MIAMI (CBS4) – Supporters of same-sex marriage rejoiced throughout South Florida Wednesday and celebrated two major rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court.
When the rulings were released, cheers erupted Wednesday morning at the Save Dade headquarters after hearing the U.S. Supreme Court had declared the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional.
“It wasn’t just the activists that this work culminated today, but it was also the conversations that took place around the kitchen tables across this country. Those are the folks that are not going to make the headlines,” said Save Dade’s CJ Ortuno.
At an afternoon rally in downtown Fort Lauderdale, dozens of supporters and organizers from Equality Florida gathered to soak in the moment. Bill Huelsman and Terry Decarlo have been together for 17 years and were married last year in New York.
“Today opened up a whole new world,” Decarlo told CBS 4’s Carey Codd. “Now the federal government recognizes this man as my husband.”
Mary Maguire, whose been with her partner for 51 years, say they will go to another state to get married and be able to enjoy hundreds of federal benefits just like heterosexual couples do.
“This is a tremendous, wonderful thing to happen to people and we want to show the communities that we can have stable relationships,” Maguire said.
Jessie Walters and his partner became quite emotional over the ruling.
“I think because we are older, I don’t think the younger people realize what this means. You never thought that we would see this day come,” said Walters.
They will now be entitled to receive the federal benefits they’ve been denied for decades.
“Social Security, Medicare, inheritance, you know pensions. There are so many ramifications in the way we are treated differently,” said Juan Talavera.
“My partner and I have been together for 25 years and we are raising a daughter and to live in a world where she can have married parents, it’s very special. It’s a great day. She’ll grow up in a different world than we did,” said David Troutman.
How different is unclear. There are 1,100 federal benefits for things like Social Security, taxes and immigration.
“There is no uniform rule in the federal government as to whether or not you are married,” said LGBT policy strategist Daniel Tilley. “So for some federal programs the federal government looks to where you got married, the place of celebration. Other federal programs look to the place where you live.”
But the High Court decision appears to only apply to couples married in states where same sex marriages are recognized. Governor Rick Scott says he will continue Florida’s ban on same sex marriage.
“In 2008 Florida voters amended our constitution and said that we are a traditional marriage state,” Scott told reporters. “That marriage is between a man and a woman. As Governor of the state I’ll uphold the existing law of the land.”
Supporters of same sex marriage say they’ll work to change that.
“Today was one step forward and we keep taking that one step forward and one day there’ll be no more steps to take,” Decarlo said. “We’ll be there.”
Opponents of same-sex marriage believe the ruling on DOMA won’t change much.
“What it did was merely hold that the federal government must respect the state’s definition of marriage, even when those definitions are bastardized or distorted by ideological extremists,” said Florida Democratic League Chairman Dr. Eladio Armesto, an opponent of same-sex marriage. “For citizens of the State of Florida it means absolutely no change whatsoever.”
Supporters believe more change is coming.
“Florida may continue to get away with discrimination but as the result of the wonderful victory that we won today in the Supreme Court the federal government will not be able to,” said Howard Simon, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.
Some would call that a victory, others would not.
“It could not be a better day,” said Talavera.
“Well it could be a better day but we are not going to quibble right now,” chimed in Jeff Ronsci.
Also changing Wednesday is the number of states which recognize same sex marriage. The Supreme Court has dismissed a California case which banned gay marriage. The Golden State now becomes the 12 state, along with the District of Columbia, to recognize same sex marriage.