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Bakersfield: 'We are silent today, but we're just biding our time,' one foe says.

June 17, 2008 |  3:17 pm

Rosalyn Strode didn't bother going to Bakersfield's county offices to protest the same-sex weddings underway there this morning. She did that work right from home, on her computer.

Strode spent the morning sending an e-mail alert to more than 300 pastors in the Bakersfield area, asking them to support a proposed ordinance banning gay marriage in Kern County. She and her husband, Ben Strode, have already put in long hours in the last month gathering signatures for a November ballot measure that would amend the state Constitution to outlaw same-sex marriage statewide.

"We are silent today, but we're just biding our time,'' Strode said of the absence of protests in Kern County. "We'll have our say in November.''

Strode, 71, heads a group called Bakersfield Citizens Opposed to Obscenity and Lewdness. The group strongly opposes gay marriage, calling it an aberration and a sin.

The decision to withhold protests today was deliberate, she said. After consulting with several activists who opposed gay marriage, they decided to sit out and wait for the headlines to hit home, Strode said.

"Let the people of Bakersfield see the disgusting results of them getting married. Men kissing men. Ewww,'' she said. "Then everyone will make up their minds on what they want to do about it.''

About 20 same-sex couples had exchanged vows by noon in an outdoor courtyard near the county clerk's office. Volunteer officiants, newly married spouses and giddy relatives and friends chatted happily in knots, cheers erupting whenever the next couple was proclaimed legally married.

Just one protester held a sign that said in Spanish that marriage equals a man and a woman. The woman stood on the sidewalk for about half an hour and was mostly ignored by the crowd. But five county employees sitting nearby said they silently supported the protester's position.

"I can't give you my name because I work here and they will hound me,'' said one woman at the table, gesturing to the marriage crowd. "But this is just wrong!  They should not impose their lifestyle on the majority, and we are the majority. We don't want to see them on display like this.''

The others at the table nodded in agreement, with one man adding: "Our enemies will see us on our knees today and think we are weak.''

Catherine Saillant