WASHINGTON -- Vin Testa has a new nickname: "Flag Guy."
The 25-year-old Washington resident -- a self-described "proud, out, gay man" -- became a fixture on the steps of the Supreme Court this week, as he waited for the high court's ruling on two landmark marriage equality cases. He could be recognized by the large rainbow flag he was waving.
"The time is now and we're on the road to equality," Testa said after learning that the court had finally ruled the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional on Wednesday. "Be on the right side of history."
Images of Testa's demonstration were plastered onto front pages and news websites worldwide as both sides of the gay marriage debate anticipated the rulings in the DOMA case, United States v. Windsor, and the challenge to California's Proposition 8 initiative, Hollingsworth v. Perry.
When a large, enthusiastic crowd of demonstrators joined Testa's flag waving on Wednesday morning, the overarching mood was just as nervous as Testa's. Being packed together made an already sweltering Washington day more unbearable, and frustrations arose as people eager to keep up with the news were unable to find a cellular connection on their phones.
Colorful, clever signs were everywhere. One crowd member actually brought his closet door, on which he wrote the words: "This used to oppress me. Repeal DOMA; Now. NO more shut doors."
Elizabeth Bier, 23, of California, had painted a poster of Edie Windsor, the plaintiff in the DOMA case, and her late wife, with a quote from Windsor: "Marriage is this magic thing."
A cascade of cheers and chants of "DOMA is dead" erupted as soon as protesters learned the news that, in a 5-4 decision, the court had ruled the statute unconstitutional. Patriotic songs like "America the Beautiful" and chants of "What do we want? Equality! When do we want it? Now" rang out, but the crowd quieted again when it turned to Twitter to learn of the court's Prop 8 decision.
David Baker, 24, an openly gay Mormon from Salt Lake City, now lives in Washington and has been out in front of the Supreme Court all week waiting for the same-sex marriage decisions. He came to the building with a sign reading "Gay Mormon for Marriage Equality" on one side and "If I can't marry my boyfriend, then I'll marry your daughter!" on another.
Baker was thrilled with the DOMA decision, but recognized that the Prop 8 ruling left the gay community with a lot of work to do in states that have yet to recognize same-sex marriage. "I'm so grateful that we now have marriage equality recognized on the federal level. It's what I've been waiting for all week," he said. "I feel like in terms of Prop 8, we made a step forward."
Though marriage is likely not in Baker's immediate future, he hopes to get married someday and hopes that the next generation of gay youth will grow up knowing that they can marry those they love.
"I think that that is the best thing that can happen for marriage in this country," he said of the ruling on DOMA. "I think that that strengthens all marriage -- having more people committed."
Some couples came with their children to ensure the younger generation would witness the rulings.
John Barabino and his husband, David Huebner, were outside the court with their 3-year-old son, Miles, who was perched on Barabino's shoulders. They brought him so he too could be a part of this historic day.
"It's our fifth wedding anniversary this week on Monday, so it's kind of an amazing week," Barabino said. "Now our marriage is finally recognized by the federal government."
The DOMA decision will have significant consequences for married couples with a foreign-born spouse. Under the ruling, binational gay couples can now receive visa and immigration benefits afforded to their heterosexual counterparts.
Shalom Konstantino, 27, and Michael Konstantino, 37, are one of those couples. The pair wore matching shirts reading "This Guy Loves His Husband."
"I'm an Israeli, and Michael is an American, and finally, after six years, he is going to be able to give me his immigration benefits, and it's going to change our lives," Shalom told The Huffington Post.
Michael added that the couple will now save somewhere between $3,000 and $4,000 in federal taxes each year.
Elected officials joined the masses, too. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) was one of them.
"Connecticut has marriage equality, and now all its citizens will have the same rights under the law as couples in every other state. Married couples deserve equality, and the Supreme Court has now struck down a law that denied it," Blumenthal said. "So I'm very proud to be here on this truly historic day."
Many religious leaders clothed in their vestments aimed to demonstrate that their churches supported marriage equality. Jill McCrory, 51, a pastor of the Twinbrook Baptist Church in Rockville, Md., wore a rainbow-colored clerical stole and held a sign that read, "Baptist Clergy for Marriage Equality."
"You get into sort of sticky wickets because you can really use the Bible in so many ways," McCrory said. "There's plenty of things in the Bible that we don't practice today, and there are many interpretations. It's all about love and inclusion."
A lone anti-gay marriage activist was visible in the crowd on Wednesday. He stood across the street from the courthouse with a sign that referenced sodomy and AIDS.
Once the euphoria of the decisions had died down, Linh Hoang, 30, encapsulated the feeling in Washington.
"It's a great day to be gay," he said.
