Tears and Toasts at Stonewall: Riot-Site Revelers React to SCOTUS Decision

'Today the Supreme Court showed me that the Constitution was really written for everyone. It was written for me and my husband, for my friends and their husbands.'

Rachel Howald, Kate Lummus, Virginia Sin and Gretchen Menter celebrate at the Stonewall Inn. (Getty)

Rachel Howald, Kate Lummus, Virginia Sin and Gretchen Menter celebrate at the Stonewall Inn. (Getty)

The rainbow flags, T-shirts and pins that have traditionally decorated the Stonewall Inn took on new significance today with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, conferring federal benefits that were previously reserved for opposite-sex marriages on married same-sex couples.

Patrons filtered into the historic bar, the site of the 1969 riots against city-sanctioned homophobia in New York, well before its usual 2 p.m. opening time, to watch the landmark decision.

“We knew today was going to busy, regardless of the decision,” Stacy Lentz, the Stonewall Inn’s owner, told The Observer. “It was either going to be a big celebration or a protest. We are so happy to be celebrating this great day. We want to keep the energy of this moment alive.”

amanda stonewall 004 Tears and Toasts at Stonewall: Riot Site Revelers React to SCOTUS Decision

Patrons popped champagne in celebration. (Amanda Cohen)

Michael Deshields, a married fourth-grade teacher and former Stonewall Inn bartender, held back tears as he spoke. “This decision means that we are really together,” he told us.

“When he is sick, I can be there beside him. If my husband dies, I can take on his debt,” he laughed. “Today the Supreme Court showed me that the Constitution was really written for everyone. It was written for me and my husband, for my friends and their husbands.”

Mr. Deshields was one of the witnesses at bartender Ben Kameler’s wedding in 2011. Mr. Kameler told The Observer that the Supreme Court decision would have a concrete and immediate impact on his life.

“This decision is more than symbolic,” he said. “It gave me and my husband legitimate benefits that we need. It’ll be a hell of a lot easier to own my condo with my husband. I’m so happy [that] this shows my marriage is real, but I’m also so happy that mine and my husband’s life will be easier to manage.”

Rachel Howale of South Orange, N.J., wore a shirt that read, “My kids have two legitimate moms.” “I got ‘married’ in 1998, and now it’s totally legitimate,” she said. “It’s about time. We have two boys together.”

Ms. Howale’s partner gave birth to both of their children, aged 6 and 12, and Ms. Howale legally adopted them to ensure that she would have the same parental rights as her partner.

“I have probably spent $50,000 in legal fees, adoption papers and other legal measures to make sure that my kids are protected if something happened to me or my wife,” she told The Observer. “We had to bring extensive paperwork on every vacation, even Disney World, just in case something happened to us.”

(Getty)

(Getty)

Members of the Trevor Project, a national organization that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention to LGBTQ youth, celebrated with the roughly 50 other patrons. Deputy director Steve Mendelsohn flashed his wedding ring and exclaimed, “My marriage is legitimate now!”

Earlier today, the organization circulated a statement that expressed its excitement about the broadened horizons for LGBTQ youth. But Mr. Mendelsohn cautioned that the fight for equal rights was far from over.

“This is the first step in many, many more steps toward full equality,” he said.

At 5:30 p.m. today, Stonewall Place will host a rally with openly gay mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn, as well as Edie Windsor, the plaintiff who brought the monumental case to the Supreme Court. The street will be shut down for the rally.

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