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Posted on Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 1:30 p.m.

Supreme Court same-sex marriage rulings prompt tears of joy, hugs in Ann Arbor

By Amy Biolchini

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comments from U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg and U.S. Sen. Carl Levin. Glued to a set of computer screens before her, former Ann Arbor City Council Member Sandi Smith watched intently as the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decisions on two historic same-sex marriage cases Wednesday.

The mood was tense in the moments before the news broke, and then switched to jubilant: The high court struck down a provision of the the federal Defense of Marriage Act denying benefits to married gay couples, and upheld a lower court's decision that California's ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional.

"My goodness, what did people do before the internet?" Smith said.

Smith and two friends had gathered in Smith's offices at Trillium Real Estate in Ann Arbor's Braun Court to wait for the news.

Smith founded Trillium with her partner, Linda Lombardini, in 2001 and is the president of the board of directors of the Jim Toy Community Center, a resource for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and allied residents in Washtenaw County.

With Smith Wednesday were Amy McLaughlin and Callie McKee, partners for six years in Ann Arbor.

After hearing that a part of DOMA had been declared unconstitutional — to which the friends responded with hugs and loud whoops of happiness — McKee looked to McLaughlin and said "Will you file your taxes with me?"

At the Spectrum Center at the University of Michigan, staff members were glued to the TV set this morning.

“There were lots of tears of joy, and hugging. It’s a huge, huge day,” Jackie Simpson, director of the Spectrum Center. “This is a pretty emotional day. This has been in the works for a long time.”

The Spectrum Center educates students on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression issues through outreach programs, advocacy and support.

Though the Supreme Court's Wednesday decisions were a huge step forward for gay couples living in states that allow same-sex unions and for those living in California, the court has left the issue of the legality of gay marriage up to individual states to decide.

Richard Primus, a law professor at the University of Michigan Law School, said Wednesday that marriage law in general is a state by state issue.

“This is a big step to normalizing same-sex marriage,” Primus said in an interview with “This is an excellent outcome for proponents of same-sex marriage in the long term.”

In the 12 states and the District of Columbia that allow same-sex marriage, the high court’s decision to strike down a major provision in DOMA means the following for same-sex couples, Primus said:

  • If you have been married under the law of a state that recognizes same sex marriage, you can now file your federal income taxes jointly as married
  • If your spouse dies, you can inherit as a spouse under the federal estate tax laws
  • You are entitled to survivor benefits under Social Security laws, as well as veterans’ benefits laws
  • You are entitled to spousal status under immigration laws
  • You are entitled to any provision under a federal law that cares whether you are married

Michigan's ban on gay marriage is the subject of a lawsuit in Detroit federal court. Judge Bernard Friedman said in March he would wait to issue a decision on the case until the Supreme Court decision, the Associated Press reported.

Because the Supreme Court did not make an overriding statement Wednesday regarding the legality of gay marriage, Michigan's ban is not impacted.

"It’s kind of a one step forward, one step back sort of thing," Smith said. "“The LGBT leaders in Michigan have already been meeting. We are creating a coalition and it would be our goal to secure equal rights in Michigan. Because, this ruling is great, but we’re not quite there yet in this state.”

McLaughlin agreed:

“So my state can still discriminate against me even if the federal government can’t?” she said. "There is this thing that you get to plan, that all heterosexual couples can start planning pretty much the minute they meet the love of their life. Now we’re one step closer to being able to make those plans.” However, the high court's Wednesday rulings will likely have a measurable influence on public opinion, Primus said.

“The effects on Michigan law are matters of persuasion in society, not matters of legal force,” Primus said. “Often, even the Supreme Court does its most important work by changing people’s opinions.”

Prior to Wednesday, Simpson said she was hopeful that the court would strike down DOMA and anticipated that the court would leave the issue of same-sex marriage up to each state to decide for itself.

“Nationally … we’re sort of making progress and moving beyond this notion of whether LGBT people should have the same rights of all other people in all aspects,” Simpson said. “That’s what today has done.”

The ruling regarding the state of California’s law will now pave the way for other states considering implementing same-sex marriage, Simpson said.

“I’m very appreciative of the ruling for California, because they will be able to move forward with recognizing same sex marriage,” Simpson said.

U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, who represents western Washtenaw County, was critical of the decision, however.

"Today’s decisions mean states will continue addressing this issue, but I am troubled by the Court’s willingness to allow a district federal court to overrule the people of California who voted to define marriage as between one man and one woman," Walberg said in a statement. "I remain of the principled belief that marriage should continue to stand for the union of a man and woman. The activist Supreme Court has decided that the desires of adults are more important than the needs of children and the orderly continuance of society."

He also said he was disappointed with the court's other ruling.

"It’s also disappointing the Court overruled the Defense of Marriage Act, which passed the legislative branch with bipartisan majorities and was signed into law by President Clinton."

U.S. Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan welcomed the decisions.

"Today’s Supreme Court rulings are victories for equality and for simple human dignity," he said in a statement. "I favored repeal of DOMA because it falls short of its ideal of equality under the law. The Supreme Court’s recognition of that truth is in keeping with our best traditions and will give millions of Americans the legal protections to which they are fully entitled under our Constitution. I’m hopeful that our nation’s centuries-long march toward equality will continue to move forward.” Simpson called Wednesday’s rulings “A victory with more work to do.”

“I think the ball has started to roll,” said Gail Wolkoff. She works with Ann Arbor area youth to promote acceptance and social responsibility, and is on the executive board for the Jim Toy Community Center.

“It’s giving the message of acceptance, especially to youth that come from same-sex parents,” she said. “This gives hope to people just starting relationships — they can fall in love and love one another and be valid,”

Wolkoff said she believes the Supreme Court’s rulings in favor of same-sex marriage and rights for gay couples open the door for acceptance in society of same-sex couples.

“This can make a huge difference in people’s lives. Probably more than anything — the idea that love is valid (in same-sex couples).”

Reporter Ben Freed contributed to this story.

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.



Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 8:09 p.m.

Grandma and Grandpa, bless your souls, you don't know how lucky you are.


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 12:50 p.m.

Democracy in Michigan has determined marriage is between a man and a woman. In Michigan it is the law. If advocates want something different, change it with the vote. Period.


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 1:31 p.m.

That's what we intend to do. Put it on the ballot and let the people vote

Jon Saalberg

Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 2:31 a.m.

"The activist Supreme Court has decided that the desires of adults are more important than the needs of children and the orderly continuance of society." Is Wahlberg for real? This court has plenty of his conservative brethren on it. It's just Wahlberg finds himself with a view even conservative court justices don't agree with. And once again, we have a conservative using the tired red herring of "the needs of children" to justify homophobia. I encourage Mr. Wahlberg to read "What Straights Can Learn From Same-Sex Couples" in the June 2013 issue of The Atlantic. He might find it enlightening.


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 11:55 a.m.

Funny how Walhberg was fine with activism in Citizens United and other recent court cases overturning precedents and established law. I guess he is fine with children languishing in Foster Care when there are couples out their willing to adopt them.


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 12:31 a.m.

I hope they have a gay pride parade and march right by Rep. Walberg's house. They're coming to Tipton, Timmy! They're coming...for you!


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 1:35 p.m.

I think we should organize a march in front of his house. Who's up for going to Tipton this weekend?

peg dash fab

Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 12:41 p.m.

Rep. Walberg continues to support DOMA, even after it was found to violate the US Constitution. Despicable.

Ed Kimball

Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 2:30 a.m.

If Rep. Tipton doesn't approve of gay marriage, I suggest he not marry a man. Not that there are likely many men who would want to marry him.


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 10:07 p.m.

Carl Levin is so funny! "I favored repeal of DOMA because it falls short of its ideal of equality under the law." YOU VOTED FOR DOMA IN 96'! Talk about towing the party line...

Michigan Reader

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 10:44 p.m.

Carl Levin, like many politicians, goes with what public opinion is at a particular time. Bill Clinton even did that when it came time to pick a place to vacation, (so I've read.) Not all politicians do this. As Jay Leno joked, when Hillary was away, "SPRING BREAK!"


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 9:30 p.m.

I'm pumping my fist in the air!! a wonderful day for the LGBT community and their friends/ family who support their cause(me included)!! WOO as in HOO!

Colorado Sun

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 7:42 p.m.

"Michigan's ban is not implicated." This victory for the LGBT community is only partial. Michiganders who wish to marry some one of the same sex still have to go to Canada or somewhere else. Also recall in 2002 when Washtenaw County Chief Judge Archie C. Brown dismissed all adoption cases involving same-sex couples after re-assigning those to himself from other judges in the circuit who had been approving them? The LGBT community has a long way to go to achieve the equality it desires regarding marriage and adoption. It took until 1967 until laws banning interracial marriage were struck down by the Supreme Court. It had been a felony in some Southern states. Prejudices take time to be eradicated through the justice system. Rep. Jeff Irwin is fighting to amend the state's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to afford protections based on sexual orientation.


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 7:26 p.m.

Outside of liberal Ann Arbor, the opinions are quite different. Living in this area you get the impression that this is an issue that everyone wants changed. I have lived several places, in this area, and I can tell you that the vast majority of people that I have had the experience of talking with are completely against this. Many act like they are liberal but in a comfortable setting , with someone they know and trust, they think the idea is wrong! It is too bad that there are "grey" areas with everything, nothing is black and white/right or wrong anymore. "Opening the door for for acceptance in society"...sorry, it will never happen


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 7:18 p.m.

That's what I thought. there is no conservative basis for denying gay people the right to marry.


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 11:51 a.m.

Please explain the conservative reasoning behind not allowing two consenting adults to enter into a contract. Why should The State interfere in their lives? How does this ruling harm anybody?


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 10:33 p.m.

I don't actually care what those people think. Allowing gay couples to marry has no effect on them. They're free to complain all they want, but whatever.

Laurie Burg

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 9:11 p.m.

RUKiddingMe, "who does this hurt" also has to do with who has standing to bring a case to court as well ... there is NO LEGAL, CONSTITUTIONAL reason that two men or two women cannot marry. NONE. And, I was asking Concerned Citizen how marriage equality hurts them! I see there's no answer yet.....


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 9 p.m.

Laurie, I'm not expressing an opinion on either side of this, but laws aren't just about stuff that hurts people. There are plenty of laws governing actions, policies, and behavior that aren't about keeping people from being hurt. The "who does this hurt" defense doesn't always hold up in court. It's just "is this legal or not."

Laurie Burg

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 8:36 p.m.

Fortunately, in our great USA, our rights are not determined by the opinions of the masses, but by our Constitution. Get over it. And tell me, just how PRECISELY does gay people being allowed to marry the person they love hurt you in any way? It doesn't. I have lived several places in this area, and I can tell you that the vast majority of people that I have had the experience of talking with are completely for this. No need to be sorry, it is happening!


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 7:47 p.m.

Concerned Citizen, The point of the whole thing is it doesn't matter what others think. The only people who matter are those getting married. It's nobody's business or concern, otherwise. Also, there are those who said blacks would never be accepted in the military. Guess what?

Jaime Magiera

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 7:39 p.m.

You'll have to argue your case against the Pew Research group - whose polls show that a majority support gay marriage ( Also, in terms of acceptance, I'd hate to disappoint you, but there is increased acceptance everywhere each day. This decision will enhance that as more and more folks who were against same-sex marriage see concrete evidence that their lifestyles are not threatened in any way.


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 7:24 p.m.

Those that are gay and wish to be married now have that freedom. Those that oppose gay marriage will see nothing in their lives change, except their gay friends may be happier. A good day.


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 7:07 p.m.

This is a positive move that should have happened quite sometime ago.

Jack Gladney

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 6:43 p.m.

Looks like a very productive real estate office there.


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 7:09 p.m.

People do take a lunch on occasion to learn about things they are passionate about, or to relax. Try it.

Ross Dunbar

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 5:57 p.m.

Those are beautiful pictures Amy. It's a wonderful day!

Amy Biolchini

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 6:22 p.m.

Thanks Ross! All the credit goes to Mr. Ben Freed.