Two historic decisions on same-sex marriage Wednesday. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to rule on California's Proposition 8, opening the door to same-sex marriage to resume in that state. And the high court struck down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act.
In the 12 states where same-sex marriage is legal, married same-sex couples will now get the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples, like inheritance, pension and Social Security benefits, and health care insurance benefits. Same-sex couples can also file federal income taxes jointly and spouses who are from outside the U.S. will get the immigration benefits that come with marriage.
The ruling drew swift reaction from both sides. Supporters and opponents were on edge waiting for the decision Wednesday. And at 10 a.m. the Supreme Court issued its 5-4 ruling, striking down part of DOMA as unconstitutional.
"I'm sick to my stomach. I'm going to cry again," said Barbara Dozetos of Burlington.
Nerves at RU12? in Burlington as people waited for the U.S. Supreme Court decision on DOMA. RU12? supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Vermonters.
Then a rush of emotion as the group learned the high court overturned DOMA, paving the way for federal benefits for married same-sex couples.
"It's changed so many lives. This five minutes has changed so many lives," Dozetos said.
The ruling will change the lives of Jeff Towsley and Mike Bond. They have been together 29 years and got married in Vermont in 2009.
"That was one of the things this morning when it was struck down-- I am equal to you," Towsley said.
Towsley is a federal employee. The ruling means he and Bond can share health, retirement and death benefits. It also allows family sick time to take care of each other. And they can file a joint federal tax return, potentially saving hundreds of dollars.
It's a long way from the 1980s when Bond said he received death threats for marching in Burlington's first gay pride parade.
"Things have changed so much and I'm grateful it was very emotional," Bond said.
"And in the court of public opinion, too. It's got to do with we've lived a pretty open life," Towsley said.
"If you are a person looking for a swift conclusion to the debate over same-sex marriage, you didn't get that," said Craig Bensen of Let Vermont Vote.
Bensen has fought gay marriage for decades. He says the fight will now turn to the 38 states without legalized same-sex marriage.
"Marriage is the foundational building block of society," Bensen said. "If you start messing with the foundation, you can't be sure what will happen to the structure further up."
That is one thing both sides do agree on-- there will be a lot of legal wrangling over what happens in those 38 states that don't have same-sex marriage. DOMA still allows states to enact their own laws banning same-sex marriage. So, if a couple is married in state where it is allowed and moves to a state where it is banned, they could potentially get federal benefits, but no state benefits. Again, that question will be where the legal fight moves now.
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