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Reactions To Gay-Marriage Rulings Run The Gamut


It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm David Greene.

While the number of Americans supporting same-sex marriage has gone up in recent years, the issue remains one that divides the country. So, as you can imagine, there were different reactions to the decisions from the Supreme Court yesterday. The Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, saying same-sex couples have the same right to federal benefits as heterosexual couples. The justices declined to rule on California's ban on same-sex marriage, clearing the way for gay marriages to resume there.

Let's hear some voices from around the country. Here's NPR's Richard Gonzales.


RICHARD GONZALES, BYLINE: The corner of Market and Castro Streets in San Francisco's predominantly gay Castro District has seen major celebrations before with pulsating rock rhythms and impromptu marching bands. But last night's gathering, a mash-up of political rally and street party, had a different feel - the feeling of jubilation and triumph.

Stuart Gaffney and his husband, John Lewis, drank it all in.

STUART GAFFNEY: It's really the most joyous feeling to experience justice surrounded by your friend's family and loved ones. That's actually what a wedding day is like.

GONZALES: And there were celebrations on a smaller scale far from San Francisco.


GONZALES: At Giovanni's Room, an LGBT bookstore in Philadelphia, 51-year-old Penny DeJesus dropped in to buy a new gay pride flag.

PENNY DEJESUS: Now, give me the big one. Give me the big flag.

GONZALES: Bookstore owner Ed Hermance opened his store in 1973. Those were very lean times, he says, because there wasn't much gay literature to sell. Hermance says it's different now and the High Court's decisions on DOMA and Prop 8 are emblematic.

ED HERMANCE: It's stunning how far we have come. And now, it seems like just - it's a groundswell that's really overwhelming.

GONZALES: But not everyone welcomed the news. In another Philadelphia neighborhood, Sherry Holt, visiting from Pittsburgh, was sitting inside the Independence Hall Visitor's Center. Under a 1996 Pennsylvania law, marriage is limited to heterosexual couples and that's how it should be, says Holt.

SHERRY HOLT: I believe marriage means between a man and a woman, so I would not be for their ruling. I know that they extended benefits to same-sex couples. I'm against that because I'm against same-sex couples.

GONZALES: And outside on Independence Mall, Martha Bochenko, said she thought the Supreme Court was wrong about DOMA.

MARTHA BOCHENKO: What the Bible says about marriage is one man and one woman, set it up a long time ago. And I feel that's still true. I don't think truth changes through the years.

GONZALES: But in another state, Tennessee, where voters banned same-sex marriage in 2006, Nashville divorce lawyer David Lyle was encouraged by the court's decisions. There are now 13 states that allow same-sex marriage. Lyle calls them the Free States.

DAVID LYLE: It's too bad that down here in Tennessee, we're living in an un-free state. And so, we will have to continue the battle.

GONZALES: Lyle is raising two daughters with his partner of 21 years. They were married in Canada seven years ago.

LYLE: Ever since we married, we have always introduced ourselves as husbands. I've always introduced Douglas as: This is my spouse. And so, when I do that, I'm aware that I'm asserting my right to marry. Sometimes you have to assert a right in order to possess it.

GONZALES: But Tennessee voters already asserted their right to ban same-sex marriage, says Jim Tracy, a Republican state senator.

STATE SEN. JIM TRACY: You know, I think it's a sad day in America when we - the institution of marriage is sacred, in my opinion. And now they shot it down. But I think it's going to give us more importance at the state level to make sure that marriage is between one man and one woman.

FRANK SCHUBERT: We're going to have an awakening in a lot of states that thought perhaps that this issue had been settled in their state some time ago.

GONZALES: Frank Schubert is the political director for the National Organization for Marriage in California. He says there will be more intense legal battles over same-sex marriage in the coming years.

SCHUBERT: And it's going to occur, I think, against this backdrop of a real threat - from the U.S. Supreme Court here - to impose same-sex marriage.

GONZALES: But for now, the energy is behind the celebrating supporters of same-sex marriage, who have won two legal battles that might have appeared so improbable just a few years ago.

Richard Gonzales, NPR News, San Francisco. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Richard Gonzales is NPR's National Desk Correspondent based in San Francisco. Along with covering the daily news of region, Gonzales' reporting has included medical marijuana, gay marriage, drive-by shootings, Jerry Brown, Willie Brown, the U.S. Ninth Circuit, the California State Supreme Court and any other legal, political, or social development occurring in Northern California relevant to the rest of the country.
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