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The U.S. Supreme Court issued a pair of historic rulings on Wednesday concerning marriage in the country and whether same-sex couples should have the same rights as others.
In their first ruling, justices voted 5 to 4 that portions of the 17-year-old Defense of Marriage Act, which had denied certain federal tax, health and pension benefits to same-sex partners, were unconstitutional. The other opinion upheld a lower court ruling from California, which had declared a statewide ballot issue banning gay marriage, to be unconstitutional as well.
Local gay marriage advocates said while they have been waiting a long time for the decisions, the Supreme Court rulings on Wednesday are not the end of the story and a lot more needs to be done to guarantee marriage equality for all.
Anita Davis, a Youngstown police officer, co-founded the Pride Youngstown organization five years ago.
“Youngstown doesn’t even have that language in its charter in terms of protection in the workplace, so we do have a lot of work to do,” Davis said.
She said while Wednesday’s rulings are a significant step in the right direction, they do nothing to change the bans on gay marriage that are still in effect in Ohio, Pennsylvania and many other states.
“This is a huge step, but it’s not the end, because still here in Ohio, my partner and I could not be married,” Davis said. “I wished it had been even more breathtaking, more broadly interpreted on behalf of marriage equality. But I’m really so happy for those in other states. And we’ll have it in Ohio soon.”
John Vivo, who has operated a flower shop on Youngstown’s South Side for almost 40 years, is also secretary for the Mahoning County Democratic Party.
“Well, I think it’s the greatest thing that could happen. And it’s about time that the American people are putting pressure in on their elected officials to show it’s time for everything to be changed. It’s just that time. It’s happening,” Vivo said.
He said while today’s rulings are a significant step in the right direction, elected leaders at the local, state and federal levels now need to come up with language guaranteeing the same benefits for same-sex couples as others have.
“Next year, we have a governor’s race. And that is going to be an important issue in the state of Ohio, what the governor decides to do or not to do,” Vivo said.
On the other side of the argument, people like Chuck Dorsey claim now is the time for opponents to make their views known.
“I am against it. I’d like to see more pastors and more churches in the area taking a stand ’cause if the church doesn’t take a Christian stand on this, naturally this stuff is going to be passed,” Dorsey said.
Two Youngstown State University students witnessed the Supreme Court’s historic decisions first hand.
Melissa Wasser and Sean Varsho joined about 100 other people who got tickets to sit in the gallery as the Justices read their opinions. The two students got to Washington, D.C., around 10 p.m. Tuesday and waited in line overnight, even braving a thunderstorm. They said the wait was worth it.
“As soon as he said DOMA violated the Constitution, I actually started crying. It’s really nice to see that there was a happy ending and there was some resolution to it,” Wasser said.
“My entire row just started crying when they announced it. They had to keep it down because there were marshals walking around. If you make any noise, they’ll kick you out. So a kind of suprresed joy, but you could feel the emotion in the air,” Varsho said.
Wasser and Varsho witnessed the oral arguments in the cases earlier this spring.