WESTCHESTER, N.Y. – The minute Somers Middle School teacher Gary Wanderlingh heard about the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision Wednesday to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, he looked to his husband and found himself experiencing a new feeling.
“I just suddenly realized that, for the first time in my life, I’m suddenly equal to everyone else in this country,” the 44-year-old New Fairfield, Conn. man said Thursday. “It’s a major thing on a personal level to experience that for the first time. To have the state recognize us and to not have our country recognize us has just been an absurd thing. We’ve gone through so much nonsense just to be able to live together and now there is finally that hope.”
Wanderlingh, a Somers native, married UK native Sam Conlon in 2011, but DOMA and other legal issues recently highlighted in a USA Today article prevented Wanderlingh from claiming Conlon as his spouse for immigration purposes. While they weren’t handed an apology and weren’t granted any new rights immediately, Wanderlingh said the decision at the very least means he and Conlon won’t have to leave the country.
“When (Sam) will be able to start working and when we’ll obtain the paperwork we were entitled to on day one, we still don’t know,” he said. “We’ve waited four years and we knew we’d have to wait a little more. But now we can at least see it happening and that’s a really big thing.”
Ossining Mayor William Hanauer, who married his husband Alan Stahl in Ossining last year, said the decision does not affect his marriage directly but he still sees the ruling as a major generational shift occurring.
“To me it means that the next generation will not have to go through the same struggles that we have had to go through and that’s very exciting,” Hanauer said Thursday. “When you consider what the last two generations, at least in this country, have had to go through, you realize it’s not just been difficult it has been outrageous.”
Hanauer added that he sees the decision marking a new chapter in the United States.
“We have been discriminated against from the federal government for a long time,” Hanauer said. “And by a long time, I mean since this country was founded to (Wednesday). It doesn’t change what states do, but I think it will mean that those things will be going away very soon. And that is definitely something to celebrate.”
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