Whatcom County couples cheer Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJune 26, 2013 

Whatcom County's gay and lesbian couples cheered Wednesday, June 26, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the provision of the Defense of Marriage Act that denied federal benefits to same-sex spouses.

The high court's ruling applies only to those couples who live in states where same-sex marriage has been legalized, providing them with legal access to the same benefits and responsibilities accorded to heterosexual spouses.

Among those elated by the decision was Sudden Valley resident Linda Lambert, who was able to marry Amory Peck after Washington state voters legalized gay marriage here.

"I still can't believe that we were able to get married in our church in March and after 15 years of doing all the things that normal taxpaying citizens do, receive the benefits that, I think, really are our due," Lambert said.

"We just want to be good citizens, live happily, have the same benefits so that we don't have to worry," she added.

For spouses Abby and Kendra Norton, it was a day of celebration - and, like other couples, a calling to the work still to be done in the 37 states where same-sex marriage isn't legal.

"This is a huge victory in the fight for equality, friends, and it is not over," the Bellingham residents wrote in reaction to the Supreme Court's decision. "As residents of Washington state, we now have 1,000-plus more rights today that we did not have yesterday."

The Nortons added: "Our marriage has been affirmed by our government as it should have been long ago. And, most importantly, we are going to use this day as a springboard to continue advocating for the majority of people like us who still do not have any rights at their state level."

Committed couple Robynne Sapp and Dotti Berry spent a year traveling the country in their "Gay into Straight America" campaign in 2005. It was their effort to transcend differences by sharing their story.

Their travels over backroads and to conversations in churches and coffee shops gave them insights to what people were feeling across the nation, and gave them faith that change would happen, the Blaine couple said.

"We knew this day was coming," Berry said.

Twelve states, including Washington, and the District of Columbia now recognize same-sex marriage. Another Supreme Court ruling Wednesday in a case over California's Proposition 8 cleared the way for same-sex marriages to resume in that state.

Sapp and Berry are focusing attention on those states that don't allow it.

"While this is so monumental and so historic and so fabulous, there are still 37 states out there that don't have equality," Sapp said of the high court's ruling. "Let's celebrate today and make this the best day of our lives, and let's get back to work tomorrow."

Reach KIE RELYEA at kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com or call 715-2234.

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