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‘It’s about time’: Locals hail high court ruling on same-sex marriage

  • Barbara Walvoord, from left, J. Mary (JM) Sorrell, Carla Wirzburger, Judy Peck and Deanna Dunn celebrate the rulings of the Supreme Court on gay and lesbian rights Wednesday at Ibiza in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Barbara Walvoord, from left, J. Mary (JM) Sorrell, Carla Wirzburger, Judy Peck and Deanna Dunn celebrate the rulings of the Supreme Court on gay and lesbian rights Wednesday at Ibiza in Northampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • J. Mary (JM) Sorrell displays a shirt that reads "It's time for marriage equality" during a party Wednesday she organized to celebrate the Supreme Court rulings on gay and lesbian rights at Ibiza in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    J. Mary (JM) Sorrell displays a shirt that reads "It's time for marriage equality" during a party Wednesday she organized to celebrate the Supreme Court rulings on gay and lesbian rights at Ibiza in Northampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Matthias Leutrum, left, and his husband, Jan Stuart, celebrate the Supreme Court rulings on gay and lesbian rights Wednesday at Ibiza in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Matthias Leutrum, left, and his husband, Jan Stuart, celebrate the Supreme Court rulings on gay and lesbian rights Wednesday at Ibiza in Northampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Amanda Schark, left, and J. Mary (JM) Sorrell celebrate the rulings of the Supreme Court on gay and lesbian rights Wednesday at Ibiza in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Amanda Schark, left, and J. Mary (JM) Sorrell celebrate the rulings of the Supreme Court on gay and lesbian rights Wednesday at Ibiza in Northampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Barbara Walvoord, from left, J. Mary (JM) Sorrell, Carla Wirzburger, Judy Peck and Deanna Dunn celebrate the rulings of the Supreme Court on gay and lesbian rights Wednesday at Ibiza in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Barbara Walvoord, from left, J. Mary (JM) Sorrell, Carla Wirzburger, Judy Peck and Deanna Dunn celebrate the rulings of the Supreme Court on gay and lesbian rights Wednesday at Ibiza in Northampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • J. Mary (JM) Sorrell displays a shirt that reads "It's time for marriage equality" during a party Wednesday she organized to celebrate the Supreme Court rulings on gay and lesbian rights at Ibiza in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    J. Mary (JM) Sorrell displays a shirt that reads "It's time for marriage equality" during a party Wednesday she organized to celebrate the Supreme Court rulings on gay and lesbian rights at Ibiza in Northampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Matthias Leutrum, left, and his husband, Jan Stuart, celebrate the Supreme Court rulings on gay and lesbian rights Wednesday at Ibiza in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Matthias Leutrum, left, and his husband, Jan Stuart, celebrate the Supreme Court rulings on gay and lesbian rights Wednesday at Ibiza in Northampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Amanda Schark, left, and J. Mary (JM) Sorrell celebrate the rulings of the Supreme Court on gay and lesbian rights Wednesday at Ibiza in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Amanda Schark, left, and J. Mary (JM) Sorrell celebrate the rulings of the Supreme Court on gay and lesbian rights Wednesday at Ibiza in Northampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Barbara Walvoord, from left, J. Mary (JM) Sorrell, Carla Wirzburger, Judy Peck and Deanna Dunn celebrate the rulings of the Supreme Court on gay and lesbian rights Wednesday at Ibiza in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • J. Mary (JM) Sorrell displays a shirt that reads "It's time for marriage equality" during a party Wednesday she organized to celebrate the Supreme Court rulings on gay and lesbian rights at Ibiza in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Matthias Leutrum, left, and his husband, Jan Stuart, celebrate the Supreme Court rulings on gay and lesbian rights Wednesday at Ibiza in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Amanda Schark, left, and J. Mary (JM) Sorrell celebrate the rulings of the Supreme Court on gay and lesbian rights Wednesday at Ibiza in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Barbara Walvoord, from left, J. Mary (JM) Sorrell, Carla Wirzburger, Judy Peck and Deanna Dunn celebrate the rulings of the Supreme Court on gay and lesbian rights Wednesday at Ibiza in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • J. Mary (JM) Sorrell displays a shirt that reads "It's time for marriage equality" during a party Wednesday she organized to celebrate the Supreme Court rulings on gay and lesbian rights at Ibiza in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Matthias Leutrum, left, and his husband, Jan Stuart, celebrate the Supreme Court rulings on gay and lesbian rights Wednesday at Ibiza in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Amanda Schark, left, and J. Mary (JM) Sorrell celebrate the rulings of the Supreme Court on gay and lesbian rights Wednesday at Ibiza in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

