Austin organizations respond to SCOTUS DOMA ruling


by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and Photojournalist SCOTT McKENNEY

Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE

Posted on June 26, 2013 at 6:24 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 26 at 6:42 PM

AUSTIN -- The ruling by the country's highest justices is sparking an array of emotions across the country and in Austin.

"It's a huge step in the right direction. It's an earth-shattering step," said Jimmy Flannigan, president of the Austin Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

Jeff Haynes disagrees. "I'm very disappointed," he said. "I don't think marriage is a right to be given by the government."

In a 5 to 4 ruling, the Supreme Court decided legally married same sex couples should get the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples.

Flannigan says that potentially lowers taxes for gays and their employers.

"There are key issues that face employees and HR issues that marriage solves. For example, when you provide health benefits to partners of your LGBT employees, those benefits are taxed in a way that straight families are not taxed," explained Flannigan. 

The court also killed Prop 8, a California proposition that banned gay marriage. The justices ruled the ban unconstitutional.

"I'm from California, and I voted against Prop 8 when it came to the ballot in 2008, and was absolutely appalled when it passed," said Sarah Rokicki who agrees with the decision. 

So what does the ruling mean for Texas? In the short term, nothing changes.

"It is in our state constitution that marriage is defined between one man and one woman," said Julie Drenner, legislative analyst for the group Texas Values.

Voters approved that definition in 2005 with 76.2 percent of the vote but Drenner says the decision does open a door.

"Obviously it did effect all federal laws and all federal laws will apply to Texans. We have no idea in what way. That's one of our concerns with this; it's going to open a Pandora's Box of litigation," Drenner said. 

The one thing Texans can expect because of the ruling is a fight from both sides over gay rights.

"For our organization this shows motivation and gives us more motivation that we need to continue to be looking at these issues and not being complacent," Drenner said.

"It only renews my resolve to fight even harder in this state, in this city, to make sure that the marriage that I someday will have will be fully recognized in the state that I love," said Flannigan.

Figuring out exactly how these rulings will effect Texas in the future is something that's going to have to play out in Texas courtrooms.