Same-Sex Marriage: West Michigan Reacts to Historic Supreme Court Rulings

Posted at 6:11 PM, Jun 26, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-26 18:57:59-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Following two landmark rulings from the Supreme Court on same-sex marriage, the West Michigan LGBTQ community reacts as well as David John Walkowiak, newly-anointed bishop of the Grand Rapids Catholic Church, who opposes the decision.

It’s a major victory for the gay rights movement. The supreme court ruling struck down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act. This will allow for legally married gay men and woman to receive the same federal benefits that are available to opposite sex married couples in their state. They also dismissed California’s proposition 8 appeal, clearing the way for same-sex marriage in the state to resume.

FOX 17 spoke with Branden Carlston, a person who has handled the marketing for Rumors Night Club in Grand Rapids. He said the minute he heard the courts ruling he felt over-joyed.

“I saw the news break. The first part of DOMA was overturned,” Carlston said. “There was a cry out amongst friends and of course people of Facebook erupted immediately.”

Over the years of working with the night club, Carlston said he became friends with many people in the gay community. He said he’s watched those friends struggle to receive the same rights as everyone else.

“God forbid, if their spouse should pass away, where did they stand legally?” he said. “That was always a very large question mark. Now that question mark doesn’t exist anymore, for most states.”

In 2004, Michigan adopted a gay marriage ban that was put into place by voters. However, it seems that even in the state of Michigan, people are starting to change their views.

A poll conducted in May by the Glengariff Group, shows that 56.8 percent of voters support gay marriage. That’s up by 12.5 percentage points from one year ago.

In addition to Wednesday’s supreme court rulings, Michigan Democrats sponsored a package of legislation supporting same-sex marriage.  It includes a measure that would give voters the opportunity to repeal the 2004 amendment, which is something Ed Ladner and Milt Lennox, a couple from West Michigan, have waited a life-time to see.

“Well, it looks like it’s a beautiful day. It’s nice out. It’s a wonderful day to be alive,” Lennox said. “We couldn’t have received anymore wonderful news than what we received today.

In March, Lennox and Ladner will celebrate their 50th anniversary.

The couple said they hope this ruling will be the start of a movement that spreads through the nation, creating acceptance, tolerance and equal rights for everyone.

“Let’s hope this makes for a better path for all of the people who are struggling and do have difficulties with being who they are and coming out with who they are,” Ladner said. I say, ‘congratulations to all of them.'”