HOUSTON—They’re a happy couple looking forward to getting married, but on this day they’re happy about something else.
Smiling broadly, Tammy Boudreaux and Laura Perez of Missouri City show off matching silver bands worn on their ring fingers. That’s as close as they’ve come to a wedding. So today, they hailed the U.S. Supreme Court historic decisions on same sex marriage.
“It means that we matter,” Boudreaux said. “We’re a couple and we matter. And it feels wonderful.”
Gay rights supporters in the Houston area—especially gay couples—celebrated Wednesday’s U.S. Supreme Court decisions on same sex marriage. A majority of justices voted to strike down part of a federal law denying federal benefits to married gay couples and paved the way for resuming gay marriages in California.
The rulings will have no direct impact on gay marriage in Texas, which is basically banned by an amendment to the state constitution. Nonetheless, gay couples hailed the decisions as a breakthrough in their struggle for equality.
Even the city’s openly gay mayor, who’s often reluctant to comment on issues involving her sexual orientation, called the rulings “transformative” and discussed her interest in marrying her longtime domestic partner, with whom she’s raising a family of adopted children.
“The possibility that I can someday marry her is extremely important to me,” said Mayor Annise Parker. “Now, I have said and she has agreed that we want to do that in the state in which we have made our home. So at this point we’re not planning on going to one of those states which has recognized relationships such as ours. But I hope I still will be around to see it and do it in Texas at some point in time.”
Other gay couples will no doubt choose to travel to other states and marry, because the Supreme Court’s decision will trigger significant changes in how married gay couples are treated by the federal government. They cannot marry each other in Texas, but gay couples can certainly get married in any of the 11 states currently allowing same sex weddings. Then they can return to Texas and enjoy the benefits federal law gives to married couples. So for example, even though Texas doesn’t recognize marriages between couples of the same sex, they’ll still be able to file joint federal income tax returns.
“Any question that’s federal, like immigration, the federal government will recognize it for federal privileges and benefits,” said Gerald Treece, a constitutional law scholar with the South Texas College of Law.
Still, some questions linger. For example, Medicaid is jointly sponsored by the federal and state governments, so legal experts said it wasn’t immediately clear how those benefits would be affected.
“I am thrilled to watch this happen today,” said Katy Caldwell, executive director of Legacy Community Health Services based in Montrose, the heart of Houston’s gay community. “And I hope that the benefits will apply in the state of Texas like they will in New York and California and other states.”