Landmark day: Honk if you support gay rights
A torrential storm could not dampen the celebration in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's historic June 26 decision that affects gay marriage rights. More that two dozen rainbow-flag-waving people gathered in front of the U.S. District Court on the corner of Ridge-McIntire and were greeted by beeps of support from the rush-hour traffic.
The high court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act's denial of benefits to legally married same-sex couples and upheld a lower-court ruling that California's Proposition 8, which bans gay marriage, was unconstitutional.
"I'm in shock," says Lisa Green, vice president of Charlottesville Pride. "I didn't expect [DOMA] to be struck down as unconstitutional. I thought it would be watered down."
Attorney Andre Hakes, who traditionally goes to the Charlottesville Circuit Court Clerk's Office on Valentine's Day to seek— unsuccessfully— a marriage license, was heartened by the ruling. "There's lots of language on 'equal protection,'" she says.
As for her being able to marry in Virginia, says Hakes, "I think it will be a few more years."
Reaction from Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's office, which filed a brief in support of Prop. 8, confirms that. "Today, the court’s two decisions on marriage make clear that the rulings have no effect on the Virginia Marriage Amendment or to any other Virginia law related to marriage," says Cuccinelli spokesperson Brian Gottstein. "Consistent with the duties of the attorney general, this office will continue to defend challenges to the constitution and the laws of Virginia."
GOP attorney general candidate Mark Obenshain echoes the pledge to defend Virginia's marriage-is-between-a-man-and-a-woman constitutional amendment, and points out that his Dem opponent, Mark Herring, also voted for the amendment in 2006. Herring has since reversed his support for denying gays the option of marriage in Virginia, and issued a statement of support for the Supreme Court ruling.
Neither Republican candidate appears open to the advice of political pundit Larry Sabato, who tweeted after the Supreme Court decision was released: "If R[epublican]s are smart, they'll accept SCOTUS DOMA decision. Anti-gay rights is a TOTAL loser for GOP, sending young to D[emocrat]s."
The mood was definitely joyful in front of the federal courthouse, where even a passing police officer gave a thumbs up to the rallyers. "It's been an emotional day," says Green, "when you live your life thinking you're a second-class citizen and then you find you have the support of your community— even if it's a honk..."
Updated June 27.
Correction June 28: Proposition 8 had too many digits in the original version.