OAKLAND — Hundreds of protesters angry about last week's voter passage of a ban on same-sex marriages in California gathered on the streets and sidewalks in front of the Mormon Temple, prompting officials to shut down nearby freeway off-ramps for 3½ hours.
"The time has come to take it out there to the people who voted for this awful thing," said San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty. "The Mormon church has had to rely on our tolerance in the past, to be able to express their beliefs. "... This is a huge mistake for them. It looks like they've forgotten some lessons."
The protest was one of several anti-Proposition 8 gatherings throughout the state. Hundreds of protesters rallied outside an Orange County megachurch whose popular pastor brought Barack Obama and John McCain together last summer for a faith forum.
In Sacramento, about 2,500 protesters gathered on the steps of the state Capitol to vent their opposition to the same-sex marriage ban.
In Pasadena, the pastor of the 4,000-member All Saints Church spoke out against Prop. 8, calling the religious community's support of it "embarrassing." In Orange County, police officials and protest organizers estimated that about 250 to 300 gay-rights advocates fanned out along sidewalks leading to Saddleback Church in Lake Forest.
The protesters were angered by the megachurch's support of Prop. 8, a constitutional amendment approved by voters Tuesday that bans same-sex marriages and overturns the state Supreme Court decision in May legalizing such unions.
Human Rights Campaign volunteer Ed Todeschini accused the church of helping propagate what he called misinformation about the Supreme Court ruling, including that gay marriage would have to be taught to kindergartners.
"They told such obvious lies, they used their lies to deceive the public," Todeschini said of the church, which gained national attention in August when its pastor, Rick Warren, brought Obama and McCain together to discuss their religious faith. The two candidates embraced during what was otherwise an often-contentious presidential campaign.
Todeschini said Sunday's rally was peaceful, with demonstrators waving placards with slogans including "Equality for all" and "Shame on you." In Oakland, where the highway patrol rerouted traffic, protest organizers said they hoped to tone down the anger that has characterized some previous protests.
"Our intent is not to disturb churchgoers," organizer Tim DeBenedictis said in a statement. "Our goal is to mend fences and build bridges so that all Californians can achieve marriage equality under the law.
Mormon churches took a high profile role in the Prop. 8 campaign in the last few months, urging followers to vote for the measure and raising millions of dollars in individual donations to promote it. Fifty-two percent of voters approved Prop. 8. Same sex couples may enter into civil unions, but activists said Sunday that compromise is not enough.
"Myriad rights are denied to civil unions that married couples can have," San Francisco writer Armistead Maupin said.
"Mormons' religion tells them that homosexuality is evil, and that's why they've done this: They want us to remain disenfranchised. Never before has discrimination been written into an American constitution. This sets an extremely dangerous precedent. They're forcing their brand of morality on us."
Temple officials knew the protest was coming and arranged for extra security, but the day passed without incident, Latter-day Saints spokesman Don Eaton said.
"We respect their right to protest," Eaton said. "We feel a little picked-on, because Latter-day Saints is maybe 5 percent of the voters."
Eaton said misinformation has skewed people's perceptions of the church's role in the campaign. Though the church raised millions of dollars in donations, those all came from individuals, while the church itself gave nothing, he said.
"People chipped in whatever they felt comfortable. Nobody who didn't contribute was punished or excommunicated from the church," Eaton said, adding that the church usually avoids politics but got involved in the campaign because it was a moral issue.
"We believe institution of marriage is cornerstone of healthy society. If counterfeit money goes into society, that devalues the dollar. This is a similar idea; these couples can't have kids, even," he said.
"We're not saying two men who love each other can't adopt some kids and raise those kids well, because obviously that happens," Eaton added. "But 62 percent of parents with kids who voted agree, it's not ideal."
As the crowd spilled from the sidewalks into the streets outside the temple at 4770 Lincoln Ave., police asked the California Highway Patrol to close the nearby off-ramps for Highway 13. The southbound and northbound exits were closed from 10 a.m. until about 1:30 p.m., a CHP official said.
Associated Press Writer Marcus Wohlsen in San Francisco contributed to this report.