NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Crowds rallied in the West Village on Wednesday, celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision striking down a provision of a federal law that denied federal benefits to gay married couples.
The Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, where a riot in 1969 sparked the gay rights movement, erupted in cheers and whooping when the court issued the 5-4 ruling finding a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.
Outside the Stonewall Tavern on Christopher Street – the very place where patrons rioted against a police raid and sparked the modern gay rights movement 44 years ago this Friday – the crowd went wild when DOMA plaintiff Edie Windsor came to the microphone.
“Because of today’s Supreme Court ruling, the federal government can no longer discriminate against the marriages of gay and lesbian (couples),” she said.
As 1010 WINS’ Holli Haerr reported, many said Windsor was an inspiration, and this was a day for history.
Ashley Louise and her girlfriend, Danielle Gerson, cried and passed a bottle of champagne. Louise said she felt like “a first-class citizen” now.
Mary Jo Kennedy, 58, was there with her wife, Jo-Ann Shain, 60, and their daughter, Aliya Shain, 25.
She came with a sign that could be flipped either way and was holding up the side that says “SCOTUS made our family legal”.
The DOMA provision kept legally married same-sex couples from receiving tax, health and pension benefits that go to married couples of the opposite sex.
As CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider reported, Cathy and Sheila Marino-Thomas were cheering in relief following decision. They married in Massachusetts in 2004, and have a 13-year-old daughter.
“It means tremendous that we are now equal. Equality — my family has fought for equality from the Civil Rights Movement. And now this civil rights movement, my family again is fighting for equality and they’ve won,” Sheila Marino-Thomas said.
Michael and Robert Sabatino got married in Canada 35 years ago, but have always lived in the U.S.
“It means that I am finally considered a citizen in this country,” Michael Sabatino said. “I have equal rights and I am protected under the Constitution. I was not before.”
Now, they are relieved that their marriage will be recognized by the U.S. government.
“It also sends a message to people who are not tolerant of us that we need to be respected as citizens,” Robert Sabatino said. “That we’re no different than any other citizen, and we’re equal.”
Also Wednesday evening, same-sex couples from multiple states rushed to the New York City clerk’s office to get their marriage licenses, according to a published report.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg also spoke in support of the ruling, saying the high court’s ruling “brings us another step forward in the march of freedom.”
“Generation after generation has removed barriers to full participation in the American dream, with each generation helping our country take another step on the road to a more perfect union for all citizens,” Bloomberg said in a statement.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn called the decision “a great victory for the LGBT community, for all Americans and for the dream our nation’s founders had when they first wrote that we are all created equal.”
“We believe that everyone has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — and that means the right to love, to build a life and a home and a family,” she said in a statement.
Quinn, who’s openly gay, said she text messaged her wife, Kim, when the Supreme Court’s ruling came down.
Speaking in the Red Room at City Hall, Quinn choked up and wiped tears away at times when she spoke about the decision and Windsor.
“She has changed the world and put us in a situation where we now have the march for marriage equality in every state in the union. We will move forward in that march with the wind at our back, with an affirmation from the Supreme Court,” said Quinn. “When our founding fathers said we were all created equal, they may not have actually meant it at that moment in time, those individuals. But they put us on a path that’s going to get us there as a country.”
Quinn said the importance of the ruling can’t be understated for gay Americans.
“All of our hopes and dreams came true at the Supreme Court today,” she said.
Other lawmakers joined in at the press conference speaking out in support of the Supreme Court’s decision.
“This morning, my husband and I laid in bed together and watched a computer and watched a blog to see whether or not today would be the day that I am recognized as a full American. And I am,” openly gay Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell said.
The challenge to DOMA was filed by 84-year-old New Yorker Edith Windsor, who sued the federal government after she was forced to pay $363,000 in estate taxes when her partner of 44 years, Thea Spyer, died in 2009.
Windsor would have paid nothing in inheritance taxes if she had been married to a man.