“Finally, duh!” said the manager of Shelburne Falls Coffee Roasters in Hadley. “It was one of those moments. We’ve been waiting a long, long time.”

News of the court’s decision was welcomed by many other area residents as they went about their day, many of them echoing Grzegorzewski’s elation.

The ruling Wednesday morning extends federal benefits to all married couples in 13 states and the District of Columbia, including Massachusetts, regardless of gender or the state in which they were married. A related decision by the Supreme Court effectively makes same-sex marriage legal in California, but laws banning same-sex marriage in other states remain in place.

Grzegorzewski, 28, said he and his husband of five years, Justin, weren’t worried about the court upholding all of DOMA. He said he felt the decision to allow equal federal protections for all married couples would come in time, it was just a matter of when. Striking down part of DOMA seems like a natural next step in equal rights for all citizens, he said.

Irnina Orlovsky, 23, of Amherst, read the news online and saw it as a welcome change.

“It’s long overdue,” she said.

Orlovsky said other parts of the country may not see the ruling as obvious or overdue as many in western Massachusetts might, but said she believes acceptance is inevitable.

“So many states are pushing for (marriage equality), the masses are pushing for it,” she said.

Adam Fearing, 20, also of Amherst, said the ruling was welcome news, but he had a hard time reconciling why it took this long and required the Supreme Court to step in.

“I don’t know why it was such a problem,” he said.

Fearing said DOMA provisions that prohibited spouses from receiving death benefits or being able to visit their loved ones in hospitals seem obviously restrictive.

“It’s almost unthinkable,” he said.

He said those who oppose marriage equality may run the risk of looking as out of touch as people who supported racial segregation in the 1950s and ’60s did.

“How stupid will they look in 10 years?” he said.

‘It’s about time’

Kristina Powers, 46, of Conway, had been following the case and read the news online Wednesday morning.

“I thought it was great,” she said. Powers said she wasn’t sure which way the court would rule, but with public opinion turning toward acceptance, popular support may have ultimately influenced the ruling.

When told of the ruling, Margaret Holbrook, 65, of Easthampton, said it was “progress.” She said her sister-in-law has been in a same-sex marriage for many years.

“I think this (ruling) will further their cause, giving freedom to other people,” Holbrook said.

In Northampton, the common refrain heard from people working and shopping downtown was, “It’s about time.”

“I think it’s fantastic. About time,” said Jackie Brousseau-Pereira, 44, of Easthampton, outside Thornes Marketplace on Main Street. “After yesterday’s horrifying decisions, it was really nice that one went in a way that made sense,” she said, referring to Tuesday’s rollback of the Voting Rights Act.

“That’s awesome. That’s my reaction, two words. I was keeping my fingers crossed,” said David Mintz, 55, of Florence, when told about the decision.

Jody Doele, 50, of Northampton, said she couldn’t be happier.

“I think it’s validation that we’ve been doing the right thing up here in Massachusetts,” she said.

Jessica Joray was sitting on a bench near the Academy of Music bus stop when she heard the news and expressed delight.

“That’s awesome!” said the 28-year-old Amherst resident. “It’s about time.”

