FAIRFIELD — Wednesday’s sweeping decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court were well celebrated by Solano County’s gay community, even if there’s still some work to do.
A number of people gathered to celebrate the court’s decision to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and to throw out California’s Proposition 8, waving rainbow and American flags in front of the Solano County Government Center on Texas Street.
“My initial reaction this morning was pretty much awestruck,” said David Janis-Kitzmiller, one of the organizers of the rally. “Expected, but you don’t realize it until it actually washes over you, the words of, ‘This is what has been decided.’ ”
The far-reaching nature of the rulings was immediately apparent.
“The instant feeling of the 1,138 rights that now, all of a sudden, were instantly there, that you didn’t have,” Janis-Kitzmiller said. “That last night when you went to bed you were different and then today you’re the same as everybody else. That is a totally different feeling and all in a matter of minutes.”
Janis-Kitzmiller was among 25 or so people gathered, waving at passing cars. The group got positive responses from passing motorists, with fist pumps and peace signs among the gestures and no real negative reaction.
Responses that got the loudest cheers from those on the curb came from an ambulance crew and a sheriff’s deputy who sounded their sirens briefly.
Janis-Kitzmiller and his husband were married in July 2008 during the brief window when same-sex marriages were allowed in California. He said there was a lot more to Wednesday’s decisions.
“So it’s been pretty unbelievable and it’s taken a lot to soak in today,” Janis-Kitzmiller said. “I’ve got a lot of gratitude. It’s been a lot of hard work by a lot of people to get to this point.”
He said that he and his husband Jeff have been together 13 years and they were the first gay couple married in Solano County in 2008.
It was an emotional day for the Rev. Robert Fuentes of Holy Family Old Catholic Church in Fairfield and his spouse Louis Souza-Fuentes.
“As a married gay man I’m delighted by both decisions,” Robert Fuentes said.
“I did not expect that window to close,” Robert Fuentes said.
While the two could share in the joy of their union, they were bothered by the fact that other gay friends had missed that window and were not afforded the same right.
In an email to the Daily Republic, Souza-Fuentes said he was feeling very emotional, and on the verge of happy tears.
The Defense of Marriage Act was already in place when they wed.
“We were still ‘second class citizens’ in a very real way,” he wrote. “Imagine our dismay when Prop. 8 passed. So many people would be denied the same joy we experienced – to be married to the one we love, our other half, our soul mate.”
He’s ready to challenge the naysayers and encourages them to look into the eyes of the person they married and then imagine not being able to share that joy in marriage.
“This is all about love. Nothing more, nothing less,” Souza-Fuentes said.
The sweeping nature of the rulings wasn’t lost on Kristen Loomis, one of the rally’s organizers.
“It’s not a hundred percent of what we would have fantasized, but it’s awfully, awfully good,” she said.
“Dave (Janis-Kitzmiller) was telling me that they actually stopped court proceedings on the East Coast today, of people who were about to be deported because they were gay spouses who were in the country illegally,” Loomis said. “It was like, ‘Boom, we’re releasing you, we will not deport you. There’s not point anymore as a result of DOMA (falling).’ And that’s pretty dramatic.”
That’s just the beginning.
“(There’s) the woman who does not have to pay the IRS all those taxes,” Loomis said. “And my case, it’s very tiny, my wife (Kathy Rardin) died last year and I went and filed with Social Security to tell them, because you’ve got to do that, and just because, I put in for the death benefit and they told me, ‘You do not get the death benefit.’ So I’m going to go back and talk to them again and see if it’s retroactive, since DOMA was invalidated, that I really had a right to it all along.”
While Wednesday’s rulings were a big step forward for equal rights, Loomis said there is a lot to be done still.
“We’re still on a states’ rights basis, which, 40 years ago I would have screamed and yelled, ‘We want it all now.’ But I’m older. If it goes to the states’ rights level, I’m OK with that,” she said. “It gives people time to adjust. There are still an enormous number of people in this country who are angry and fearful and sometimes dangerous. This’ll give us time to evolve.”
Sharlene Parkman of Fairfield, also stood on the curb, waving a rainbow streamer as cars drove by.
“First thing that was on the news,” Parkman said. “And it always happens that way for me, the first thing I see on the news is something so dramatically important and it happened to be this and I knew the decision was coming down and I completely forgot about it, but I woke up in time to see it on the news. I looked at the clock, it was 7:10 a.m.”
Parkman, who identified herself as bisexual, said she was happy for the far-reaching results, but disappointed that the rulings didn’t go far enough.
“But the Supreme Court decision kind of saddened me because if we’re ever going to have equal rights in America, it should stand across the board for everyone, for everything,” she said. “Nothing comes easy, you’ve got to work hard and hard and hard and hard for what you want and nothing is ever going to come easy.”
An Army veteran, Parkman also said she was happy for people in the military.
“I was in the military when I found out about Prop. 8,” she said. “It blew me away to see my battle buddies get kicked out just because of their sexual preference. I stand out here for them, too, because that’s discrimination and I don’t stand for discrimination of any sort.”
County Clerk Charles Lomeli said a few things must happen before Solano County will issue same-sex marriage licenses.
First, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals must confirm the Supreme Court’s decision, sending prop 8 back to the lower court to be thrown out. Then the state Department of Public Health will notify county clerks.
“At that point, it would be treated like any other person coming in to get a marriage license and ceremony,” Lomeli said.
Same-sex marriage was legal in California for a period in 2008 before the passage of Proposition 8. Lomeli said the state redrafted the marriage license language to say person A and person B. That gender-neutral language is still used.
“It truly is just a matter of them saying, ‘Now you can do it’ and we move forward,” Lomeli said. “I don’t expect a flood of people to come in. I don’t see it as anything that is going to increase our workload to a significant degree.”
Barry Eberling and Amy Maginnis-Honey contributed to this report. Reach Mike Corpos at 427-6979 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mcorposdr.