LGBT New Yorkers elated over Supreme Court DOMA ruling
Gay and lesbian New Yorkers citywide erupted with joy Wednesday after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, effectively ending the 17-year-old law that denied same-sex married couples the federal rights and privileges of heterosexual married couples.
"We cried," said Ashley Gorfine, 33, who married her partner Jessica in December.
"My whole family cried. I thought that it was going to get defeated but I was still nervous," Gorfine said. "Now I know that no matter what happens to me, will get my Social Security."
"This gives us that extra legitimacy we need," said Kelly Herbert, who heads the Pace University LGBTQA & Social Justice Center. "It's hard to sign up for a wedding if you're not sure how it will work."
In a 5-4 majority, the Supreme Court ruled against DOMA, a move that will immediately give all same-sex married couples the same rights as heterosexual married couples, including tax, military and income benefits and rights. The Court did not, however, rule on California's Proposition 8, saying that due to a technicality in the process the Court was powerless to decide on it.
Michael Stutman, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, said the DOMA decision was a no-brainer.
"No surprise," he said.
Indeed, for some same-sex couples in New York, Wednesday's ruling was still a monumental victory.
Chris Boudewyns, a 46-year-old stay-at-home dad, lives in the Financial District with his husband Carl Byrd and their 3-year-old daughter. He said that the DOMA's demise will help clean up some of the redundancy and complicated aspects of the IRS tax code under the old law.
"This is definitely a step in the right direction," Boudewyns said. "But the battle for equality isn't yet won, because so many states don't recognize gay marriage"
Boudewyns said he hopes the ruling will also trickle down to adoption laws that are friendlier to same sex couples. He and Byrd adopted their daughter in Kansas, which only allows one-parent adoptions, so had Boudewyns died, their daughter would've gone into foster care.
"Even though Carl had raised her, he was not her legal parent," he said. (The couple later completed a second-parent adoption in New York for about $5,000, and their daughter was the flower girl at their marriage last year.)
Still, not all New Yorkers were pleased with the Supreme Court.
Mike Long, head of the New York State Conservative Party, said he fears people will try to "game the system" to take advantage of federal benefits for same-sex couples.
"The real problem is it's going to cost tax payers a lot of money," he said. "Now we're talking about federal benefits for same-sex couples."
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops added that the Court simply "got it wrong."
"The federal government ought to respect the truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, even where states fail to do so," the Conference said. "The common good of all, especially our children, depends upon a society that strives to uphold the truth of marriage. Now is the time to redouble our efforts in witness to this truth."
But for some New York families, the ruling just made good common sense.
"This levels the playing field for parents," said Estevan Garcia, 44, who is married to William Sherr and has three kids.
"States that don't recognize gay marriage really need to be looking at their messaging," he said. "An entire class of citizens has been given equality that wasn't there before. It's really a huge day for many of us."
(With Sheila Anne Feeney, Dan Rivoli and Ivan Pereira)