Amid the huge crowd gathered in front of the Supreme Court steps Wednesday, gay Republican Jay Norris gripped his American flag as he wiped away tears of joy after the announcement of the court's pro-gay marriage rulings.
"This meant everything to me. It just means I'm a real citizen today," he said, his voice trembling with emotion. "That I'm recognized. That not only do I fight for my country and pay my taxes, but the federal government has to recognize me as equal, and it's a big day."
Mr. Norris, who lives in New York with his partner of six years, said there are still complications to overcome but that the Supreme Court's decision to strike down part of the Defense of Marriage Act was the most important and relevant.
"I just want to say today, that I'm not gay, I'm not queer, I'm not an activist. I'm just an American and my country recognized that," Mr. Norris said.
Mr. Norris was part of the throng of gay-rights supporters outside the court building who broke into cheers when news came of the decision to strike down part of DOMA, which denied federal privileges to gay couples, and Proposition 8, California's ban on gay marriage.
"When you walk out on the steps and you see the ovation and the cheers from the crowd, even the boos, it's an amazing thing to be a part of," said high school teacher Jerry Skotleski, who was able to watch the deliberation.
Traditional marriage advocates — vastly outnumbered in the overwhelmingly pro-gay crowd outside — were disappointed in the day's rulings.
The Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, founder and chairman of the Anaheim, Calif.-based Traditional Values Coalition, said the overturning of Proposition 8, along with legislation such as California's Youth Equality Act (SB 323), is an example of the "deconstruction of the heterosexual ethic."
"The bill says transgenders born biologically as a boy, who took hormones and developed female breasts, can go into the girls locker and shower room as a so-called transgender," Mr. Sheldon said. "That's humiliation, and a loss of decency and modesty. It's lunatic."
Mr. Sheldon said he and members of his group took a lower profile Wednesday to avoid confrontations with pro-gay activists.
"We've had many, many unfortunate kinds of experiences. It can get very mean and rough," he said. "They protest in front of my house, they spray-paint my garage. One time, they attacked me on an airplane. We're not scared of them, but they're irrational. So we didn't bother with signs."
With the Supreme Court building as a backdrop, Rep. Tim Huelskamp, Kansas Republican, said he will introduce a federal marriage amendment this week in the House to protect traditional marriage.
"Here we have today five justices attempt to overrule the entire Congress. I think that's affront to our constitutional system," he said. "They alienated not only 7 million California voters, but 43 million voters across this country who voted for marriage amendments."
The Rev. Rob Schenck, president of the D.C.-based conservative religious group Faith and Action, said he was disappointed in the court's "meddling."
"The court hasn't seen the end of this, society has not seen the end of it, the church has certainly not seen the end of it. Look at Roe v. Wade. We're 40 years later, we're still in the thick of that controversy," he said. "We will still be here 40 years from now."
Other ministers disagreed and joined the crowd in enthusiastically applauding Wednesday's decisions.
"I want to show support for gay marriage," said the Rev. Erin Gingrich, a straight, married minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Reston.
Mrs. Gingrich said she refuses to sign marriage licenses for straight couples while gay marriage is illegal.
"I don't want to participate in a legal system that discriminates against gay and lesbian families," she said.
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