Ashley Balcerzak, Caitlin MacNeal and Danielle Schlanger contributed reporting.
BEFORE YOU GO
06/26/2013 7:32 PM EDT
Catholic Archbishop: DOMA, Prop 8 Rulings 'Hurt Us All'
Some Catholic leaders are asking parishioners to consider the judgment of a higher power, not the nation's highest court.
Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron issued a statement criticizing the Supreme Court's decision in the DOMA and Prop 8 cases, saying that attempts to redefine marriage "hurt us all."
The well-being of our society, our nation, and our families is intimately linked to the institution of marriage. These decisions by the United States Supreme Court will make significantly more difficult our work of upholding the truth that marriage is a lifelong covenant between one man and one woman. Such decisions, made by any civic authority, do not serve the common good.
Catholics and millions of our fellow citizens will continue to make the case, respectfully yet vigorously, that marriage cannot be redefined, and that attempts to do so hurt us all.
Read more here.
06/26/2013 5:58 PM EDT
Stonewall Inn Crowd Celebrates DOMA, Vows To Keep Fighting
The Huffington Post's Lila Shapiro reports:
NEW YORK -- On Wednesday, the Stonewall Inn opened earlier than usual. At 10 a.m., the day the U.S. Supreme Court handed the gay rights movement a landmark victory, the historic bar was dimly lit, strung with rainbow flags, and filled with revelers toasting each other and pledging their determination to keep fighting.
Read the whole post here.
06/26/2013 4:16 PM EDT
Washington National Cathedral Rings Bells Celebrating Gay Marriage Rulings
The Washington National Cathedral rang bells at noon today to celebrate the Supreme Court rulings on the Defense Of Marriage Act and Prop 8.
Rev. Gary Hall, Dean of the Cathedral, released a statement soon after the rulings were announced:
“We are ringing our bells at the Cathedral to celebrate the extension of federal marriage equality to all the same-sex couples modeling God’s love in lifelong covenants," he said. "Our prayers for continued happiness are with them and with all couples who will be joined in matrimony in the years to come, whether at Washington National Cathedral or elsewhere."
Click here to hear the bells.
06/26/2013 4:12 PM EDT
Matthew Shepard's Mom Responds To DOMA Ruling
Matthew Shepard's mom, Judy, said she wished her son had lived to see Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling striking down DOMA.
"I wish he'd been here to see it," she said. "This case warms my heart, to think that his dream is still coming true."
Click here to read more.
06/26/2013 3:45 PM EDT
Marriage Equality Supporters Pictured Reacting To SCOTUS Rulings From Stonewall Inn
(Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
06/26/2013 3:31 PM EDT
Celebrating From Stonewall Inn, Iconic Location Credited For The Start Of The LGBT Movement
(Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
06/26/2013 3:20 PM EDT
Couple Kiss, Celebrate SCOTUS Decisions While Holding Their Soon-To-Be Adopted Children
(Photo by Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)
06/26/2013 3:09 PM EDT
DOMA Decision Helps LGBT Couples On Immigration
HuffPost's Elise Foley reports:
Judy Rickard, who is 65, and Karin Bogliolo, who is 72, have been together for eight years, legal domestic partners for five and legally married for two. They're one of an estimated 28,500 binational same-sex couples who have been excluded from immigration benefits because of DOMA, which disallowed the federal government from recognizing their marriages. The ruling doesn't entirely fix the problem -- couples must be married rather than partners, and must travel to a state that allows same-sex marriage if they don't live in one -- but it's still a major victory for LGBT rights.
Read more about Rickard and Bogliolo and more couples helped by the DOMA decision here.
06/26/2013 3:07 PM EDT
Food Network Host Announces Engagement To Partner Of 20 Years
Ted Allen, host of the hit Food Network show "Chopped" and his partner of 20 years, interior designer Barry Rice, were "over the moon" when they read on Wednesday morning that the court had ruled the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.
Their day had come. They were getting married. Allen quickly announced their engagement on Twitter and Facebook. He said that the notices garnered the most enthusiastic response of any he'd ever posted; his Facebook status received 417 comments in the first 40 minutes.
Fellow food competition host Tom Colicchio sent his enthusiastic congratulations to the couple via Twitter.
Allen said that he and Rice would soon begin preparing for their wedding, likely a quiet affair in New York, but for now they're content to revel in the good news.
"I don't think that by any means our movement is finished, that our work is done, but this was an enormous hurdle," he said. "DOMA has been Chopped, sir."
-- Joe Satran
06/26/2013 3:01 PM EDT
'Make Them Hear You'
The Gay Men's Chorus of Washington gathered outside the Supreme Court Tuesday, singing "Make Them Hear You" after the Supreme Court rulings. Watch a video of the performance below: