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Raleigh Gay Rights Activists Welcome Supreme Court Ruling

A man waves a flag in support of gay rights in front of the Supreme Court building.
Victoria Pickering via Flickr, Creative Commons

Yesterday's ruling on same sex marriage by the US Supreme Court does not open the door for gay marriages in North Carolina. The court ruled individual states can continue to decide whether they will allow same sex marriage. Last year, voters in North Carolina added Amendment One to the state constitution defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

So, while gay rights activists across the country celebrated the rulings this week, the gay community in North Carolina faced a different scenario – they're happy for gays across the country, but still can’t get married in their home state.

At the LGBT Center of Raleigh Wednesday, happiness was tempered with some disappointment, and hope. It’s important to note that, on top of experiencing a day of mixed emotions, the sheer act of throwing a Supreme Court watch party is a tricky thing. If you’re watching a sports game, or an awards show, you know definitively the EXACT moment when your side wins. And then you dance and you drink, and you party.

But when the big event is the reading of a really long legal document, it’s harder.

“It’s gonna be a lot of interpretation,” said James Miller that Wednesday morning. Miller is the Executive Director of the LGBT Center of Raleigh, and he explained how the morning’s event would run. “We’re able to follow it on SCOTUS blog.” We have it streaming towards our center’s TV and so we watch it from there.”

SCOTUS stands for Supreme Court of the United States. The entire party was a gathering to watch a law blog. No looking for a final score or a closing shot, or an opening envelope. Just checking for legalese:

“Held, or denied standing,” said Miller. “Certain phrases like that will give us a good understanding of where the court is going with it.”

At the event, some also monitored Twitter and Facebook, and at one point, a man live-streamed CNN from his iPhone. In spite of the general wonkishness of the entire event, there was a certain energy:

Miller gave a one minute warning just before 10 am that hushed those gathered. One mane began to live stream CNN on his iPhone. The click of SCOTUSblog every time the liveblog updated gave a certain tension to the room.

Just before 10:30, there were yells, as the 40 or so gathered realized DOMA was over. But it quickly subsided, as people stopped to read the updates, parse the details, and check out just what everything meant.

The results were something of a mixed bag for the crowd gathered.

DOMA was struck down. The federal government now has to recognize gay marriage. But, The Supreme Court said states like North Carolina can still ban gay marriage.

Nevertheless, people at the LGBT Center were happy. John Logan Sullivan from Cary, is 18, and honored to see the change while he’s so young.

“It is the biggest step forward we’ve ever had in LGBT history," he said. "It’s humbling to be part of a generation that gets to see this at such a young age. People have been waiting their whole lives for this.”

But, Karen Waters, from Raleigh, feels like North Carolina doesn’t really get to celebrate.

“Well, for us in NC, there’s really not anything to celebrate expect for everyone else nationally. YAY! Good for y’all. It really doesn’t apply to us here… because of Amendment One,” she said.

Her friend Dale Mackey of Raleigh, said he's so happy, he and his partner of 18 years might take the plunge.

“I wanna get married now," Mackey said. "And I just might. I’m like, I don’t know. Do I wanna get tax benefits for 2013?”

Ernie Young, a law professor at Duke, says, Dale can go to New York to get married. But, if he wants a STATE tax benefit, he’d have to stay there.

“You can’t just go to some other state and get married, you know go up to New York and get married and then come back," Young says. "Because there’s a separate provision of DOMA which allows individual states not to recognize same sex marriages that other states do recognize.”

Young says, when it comes to gay marriage in North Carolina, North Carolina gets to make the call.

“North Carolina has the last word about which marriages are gonna be recognized in this jurisdiction.”

And Amendment One, which passed last year in North Carolina, and defines marriage as being only between a man and a woman, gets the final say.

Nevertheless, Dale Mackey predicts North Carolina won’t always hold its current stance on gay marriage.

“It might not happen tomorrow, but it might happen next year, or the year after next,” said Mackey. North Carolina will catch up. I might be wrong, but I don’t think I am.”

He said he may ask Karen Waters to be his best man. Waters told hi, she’d be happy, too. How North Carolina votes in the future nay determine just where that ceremony is held.

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