Gay marriage supporters in South Florida said the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional is a step in the right direction – and a call to action.
That’s because gay marriage is not recognized in the state of Florida, where voters approved a constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriages in 2008.
“We have to fight for equality in Florida, in the South, and in the states left behind by today’s ruling,” said Stratton Pollitzer, the deputy director of Equality Florida Inc.
In a landmark 5-4 decision Wednesday, the Supreme Court overturned DOMA. The law has blocked the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages in 12 states and the nation’s capital where they are legal.
“We waited a long time for this day and our country has taken a major step forward towards recognizes our families,” Pollitzer said.
Rallies were held in Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach Wednesday evening to celebrate the two victories for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and to promote change for Florida.
Outside the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, a cacophony of car horns blared in support of gay South Floridians like Hubert Allred – who was overcome by the action taken by the nation's highest court.
"I believe it's divine intervention from above," he said.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was among those who criticized the Supreme Court's decision overturning DOMA, saying it "made a serious mistake today when it overstepped its important, but limited role."
"I do not believe that President Clinton and overwhelming bipartisan majorities of both houses of Congress acted with malice or intent to 'demean' a class of people when they adopted a uniform definition of marriage for the purposes of federal law," Rubio said in a statement. "The court should not have second-guessed the will of the American people acting through their elected representatives without firm constitutional justifications. The sweeping language of today's majority opinion is more troubling than the ruling itself as it points to further interference by the court in the years to come."
Rubio called marriage "a unique historical institution best defined as the union between one man and one woman," and said he believes each state should decide its own definition of marriage.
Melanie Alenier had mixed feelings about the reversal of the Defense of Marriage Act.
“And while I was emotional, because it does give me hope to marry my partner of seven and a half years, until I can marry her in Florida, it also saddened me,” she said.
After adopting their son, now four and a half years old, Melanie took her partner Vanessa's last name – saying it's the closest thing they could do to be recognized as one unit. Vanessa Alenier was also feeling a little bittersweet about the historical day.
“I'm extremely excited for other states that they now how have the rights federally, but for us, we don't. We're left behind,” she said.
Damian McNamara and David Bloom have been together for 24 years and have two sons together. Still, they can't get married in Florida.
"I'm a little sad we're in Florida and we can't celebrate to the full extent that other people can in states where marriage is recognized fully," McNamara said. "But I'm optimistic."
In fact, their biggest supporters are their two kids – ages 10 and 14.
"I think in our kids minds, if we were married, that would make us more like other couples and in their mind that makes a big difference," Bloom said. "In my mind, it does make a difference as well."
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