'Cheers and tears' on LI over DOMA Supreme Court decision

Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional is considered a major victory for gay rights, and residents of Long Island and New York City weigh in on the decision. Videojournalists: Elise Apelian and Jessica Rotkiewicz (June 26, 2013)

Hundreds of same-sex marriage supporters on Long Island and in New York City celebrated Wednesday -- some shedding tears of joy, others placing urgent calls to loved ones -- as word spread of the U.S. Supreme Court's decisions.

"Today is history," proclaimed David Kilmnick, chief executive of the Long Island GLBT Community Center. "Today's decisions are history giving us full equality under the law."

The decisions, striking down a key provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and refusing to intervene in a case invalidating a California statute barring same-sex marriage, set off "cheers and tears" at the center in Garden City, he said.

"This is saying that gay and lesbian Americans should be equal no matter what, and that goes beyond marriage," Kilmnick said.

Another celebration erupted Wednesday night on the New York City block where the gay-rights movement was born. Supporters greeted each other with hugs as dance music blasted at Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village.

Ashley Gorfine, 33, of Brooklyn, married her partner, Jessica, in December. They didn't know what to expect from the high court.

"We cried because we are married and it affects us," Ashley Gorfine said. "My whole family cried."

The DOMA decision should clear the way for same-sex couples in New York to become eligible for federal marriage benefits ranging from tax deductions to health care coverage and immigration rights.

West Babylon residents Kerrie O'Neill and Anya Flannery saw the ruling as an auspicious sign for their wedding, set for Sept. 7 in Eastport.

"It's really been a gift to see all this progress," said O'Neill, 37. "Somebody is smiling on us and our community."

For Edwin Blesch and Tim Smulian of Orient, the ruling means their 2007 marriage in Smulian's native South Africa will finally be recognized for a visa petition.

Their application was "prepared and going in the mail" Thursday, said Blesch, 72.

"It's been 14 years since we have been trying to have a normal life. Now we can plan for the future instead of feeling imprisoned," he said.

Chris Boudewyns, 46, a stay-at-home dad in Manhattan, called the decision "a step in the right direction" and hoped it would ease adoption rules.

Boudewyns and Carl Byrd, an advertising agency owner, have a 3-year-old daughter, Harper, whom Boudewyns had to adopt as the sole parent in Kansas.

"If something happened to me during that time," Boudewyns said, "our daughter would have gone into the foster care system."

Byrd finally completed a second-parent adoption in New York, where they wed last year.

Opponents of same-sex marriage were disappointed.

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), who voted for DOMA, disagreed with the court striking down a law that "had passed by an overwhelming majority."

Michael Long, chairman of the Conservative Party of New York State, said the Supreme Court is turning same-sex marriage into a states' rights issue. "It will create a lot of chaos. . . . If you live in a state that doesn't recognize same-sex marriages, you can't get federal benefits."

New York's law approving the unions in 2011, he said, "did a great disservice . . . to the culture of marriage between a man and a woman."

Marriage equality supporters hailed the decisions using social media. Democratic New York Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand chimed in. So did Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. President Barack Obama called it "a historic step forward."

One of the most popular hashtags used in tweets by supporters summed up their thinking: #LoveIsLove.

With Ivan Pereira, Sheila Anne Feeney and Dan Rivoli

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Newsday on social media

@Newsday

advertisement | advertise on newsday