Gay marriage ruling met with mix of reactions from locals
When the Supreme Court moved Wednesday to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the decision elicited immediate and visceral responses, both in Sanford and elsewhere, on both sides of the gay marriage debate.
Locals reacted strongly to the court's 5-4 decision, even though it had no immediate implications for North Carolina. Wednesday's DOMA ruling applies only to gay couples who are legally married, and North Carolina does not recognize gay marriages. That policy was solidified last year when when voters amended the North Carolina constitution to ban both same-sex marriages and same-sex civil unions.
But Rev. Nancy Bouchard, a Sanford resident who is in a long-term lesbian relationship, said Wednesday she hopes people who were on the fence about gay marriage will be swayed by the court's decision to support equal rights for all.
"Open your heart and open your mind, because around you is someone you love who has maybe not confronted you [as being gay] out of fear," she said.
Bouchard also said she hopes the ruling will inspire North Carolinians who opposed Amendment 1 last year to fight even harder in the future to repeal it. She said she and her partner haven't tried to get married elsewhere — even though Bouchard's home state of Maine allows it — because doing so just wouldn't feel right.
"I think it's important to feel that the people around you will be supportive of you," she said. "And until I can feel that, I don't want to run off and [get married] somewhere but then come back and know that my neighbors aren't necessarily supportive."
In May 2012, 70 percent of Lee County voters supported Amendment 1 — nearly 10 percent more than its statewide support — and Lee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlie Parks, a member of the board's Republican majority, said Wednesday that nations that have accepted homosexual behavior historically have been doomed to failure.
"We are moving away from morality," Parks said. "It's one of the things, right here, that is helping support immoral actions. I think it's a travesty, and [will contribute to] the downfall of our nation if it keeps going that way."
Ed Page, a local attorney and Lee County Republican Party officer, said he's worried the DOMA decision will weaken the rights of individual states. He said people in different parts of the country have varying opinions on subjects like gay marriage and that voters, not the court system, should decide such issues.
"The problem is this: The reasoning of the court opens wide the door for constitutional challenges of the definitions of marriage in the individual states," Page wrote in an email. "The court essentially stated that there was no ethical, moral or legal basis for the opposition to same-sex marriage. I'd expect supporters of gay marriage to file suit tomorrow."
The Herald presented readers with a poll at www.sanfordherald.com asking, "Do you agree with the Supreme Court's decision about federal benefits for legally-married same-sex couples?" Out of the 30 people who had responded as of 4 p.m. Wednesday, 16 said they disagreed with the court's decision and 14 said they agreed.
Jacqueline Johnson commented, "No, these people are still legally married!"
April Blackmon wrote, "I agree! ... What makes this topic different? Black vs. white, male vs. female. Religious freedom, now straight vs. gay. Some people need a more open mind. Everyone does not do and believe the same, that is what makes this country so great."