Steffen Gauss (left) stands arm in arm with Philip Oakes, his partner of 16 years, in Santa Cruz Wednesday evening. (Photos by Todd Guild/Register-Pajaronian)
SANTA CRUZ — Janet Bryan got a surprise Wednesday, in the hours after the U.S. Supreme Court made two historic rulings that bolstered gay rights nationwide and sent scores of people into the streets in celebration.
“The love of my life for the past 30 years proposed to me,” she said, referring to her partner Ellen, with whom she has two grown children. “I didn’t know she was going to do it, and it touched my heart so much.”
Bryan was one of hundreds who attended a rally Wednesday night on the front steps of Santa Cruz County Courthouse in celebration of the ruling, which effectively scuttled both Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.
“I feel excited for myself, but I feel more excited for the children who are gay and live in gay families with gay parents,” Bryan said. “The validation for them is so important as they go through life.”
As they listened to city and county officials who came to speak, many attendees were holding hands and standing arm in arm, and several were festooned in rainbow clothing while others waved flags.
For many still, the rulings were the culmination of a fight that began years ago.
“I’ve waited for this for decades,” said Steve Trujillo, who sits on the Santa Cruz City Board of Trustees. “This is a momentous day in the history of this country.”
Trujillo said he will now be able to legally marry his partner.
“It’s incredible, exciting,” he said. “I feel like the country has been cleansed because of these decisions.”
Merrie Schaller, co chair of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Straight Alliance of Santa Cruz County said she was excited about the rulings, but called them “bittersweet,” referring to the Supreme Court Ruling that overturned a key part of the Voting Rights Act.
“Tonight we celebrate, tomorrow we go back to work,” she said.
Under DOMA, Artemis Crow found herself locked in a bitter battle with federal authorities as she and her Irish partner of four years fought for benefits. That included struggling to get a green card and seeing their daughter lose her financial aid and have her tuition at UC Davis quadruple when she turned 21.
“This means that were going into a future that is less stressful,” she said.
Jenny Rothweil, who has two sons, said she has come on a full-circle journey, having brought them to a rally when gay marriage was legalized in California and one when Prop. 8 passed.
“It’s a beautiful thing to be able to show them America marching toward equality,” she said.
Richelle Noroyan agreed.
“It’s an incredible day, a historic day, a day to celebrate,” she said. “America got more American today.”
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