SAN FRANCISCO – Gays and lesbians across the United States erupted in celebration Wednesday after the Supreme Court passed two landmark rulings on same-sex marriage in their favor.
Large crowds gathered for an evening celebration in New York’s Greenwich Village after a day of euphoria following the top US court’s decisions, announced to an explosion of joy in Washington DC.
In San Francisco, which has one of the biggest gay communities in the country, more than 400 people had gathered at City Hall for the announcements, made early in the morning West Coast time.
Dressed in a full-length white wedding dress, Jenni Chang kissed her partner of five years, Lisa Dazols, when the rulings — which include lifting a same-sex marriage ban in California — were announced.
“We’ll get married now. We’re going today. It feels amazing that our government supports us,” said Dazols, wearing a purple tie and black vest and slacks.
When the first ruling was announced, overturning the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the crowds exploded in cheers, stamped their feet and couples threw their arms up in the air together.
“It feels good to see love triumph over ignorance, and that began here in San Francisco,” said Mayor Ed Lee.
A crowd of same-sex marriage supporters that gathered under brilliant sunshine outside the US Supreme Court in Washington also burst into cheers when they heard the rulings.
Washington lawyer Alex Kaplan, 33, kissed his 45-year-old French partner Olivier Basdevant when the DOMA ruling was announced. “It’s a dream come true — it will have a profound effect on our family,” said Kaplan.
The couple was especially happy, because the ruling will allow Kaplan to sponsor Basdevant for a US green card to stay in country permanently.
Amanda Werner, a 24-year-old bisexual law student, said she traveled from California to Washington to be present for the ruling. “To see (DOMA) dismissed is a great feeling. It is such a great outcome for us. It was time,” she said.
In New York, Edie Windsor, the 84-year-old lesbian widow whose legal challenge led to Wednesday’s ruling, was applauded by celebrants at Stonewall Inn, the focal point of a seminal 1969 clash between gays and police.
“To all the people, thank you, thank you, thank you,” she told a crowd gathered in Greenwich Village that waved banners with messages such as “All Love is Equal.”
Christine Quinn, speaker of New York City Council, paid tribute. “It’s two New York City lesbians who brought DOMA down,” she said. “We are just as good, we are just as important, we are just as American as anybody else.”
The Supreme Court also said a case on Proposition 8, a 2008 voter initiative in California that prohibited same-sex marriage in the nation’s most populous state, was not properly brought before them.
That 5-4 decision — which indicates that gay marriages will soon resume in California — enabled the justices to dodge the thornier issue of whether same-sex marriage is a constitutional right throughout the United States.
California briefly allowed same-sex marriages in 2008 before the Proposition 8 ban.
Governor Jerry Brown ordered local officials to resume issuing marriage licenses to gay couples as soon as possible, a process that could take at nearly a month.
“After years of struggle, the US Supreme Court today has made same-sex marriage a reality in California,” Brown said, adding that gay couples will only be able to marry once the stay of a lower court injunction is lifted.
Celebrations were especially raucous late Wednesday in San Francisco’s Castro district, one of the country’s first gay neighborhoods.
Men and women in flamboyant costumes danced to music blaring from giant loudspeakers in a packed two-block section of the district.
The crowd included people waving rainbow and US flags, and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a group of activist gay men dressed in drag like nuns.
Among the celebrants were Julie and Mindy Kendall, 64 and 55, a lesbian couple who had been together for 28 years and married in 2004, and again in 2008. The couple said they were on the committee that created the rainbow gay pride flag 45 years ago.
“We are not second class citizens,” said Mindy Kendall. “Our civil rights aren’t up for vote,” added Julie Kendall, an elementary school teacher.
Also among the revelers was Arthur Slepian, 58, a former president of the Sha’ar Zahav, a nearby Jewish temple founded by four gay men in 1977.
“Back then, people wanted a place to be Jewish and gay, and be themselves,” said Slepian.
“Our rabbi has performed lots of marriages for same sex couples, whether it was legal or not. I imagine he’ll be performing a lot more now.”