The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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June 26, 2013

Local reaction to Supreme Court ruling is mixed

JOHNSTOWN — Wednesday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision outlawing the federal Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA, has generated a wide range of reaction from local residents and officials.

“It’s a revelation. It’s certainly needed,” said George Griffith, owner of the Flower Barn in Westmont. “I was shocked and delighted – it’s time. I think it is equality for all.”

In a 5-4 vote, the land’s highest court struck down the law barring the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

Same-sex marriage has been legalized by 12 states, although Pennsylvania does not recognize it or civil unions.

The ruling means that federal benefits to those in same-sex marriages in states that recognize these unions must receive the same benefits afforded those in traditional marriages.

The ruling is reflective of a change that is occurring nationwide, Griffith said.

“People are attracted to people we have no control over. I believe we’re born that way,” he said. “I think the population has come to realize that.”

While the decision is probably a step forward, said John Suchta, owner of Flowers on The Corner, in Lilly, it does little, at this point, for gays and lesbians in Pennsylvania.

“Unless Pennsylvania is made to recognize gay and lesbian marriages or civil unions, this (court decision) doesn’t mean much,” he said.

Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey supports the decision, saying it is a step in assuring equal rights for all Americans.

“The Supreme Court made the right decision in striking down the Defense of Marriage Act,” he said in a statement issued by his office.

Casey said he has read many letters sent to him by lesbians and gays and their families asking for equal rights under the law.

“These letters included deeply personal statements from people across our commonwealth and had a substantial impact on my decision to support marriage equality,” he said. “I believe the Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA was a critical step in strengthening equal rights for all.”

Casey’s opinion is not shared by everyone, including the secretary for communications for the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.

Spokesman Tony DeGol said the decision was very disappointing.

“The Catholic Church sees marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman,” DeGol said.

He added that the court’s decision does not change the beliefs of the church.

“No one has the right to redefine what the Lord has taught us,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Hollidaysburg, said the vote to strike down DOMA was disappointing and cited figures indicating he shares the opinion of a majority of Americans.

“Nearly three-fourths of Americans believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and 38 states have banned same-sex marriage either through laws, constitutional amendments or both,” Shuster said in a statement. “I will continue to work toward legislation that will uphold what I believe to be one of our most important and longstanding traditions.”

Griffith disagrees with the statistics Shuster used regarding public opinion on same-sex marriages.

More than 60 percent of the American people feel there should be equality for alternative marriages, he said.

U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, said that while he continues to review the decision, he is disappointed in the ruling.

“And it is my hope that states will continue to define marriage as the union between one man and one woman,” he said in a statement.

The court decision brought rapid responses from a host of organizations on both sides of the issue.

The Pennsylvania Pastors’ Network said its members are appalled at the decision and will continue to pray for a revival of values.

GetEqual, a national lesbian and gay social justice organization, praised the decision overturning the law and vowed to fight for law changes in states that do not recognize nontraditional marriages or civil unions.

Lawyers from the Women’s Law Project, a nonprofit women’s legal advocacy organization with offices in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, applauded the decision.

In a statement, project staff termed it a historic ruling that strikes a “long overdue blow for dignity,” but stopped short of ruling that the Constitution requires all states to allow same-sex couples to marry.

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