LACKAWANNA COUNTY – As the decision to grant federal benefits to same-sex couples was announced, the gay community in northeastern and central Pennsylvania calls the ruling a major victory. The ruling gives more rights to a community struggling to be accepted under the law.
"Well, this is an enormous victory for the LGBT community. The government and the constitution and law cannot be used to take away basic equality, basic human rights,” said Executive Director of NEPA Rainbow Alliance John Dawe.
The Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act, banning federal benefits to same-sex couples was illegal along with overturning Proposition 8, which outlawed gay marriage in California.
Many in the faith community fired back.
"I just disagree with it, just like a lot of the things that the government does based on religion, sex, marriage,” said Nick Albano of Dunmore.
The Diocese of Harrisburg released a statement saying,
“...Marriage belongs not to the State nor to the Church, but is a natural institution which both should recognize. The common good of all, especially our children, depends upon a society that strives to uphold the truth of marriage.”
Pastor David Twiss at Green Ridge Assembly of God Church in Scranton says this ruling is something many religious leaders expected.
"The Supreme Court has the right to make any decision it wants to make, but at the same time, we'll continue to do marriages as we always have done,” said Rev. Twiss.
Now same-sex couples have the right to marry in 12 states, more than a dozen allow some rights and more than 30 states ban it entirely.
In Pennsylvania, same-sex marriage is still illegal, but that’s not all.
"It's still legal to be fired based on sexual orientation or gender identity, or evicted from your apartment, or denied housing,” said Dawe.
The gay community says this victory is one small step in a bigger fight for equality.
The NEPA Rainbow Alliance says they will be celebrating the Supreme Court ruling Wednesday at The Woodlands Inn near Wilkes-Barre.
The bishop of the Diocese of Scranton released a statement also reacting to the Supreme Court Decision:
“The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision striking down part of the Defense of the Marriage Act and refusing to rule on the merits of a challenge to California’s Proposition 8 is unfortunate and disappointing. This decision clearly opposes the Catholic Church’s belief and teaching that the sacrament of marriage, rooted in natural law, is a faithful, exclusive, life-long loving union of a man and a woman open to the transmission of human life. The dual purpose of marriage: the unity and love of a man and a woman, and procreation has been embedded in human history long before any religion, nation or law was established.”