Local Sane-Sex Couples Celebrate Rulings

ãMy heart wonât stop pounding,ä Sonoma resident Tim Church said as he processed the news at a neighborâs home minutes after the momentous decisions were made public.

ãItâs a good day. Itâs a very good day,ä said his host, Gary Saperstein, who opened his home to more than a dozen friends who hovered over laptops to get immediate word from the court.

Santa Rosa attorney Naomi Metz, already slated to fly to Washington on Thursday for a meeting of the national Gay and Lesbian Task Force, made a last-minute decision to travel Tuesday night so she could be at the court when the long-awaited decisions emerged.

The earlier flight meant she celebrated the news with her wife long-distance, by phone, but the chance to witness ãthis moment in historyä was too alluring, she said.

ãWhen it came out, the place just filled with tears ÷ tears and laughter and whoops of excitement,ä Metz said, still standing in front of the Supreme Court building. ãIt was amazing.ä

In a one-two punch, the nationâs highest court struck down a key provision in the federal Defense of Marriage Act that denied federal benefits to same-sex spouses.

The high court also paved the way for same-sex marriages to resume in California. It left in place a 2010 district court decision that found Proposition 8, the 2008 voter-approved ban on gay marriages, was unconstitutional.
Stu Harrison, who co-chaired Wine Country Says No on 8 five years ago, on Wednesday declared it finally ãdead.ä

ãItâs a momentous day,ä he said.

California Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris instructed all 58 counties to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples once Wednesdayâs ruling is finalized. The wait will be at least several weeks under rules that give the losing side 25 days to petition for a rarely-granted rehearing of the case.

Sonoma County Clerk Bill Rousseau said his office already had fielded multiple inquiries and online license applications from same-sex couples beginning about a week ago.

ãWeâre on hold for that,ä he said. ãWe canât start processing them until we get direction.ä

But Rousseau said he was anticipating extending hours at the clerkâs office, perhaps even to the weekends, depending on the pent-up demand for licenses.

J Mullineaux of Guerneville expects to be among those in line after he and his partner of 13 years ÷ not quite ready for marriage five years ago ÷ missed a chance to tie the knot during a roughly six-month window in 2008, between a California Supreme Court decision overturning a ban on gay marriage and the passage of Proposition 8. An estimated 18,000 same-sex couples were married during that time.

Mullineaux said he and his partner have regretted not joining them ever since.

With the court rulings Wednesday, ãboth of us just burst into tears,ä he said. ãIt was just incredible.ä

Sonoma State University Professor Don Romesburg, chairman of the Womenâs and Gender Studies Department, said he was struck by the language in Justice Anthony Kennedyâs DOMA opinion acknowledging that the lawâs second-tier status for same-sex marriages demeans gay and lesbian couples and humiliates their children.

ãThe stateâs recognition of us is a powerful and tangible way of telling the rest of society to treat us with fairness and dignity,ä said Romesburg, who is gay.

ãWe have twin 7-year-old boys,ä said Jill Cingolani, of Sonoma, who married her wife, Jenifer Cochran, on the day Proposition 8 was passed. ãIt even means more to us because itâs legitimizing our relationship in front of our children, which is huge.ä

The DOMA ruling should mean an end to the complication and expense of tax filing for same-sex couples. These couples can file jointly with the state but must file singly with the federal government, requiring duplicates, dummy federal forms, calls, questions and sometimes late fees, those interviewed said.

But it also means people like attorney MaryClare Lawrence, whose wife and partner of 36 years stayed home and raised their children while Lawrence practiced law, can receive full Social Security benefits should something happen to her wife.

National Park Ranger Bob Holloway said he will be relieved when he can put his husband, Tom Laughlin, on a family medical plan and know that all other rights of married citizens will apply to them.

ãWeâre just looking to be treated the same way,ä Holloway said. ãItâs all about the love. It all comes back to doing whatâs right with whoever you love and whoever you choose to be with.ä

Church, who was married in 2008 before passage of Proposition 8, said its approval by a 52 percent vote ãhurt me more than anything in the world.ä
ãWhen Prop. 8 passed, I cried. It was the first time in my life that I felt like a second-class citizen, and that hurt,ä he said.

ãAnd that being gone means the world to me.ä