Local gay rights supporters are calling the latest U.S. Supreme Court decisions regarding same-sex marriage a victory.
On Wednesday morning, the high court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law that withheld federal benefits from legally married same-sex couples.
It also ruled that Proposition 8, a California law banning gay marriage, was unconstitutional.
On Wednesday night, local gay rights supporters gathered to celebrate at Tribe Restaurant and Nightclub on Church Street.
“It was truly an historic day for our community,” said Sam Felker, attorney and president of Stonewall Bar Association, an organization that promotes gay and lesbian diversity and equality in the legal profession.
“I think we'll look back on this and see this as being an turning point in what has already been a great movement toward equality and marriage equality,” he added.
“This is a victory for a lot of people that have felt like second class citizens for a long time, [but] we still have a lot of work to do,” said Linzie Treadway.
The 5-4 decision regarding DOMA will insure legally married homosexual couples are provided the same federal benefits, including tax and health benefits, as heterosexual couples in a dozen states and the District of Columbia where same-sex marriage is legal.
Following the ruling on Prop 8, California will also be included in that group of states.
“It's going to take awhile to implement the decision and to figure it out,” Felker said.
However, Felker said soldiers in Tennessee and Kentucky will feel the immediate effects of the rulings.
“The Defense Department said, because of that ruling this morning, same sex couples in Fort Campbell, in the military, now have the same benefits and rights to housing (and) healthcare as any other couple,” he said. “It is a momentous decision because it keeps the momentum going that has been growing in recent months.”
Despite the recent shift in public opinion regarding same-sex unions, religious and social conservatives were disappointed with the Supreme Court decisions.
Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, wrote in a statement, “Time is not on the side of those seeking to create same-sex 'marriage.'”
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, also released a statement that read, “Today is a tragic day for marriage and our nation.”Gay rights supporters were not deterred from celebration.
“I think in Tennessee, somewhere where there may not have been hope two years ago, now there's a hope that, you know, the laws in Tennessee may change,” said J.R. Simon, Board of Governor with Nashville Human Rights Campaign. “It may change sooner than people think they might, which is really encouraging to Tennessee residents.”
The impact for couples in Tennessee and 36 other states that still ban same-sex marriage is unclear.