at 400, carried signs, chanted and cheered in response to an endless stream of motorists blaring their horns in support.

Proposition 8 defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. It overturned a state Supreme Court decision earlier this year that legalized same-sex marriage.

"I fought for every civil rights movement there is, and every peace march," said Karen Berkins, a retired teacher who lives in Walnut Creek. "We're the last group of people in this country that are under the law unequal."

National organizers said there were about 300 such protests around the world Saturday and about 200 of them in the United States. They had expected about 1 million to turn out but said it appears actual turnout may be higher.


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"This is the next civil rights movement," said Amy Balliet, the 26-year-old search engine marketer in Seattle who launched the protests. "It's to keep the conversation going and it's to put attention on how rights were revoked for 18,000 marriages."

Balliett said she expected 5,000 to 10,000 people to show up Saturday in Seattle, but she said police told her the protest crowd swelled to about 100,000.

In Walnut Creek, protesters lined the street near the intersection of North Main and Civic Drive carrying campaign signs that urged a "no" vote on Proposition 8 and others that read "Stop the H8."

Ami Lum of Antioch attended the protest with her sister and nephew, Dillon. Dillon, 4, spoke up, saying, "The people say she can't love people. They are wrong."

The turnout in Walnut Creek was also much larger than organizers expected.

"I thought I'd get 50 people and show a little bit of a presence," said Brittney Gougeon, 21, an Antioch Web designer who organized the Walnut Creek protest.

"We didn't expect this many people, and yet, for the size we got, there were no problems," said Walnut Creek police Lt. Steve Skinner. Protesters even picked up all their trash, he said.

A single supporter of Proposition 8 could be found.

Carrying a sign that read, "Yes on 8," and "Their real goal: Your Children's Minds," the man identified himself only as Jim.

"This is the first time I've been able to stand anywhere and not have four or five people putting signs in front of me, bumping me and trying to make me drop my sign," he said. "It's the tolerance that must be getting to them."

Asked why he came out to the protest, Jim said, "By voting for something and having it overturned by activist judges, which I'm sure is going to happen, the only thing is to take to the streets."

Reach Mike Taugher at 925-943-8257 or mtaugher@bayareanewsgroup.com.