“Thirty years ago, 40 years ago, this would not have happened,” said Bob Fazzi, 66, of Florence. “Today, this is where we are. This is absolutely a reflection of the values of the majority of citizens. So I’m thrilled by it. Why would I not be thrilled by it?”

Fazzi said he was only disappointed in the 5-4 split between the Supreme Court justices.

“It was the right decision. I wish it was stronger,” he said.

Judicial context

Some reflected on the DOMA decision in the context of other Supreme Court decisions of the past few days, including Tuesday’s decision on the Voting Rights Act, in which the court threw out the requirement that states with a history of discrimination get federal permission before making changes in the way elections are held.

Stopping on his way past Thornes Marketplace, Michael Ford, 70, of Northampton, called the DOMA decision “long overdue.” He said was disappointed in the Voting Rights Act decision, but he saw the DOMA decision as consistent with its approach to equality.

“Even the strict constructionists have held in some cases that they’re going to focus on equality as equality,” he said. “Either you’re going to treat people equally or you’re not. What happened with voting rights is ... you’ve got to treat the states equally, you can’t give advantages to one group. So DOMA is not a surprise if you take that kind of view. What’s more surprising, I think, is that more of (the justices) didn’t join in” the majority opinion.

Daniel Rodriguez, 37, of Northampton, said he was happy with the DOMA ruling, though not surprised. He remained disappointed with the Voting Rights Act decision, however.

“After yesterday, you figure that today everyone will just forget about the cracking down on voting rights in the people’s happiness for the DOMA decision,” he said.

Elizabeth Wintheiser, 60, of Easthampton, said that after several questionable decisions, the Supreme Court got the decision on DOMA right.

She said she also recognized what the DOMA decision doesn’t change, namely, whether individual states are required to recognize same-sex marriages.

“The states have got to drop in line, and they will,” Wintheiser said.

Lamont Allen Jr., a 26-year-old gay man who lives in Amherst, viewed the decision as “just the tip of the iceberg.”

“It’s a step in the right direction,” he said on hearing about the decision while waiting for the bus outside the Northampton Post Office. “But we have a long way to go. ... We need to understand that the stigma behind (DOMA) is still there. So even though we’ve won this battle for gay equality, we need to understand that it’s bigger than that.”

Eloquent decision

In Easthampton and Southampton, passers-by were less inclined to comment publicly on the ruling and many expressed a combination of disappointment, happiness and apathy at the high court’s decision.

Easthampton Mayor Michael A. Tautznik was pleased with the ruling, which he said bodes well for the country as a whole.

“I think people should be free to engage with individuals as they wish,” said Tautznik while driving back from a mayors’ conference in New Bedford Wednesday afternoon. “I’m glad the Supreme Court has come around to seeing society in that way.”

He added, “It’s going to take the federal government out of our bedrooms.”

Easthampton City Council Vice President Joseph McCoy, who fought for same-sex marriage rights in Massachusetts years ago, said he was pleased not only with the decision, but also the way Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, which he described as eloquent.

“I think he (Kennedy) really understood it,” McCoy said. “I think it really hit the nail on the head. It was really terrific to read.”

McCoy, who is married to Stanley McCoy, said the ruling was nostalgic for him given the hard work that many area residents like him did in fighting for gay marriage rights in Massachusetts. To see civil rights move forward for those in same-sex marriages from the state level first in Massachusetts and then to the U.S. Supreme Court in less than a decade was gratifying, he said.

Several high-ranking state officials praised the ruling shortly after it was announced, including Attorney General Martha Coakley, who described the decision as “a victory for equality and civil rights for all.”

Coakley had filed a 2009 complaint highlighting some of the more than 1,100 federal rights, protections and benefits affected by the Defense of Marriage Act, including laws regulating Social Security benefits, health insurance, medical leave, veterans’ benefits and federal income tax.

“Think of the wife who can now take medical leave to care for the love of her life. And think of the people who will no longer be denied Social Security or other important, fundamental protections simply because they married someone they loved,” she said.

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