Supreme Court ruling affects Maryland, Carroll residents

Over and over again, for two weeks straight, Stephanie Gerber hit a button on her computer.
Refresh, refresh, refresh.
She was anxious. She was waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on the Defense of Marriage Act, waiting to see if her upcoming marriage in September would be legal in the eyes of the federal government.
At 10:06 a.m. Wednesday, her phone rang.
"They just turned over DOMA," her fiancee, Alison Reppert's voice said on the other end of the line.
She'd heard the news on NPR. The Supreme Court's ruling on DOMA had been released on the last day of the court's term. The two Westminster residents' upcoming September marriage would have the full force of federal law behind it. They'd be guaranteed 1,138 protections and responsibilities in Washington, D.C., and 13 other states, according to Equality Maryland.
They'd be married regionally and federally.
"Today's awesome," Gerber said. "Today's really big."
The decision was a narrow one, a 5 to 4 vote. The highest court in America allowed states to keep the right to decide whether same-sex marriage was legal. But for those states that do, the Defense of Marriage Act, a bipartisan bill passed and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996, does not apply.
"[DOMA] imposes a disability on the class by refusing to acknowledge a status the State finds to be dignified and proper," the opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy states.
Additionally, the court dismissed the case on California's Proposition 8, effectively allowing same-sex marriage to stay in the most populated state.
As the majority and dissenting opinions were released Wednesday, officials, lawmakers and other players in the debate released a wave of statements.
"I applaud the Supreme Court's decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act," President Barack Obama said in a statement. "This was discrimination enshrined in law. It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people."
He directed the Attorney General to work with the cabinet to ensure federal benefits and other obligations are implemented "swiftly and smoothly."
Maryland Family Alliance President Derek McCoy disagreed in its statement: "Today's ambiguous decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court do not settle the issue of marriage. Regardless of well-funded campaigns across the nation to convince Americans that the definition of marriage is up for debate, one fact remains unchangeable. The special, distinct and unique relationship between one man and one woman is the fundamental building block of humanity."
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who led the charge for same-sex marriage in the state, lauded the decision: "This ruling is a powerful step forward for those who live in states like Maryland. But the Court's decisions make clear that there is still more work to do as a nation to achieve greater respect for the equal rights and human dignity of all."
A year ago, this ruling wouldn't have applied to Maryland. A year ago, activists on both side of the issue were gearing up for it to be put to a public vote in the November 2012 election.
In Carroll, members of the county's chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays spent hours around the county, holding signs above the Md. 140 overpass over Md. 27 or outside of polling booths advocating for the cause.
The Supreme Court's ruling further substantiated that work, Judy Gaver, PFLAG Carroll County chapter member, said.
"It's a whole lot more than the icing on the cake," she said.
But in Carroll, 56 percent of residents didn't vote for same-sex marriage, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections 2012 results.
And in February, the Carroll County Board of Commissioners issued its annual Marriage Week Proclamation, which supported marriage as being between a man and a woman.
"Marriage is not just another lifestyle choice but the foundation of healthy families and a healthy future for America," the proclamation stated.
Others, like Carroll resident June Horner, cried tears of joy, overwhelmed that her son and many others could get married in Maryland and have the federal government recognize the union.
"I felt [like] when you're a kid, and it's the day before Christmas and oh my golly, oh my golly," Horner, a PFLAG Carroll County chapter member, said. "It's just so gratifying that society is getting it and that the changes that are happening are happening so rapidly. And it's such a good change. And I'm just thankful and delighted."
At the beginning of the week, as the Supreme Court's term was nearing its end, it was a guessing game as to when the decision would come down. Tuesday morning came without one, and the Supreme Court announced it would release its opinions at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Many gathered at the courthouse in Washington, D.C., waiting.
Gaver, a Carroll resident, was among the crowd, standing behind a gaggle of reporters and cameras and microphones - as close to the courthouse as possible.
Suddenly, a young man started running around, taking off his T-shirt, exposing a tanktop that read "Legalize Gay." He started screaming, "DOMA's dead, DOMA's dead, DOMA's dead," and that's how Gaver knew that the law had been overturned.
"I'm so glad that I got to be there because that's a historic occasion," Gaver said. "That's going to happen once in a lifetime, to be down there, to be a part of it, to know that some many people can be their authentic selves and be legally allowed to have so many rights and privileges that so many people have."
Yet, the fight is not over. There's still more to be done, Horner said.
"We need to keep working," she said, "so we have full marriage equality in the entire United States."

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