Augusta area gays, lesbians celebrate ruling on marriage

 

For nearly five years, Chris Bannochie and David Key have waited to receive the same federal benefits other married couples get. The waiting paid off Wednesday when the U.S. Supreme Court declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

“It’s a huge victory,” Bannochie said. “Just total excitement.”

Bannochie and Key, of Augusta, were legally married Oct. 16, 2008 in San Francisco, Calif., during the five months when same-sex marriages were allowed in the state.

“We can file our taxes together. He’s eligible for my pension and Social Security benefits if something was to happen to me,” Bannochie said.

Gay men and lesbians across the Augusta area celebrated the ruling Wednesday but said more states need to recognize same-sex marriages. Georgia has a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriages.

“It is a win but it’s a small step in achieving this nationwide,” said Isaac Kelly, the past president of Augusta Pride, Inc.

With the ruling, Kelly said he gained a more equal status to other citizens. He is considering marrying his partner of four years in California or Massachusetts.

“When I do pop the question, it’s going to hold more weight,” he said.

Army 1st Lt. Jonathan Roman said he’s more willing to enter a same-sex relationship and marry because of the ruling. Under DOMA, same-sex couples were denied federal benefits.

“It’s days like these that make me proud to be fighting for values in this country,” said Roman, an active member of a gay and lesbian military support and advocacy group called OutServe-SLDN.

Others were disappointed in the Supreme Court decision, saying it does not uphold the traditional definition of marriage as between a woman and a man.

Roger Rollins, the executive director of the Family and Marriage Coalition of Aiken, said the ruling was a sad reminder that the nation’s values are slipping away.

“We live in a nation that grew up supporting the ideals of a traditional family,” Rollins said. “Society today seems to be going in the wrong direction.”

More people need to stand up to defend marriage and family, he said.

With its decision, the Supreme Court redefined the biblical meaning of marriage, said Pastor Doug Page, of First Baptist Church in North Augusta.

“Call it something other than marriage,” he said, adding that all citizens deserve equal rights. “We need to continue to stand firm on biblical principles.”

The decision overwhelmed Michelle Hopper, 41, of Grovetown. She cried when she read the decision but wants more states to recognize same-sex marriages.

“It’s a small step towards the right direction,” she said. “Love is love. It’s not a matter of religion. It’s a matter of civil rights.”

Hopper, who is in a relationship, said she will eventually get married in another state, if Georgia does not recognize same-sex marriage, so she can receive federal benefits.

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