Windsor’s lawyer said because of Wednesday’s ruling, her client will get the back full amount of the estate taxes she paid plus interest.
“I’m honored and humbled and overjoyed to be here today to represent not only the thousands of Americans whose lives have been adversely impacted by the Defense of Marriage Act, but those whose hopes and dreams have been constricted by the same discriminatory law,” she said after the ruling Wednesday.
A crowd of supporters chanted Windsor’s name as she delivered her remarks on the ruling from West 13th Street in Greenwich Village on Wednesday afternoon.
“I thought we had every right to win, I thought our arguments were sound and everyone else’s were insane,” Windsor said.
She said she wrote three versions of her speech and cried when she learned she could read what she deemed the right one.
“It makes me feel incredibly proud. Incredibly proud and humbled,” Windsor told supporters.
“Because of her strength and courage, no gay person will ever again have to suffer the indignity that Edie experienced because of DOMA,” Windsor’s attorney Roberta Kaplan said.
Windsor said she became an accidental historic figure because of the lawsuit.
“If I had to survive Thea, what a glorious way to do it and she would be so pleased,” Windsor said. “The beginning of the end of stigma, of lying about who we are, of a different level of dignity than we’ve had.”
The court also cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California by ruling against defenders of a gay marriage ban there.
A federal appeals court says it will wait at least 25 days before allowing gay marriages to resume in California.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Wednesday that it will take at least that long for the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to become official.
The San Francisco-based court said it may continue to bar gay marriages even beyond that if proponents of Proposition 8, the state’s gay marriage ban, ask for a rehearing.
The Supreme Court refused Wednesday to rule on Proposition 8.
Massachusetts was the first state to allow gay couples to marry, in 2004. The other 11 are Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the high court’s decisions “groundbreaking civil rights victories.”
“It is my hope that today’s breakthrough decisions will propel our nation forward and finally allow all Americans to be granted the same rights and protections under the law,” he said in a statement.
Conn. Gov. Dannel Malloy said while Connecticut has recognized same-sex marriage since 2008, DOMA prevented the legally married couples from being recognized by the U.S. government.
“Having two different sets of laws for people based solely on their gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity is wrong and that’s exactly what the Supreme Court recognized today,” Malloy said in a statement. “Simply put, today’s ruling comes down to equality, and when equality wins, we all win.”
In New Jersey, Newark Mayor Cory Booker urged lawmakers to pass same-sex marriage legislation in the Garden State. New Jersey has civil unions that offer gay couples legal rights but does not recognize gay marriages.
“Now that the Supreme Court has struck down DOMA, New Jersey’s Civil Union law is plainly substantive discrimination that deprives New Jersey’s gay couples of more than 1,100 federal rights, privileges and benefits afforded to married couples,” he said.
Seven gay couples and several of their children are suing in New Jersey, claiming that the civil unions are discriminatory because they’re not widely understood and create a separate-but-equal relationship status for gays.
The decision on same-sex marriage rights is not cut-and-dry. It largely leaves the question of whether states pass gay marriage laws to local officials.
“In one sense, it’s a little bit mixed – what they’re saying it, those states, which are very few, that allow gay marriage, what they’re basically saying is – now they’re entitled to federal benefits. OK, fine,” said Catholic League president William Donohue. “The larger question is this – do states have the right to say we don’t want gay marriage? That is still on the table.”
The National Organization for Marriage reacted to the rulings with “dismay and outrage” and condemned those who ruled to overturn DOMA.
“There is a stench coming from this case that has now stained the Supreme Court. They’ve allowed corrupt politicians and judges to betray the voters, rewarding them for their betrayal. It’s an illegitimate decision,” said National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown. “We and millions of other Americans will refuse to accept this rogue decision rewarding corruption.”
One Jewish group, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, also spoke out against the decision.
“Our religion is emphatic in defining marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. Our beliefs in this regard are unalterable,” the statement said. “At the same time, we note that Judaism teaches respect for others and we condemn discrimination against individuals.”
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