New Yorkers cheer the end of DOMA, but fear violent backlash

Michael Sabatino and Robert Voorheis came out to celebrate the end of the Defense of Marriage Act with Edie Windsor, the woman behind the lawsuit that brought down DOMA. They helped Windsor and her late wife, Thea Spyer, get to Canada to get married when Spyer was dying from multiple sclerosis. Credit: Bess Adler
Michael Sabatino and Robert Voorheis came out to celebrate the end of the Defense of Marriage Act with Edie Windsor, the woman behind the lawsuit that brought down DOMA. They helped Windsor and her late wife, Thea Spyer, get to Canada to get married when Spyer was dying from multiple sclerosis. Credit: Bess Adler

Just days after the two-year anniversary of the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York, the Supreme Court has ruled in a 5-4 decision that the Defense of Marriage Act that federally defines marriage as between one man and one woman only is unconstitutional.

New York City, which has several openly gay elected representatives, from the City Council to the State Senate, is already cheering.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is running for mayor and, if elected, would be the first female and the first lesbian mayor, noted that the case “was not about abstract concepts, but real people.”

“People like Edie Windsor, who after suffering incredible loss, had the courage to stand up against great injustice,” she said.

At a celebration at the Gay and Lesbian Center of New York City in the West Village, Windsor, the woman behind the momentous lawsuit that brought the issue to the Supreme Court, spoke of her reaction to the victory, surrounded by her team of proud and protective lawyers.

She told the crowd of reporters and supporters that her first reaction was tears. When asked how she felt being compared to activists such as Rosa Parks and Harvey Milk, she paused, looking surprised.

After a moment, she said slowly, her voice choked with emotion, “It makes me feel incredibly proud, and humbled.”

Windsor was forced to pay $363,000 in estate taxes after the death of her long-time partner, Thea Spyer. She would not have had to pay anything had their marriage been recognized and bestowed the same rights and benefits as that of heterosexual spouses.

Windsor will now get that money back—with interest, her lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, said.

When asked what she thought Spyer would say if she could see her now, Windsor broke into a wide smile.

“She’d say, ‘You did it, honey!’” she exclaimed.

Supporters were also present, bearing signs and big smiles.

Aliya Shain stood with her mothers, Jo-Ann Shain and Mary Jo Kennedy, who were part of one of the first marriage-equality lawsuits in New York, Hernandez v. Robles. Jo-Ann and Kennedy credited Aliya with getting them involved in the movement.

Aliya recalled her parents sitting her down at the kitchen table after Lambda Legal approached them about being part of the Hernandez suit. She said they were apprehensive about telling her.

“I don’t know why,” she said, “because I thought it was awesome and we should go for it.”

“They taught me to fight for myself and my rights,” she added, explaining her immediate desire to support her parents in this legal battle.

Another couple, Michael Sabatino and Robert J. Voorheis, were there to support Windsor. The pair were part of the group of friends who helped Windsor and Spyer get to Canada to get married, and said because of that connection with Windsor, the day was especially meaningful.

Sabatino said he didn’t cry, but his husband did.

“He’s the weeper,” he declared, pointing at Voorheis speaking with a reporter nearby. “I was just really excited.”

Sabatino and Voorheis were also part of a New York lawsuit, Godfrey v. Spano. That lawsuit challenged the recognition of out-of-state marriages like Edie’s. A Westchester County Supreme Court upheld the long-standing New York common law respecting such marriages.

Sabatino said he has been involved in the marriage equality movement for 15 years.

“We were involved when the gay community said, ‘you’re crazy, you’ll never get marriage,’” he said. “[They said] we can get civil unions, but not marriage.’”

Today, their tenacity, and the tenacity of a 5-foot-tall, 100-pound woman who just celebrated her 83rd birthday, has been rewarded.

But some New Yorkers are less enthused.

Photographer and film director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, whose documentary “The Out List” debuts on HBO tomorrow night, said that while the decision is a step, the 5-4 split is disheartening.

“A 9-0 decision would have meant something,” Greenfield-Sanders said. “A 9-0 decision would have really meant equality. This means we’ve scraped by.”

“I’ll take it,” he added, “but I’d rather see it loud and clear.”

Sabatino also saw a potentially dark consequence of the Supreme Court’s decision, especially in light of the uptick in anti-gay hate crimes last month, including the brutal murder of Mark Carson in the West Village. He said he can see how the decision will prompt a violent backlash from those opposed to it.

“It’s part of the process of getting equal rights,” Sabatino said. “I mean, this has happened with many populations, with many communities that have fought for equality.”

“I think people do it out of fear, or not understanding,” he continued. “You know, I hate to say it, but there probably will be more episodes [of anti-gay violence].”

 

Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

National

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.

National

Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Movies

Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

NBA

NBA great LeBron James sends 800 cupcake apologies…

By Kim PalmerCLEVELAND (Reuters) - NBA star LeBron James, whose recent return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in his home state of Ohio sparked a frenzy…

NFL

Jerry Reese confident with Giants, skipping countdown clocks…

Last year, Giants GM Jerry Reese installed a countdown clock in the locker room to inspire Big Blue to play in their own stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII.

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.