PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - Hundreds gathered in downtown Palm Springs to celebrate a historic day for gay rights in America. Several groups including the Human Rights Campaign, Desert Aids Project, the LGBT Community Center and others put on a rally for same-sex marriage supporters to cheer and revel in huge victories in the high court.
The Supreme Court gave the nation's legally married gay couples equal federal footing with all other married Americans on Wednesday and also cleared the way for same-sex marriages to resume in California. In deciding its first cases on the issue, the high court did not issue the sweeping declaration sought by gay rights advocates that would have allowed same-sex couples to marry anywhere in the country. But in two rulings, both by bare 5-4 majorities, the justices gave gay marriage supporters encouragement in confronting the nationwide patchwork of laws that outlaw such unions in roughly three dozen states.
"It's a dream come true for me, I've been struggling and fighting for this day for my entire life," said Lisa Follette, a Palm Springs resident who celebrated by proposing to her long-time partner, Diana.
The other case, dealing with California's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, was resolved by an unusual lineup of justices in a technical legal fashion that said nothing about gay marriage. But the effect was to leave in place a trial court's declaration that California's Proposition 8 ban was unconstitutional. Gov. Jerry Brown quickly ordered that marriage licenses be issued to gay couples as soon as a federal appeals court lifts its hold on the lower court ruling. That will take least 25 days, the appeals court said.
California, where gay marriage was briefly legal in 2008, would be the 13th state, along with the District of Columbia, to allow same-sex couples to marry and would raise the share of the U.S. population in gay marriage states to 30 percent. Six states have adopted same-sex marriage in the past year, amid a rapid evolution in public opinion that now shows majority support for the right to marry in most polls.
The 12 other states are Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
"People can marry the person they love and that's the way it should be," said Geoff Kors, from the National Center for Lesbian Rights. "Combined with the DOMA ruling, we'll have access to the federal benefits."
Jerry Holdermann and Terry O'Neill can now officially the tie knot. Despite the joy for the Palm Springs couple, Holdermann says there's still lots of work to be done. "I think that you don't win overnight as it's been evidenced, in the long run we'll get there," said Holdermann. "The tide has shifted and it's too late to turn back now."
The rulings not only affect couples, it means changes for children of gay and lesbian parents. "When he grows up and he tells his classmates his parents are married, we really are," said Cynthia Juno, one of the mothers of a 5-year-old named Jake. "It means we're just the same as all the other parents that are married in his class."
The huge rally also celebrated the further growth of Palm Springs as a place where the LGBT community can come and say "I do." "People will come from all over the country and all over the world to celebrate their weddings here," said Kors. "It'll be a great boom for tourism, and just a great sense of pride for this community."
A pride summed up best by 5-year-old Jake. When asked if he was happy for his moms, he said, "Very happy!"