“I wanna go to the Stonewall right now!” cried 83-year-old Edith Windsor, the plaintiff in the Supreme Court’s Defense of Marriage Act case, moments after the 1996 was declared unconstitutional Wednesday in a 5–4 ruling.
She wasn’t the only one. By late morning, dozens of revelers had flocked to New York City’s Stonewall Inn—a touchstone of the gay-rights movement—to celebrate the federal rulings on same-sex marriage. There were cheers, tears, and champagne toasts at the historic landmark where gay men and lesbians defied police harassment in the 1969 riots that are considered one of the watershed moments in the nation’s fight for gay rights.
“This is ground zero for gay rights,” said Joann Shain of New York, who was outside the bar with her wife and partner of 31 years, Mary Jo Kennedy, and their teenage daughter.
“Today’s ruling validates gay marriages in the eyes of the federal government for some of the huge benefits that heterosexual marrieds get and take for granted,” she added, referring to a provision of DOMA that has prevented legally married same-sex couples from receiving a range of tax, health, and Social Security benefits that come with a traditional wedding certificate.
Inside the inn, couples, activists, and patrons roared in applause as they watched Justice Anthony Kennedy speak on TV, vowing that Wednesday’s ruling would pave the way for “marriage equality to be the law of the land.”
Mike Lawlor, 56, and David Zakur, 45, of Connecticut held hands in the corner of the bar.
“We just got married on Saturday!” they gushed, flashing matching gold and sapphire rings. They had come to New York for a “quick honeymoon” after their wedding last weekend.
The two were happy to report that they met on Grindr two years ago.
“But we were very proper about it. We courted each other for, like, an hour,” Zakur joked, putting his arm around his husband. “I think as national public opinion changes, the laws are starting to change. There are still a few more things that need to be done, but I think we’re over the hump,” said Lawlor.
Other giddy couples in the Stonewall’s cool cellar alternately discussed the importance of the rulings and dished about the first time they met.
“I sat on his beach blanket,” said Greg Towle from Ft. Lauderdale, smirking as he hugged his boyfriend, Derek Williams, who were both on vacation in the area. Together for 10 months, they have no plans to tie the knot just yet, but felt the significance of Wednesday’s rulings no less.
“We really wanted to be in a place where history was made as history was made,” said Williams, gesturing at others who were still coming through the Stonewall’s doors. “Being in here, I’m fully realizing how important today’s decisions will be for the future.”