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Gay protesters outside Crist's wedding: When can I get married?

Cate Colgan, left, Lorna Bracewell, Yasmin Jones and Andrew Conte prepare to protest outside the Crist-Rome wedding.

GEN YAMAGUCHI | Times

Cate Colgan, left, Lorna Bracewell, Yasmin Jones and Andrew Conte prepare to protest outside the Crist-Rome wedding.

On one side of the street, coiffed dignitaries quietly filed into First United Methodist Church.

On the other side, protesters held signs and chanted loudly.

About 200 people showed up in Williams Park to protest outside of the nuptials of Gov. Charlie Crist and Carole Rome.

The majority were from Impact Florida, a local grass-roots organization supporting marital rights for gay couples.

"This is why we're out here — marriage is a civil contract, not a religious contract," said John Newharth, 65, who drove from Palm Beach to attend the event. "We have to do something."

The gay protesters wore pink shirts and held signs that read "Best Wishes: Why Can't I?" and "Congrats Charlie From 2nd class Floridian."

Group members hoped to highlight what they consider the hypocrisy of Crist's marriage a month after the governor voted yes on Amendment 2, which changed the state's Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

They weren't the only ones hoping to make a statement at the wedding.

Anti-gay protester Larry Keffer marched throughout the crowd holding a sign that read "Homo Sex is Sin" and yelled to protesters, "You must repent, Jesus Christ is the only way."

At times tensions flared as Impact protesters clashed with Keffer.

What protesters hoped would be a largely silent protest was turned up several notches when members of the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement marched into the park, carrying an effigy of Crist wearing a jail suit.

The group was protesting the death of Javon Dawson, a 17-year-old shot by St. Petersburg police after a graduation party this summer.

As the married couple emerged from the church, Uhuru protesters repeatedly chanted, "Charlie Crist is a murderer" as the church bells rang.

Crist took the scene in stride.

"It's a great night for Florida, it's a great night for us. Free speech is alive and well," the groom said to the crowd outside the church.

Jennifer Liberto contributed to this report. Nicole Hutcheson can be reached at nhutcheson@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8828.

Gay protesters outside Crist's wedding: When can I get married? 12/12/08 [Last modified: Monday, December 15, 2008 12:50pm]
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