Austinites react to same-sex marriage benefits



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Posted on February 8, 2014 at 11:08 PM

Updated Sunday, Feb 9 at 11:40 AM

AUSTIN -- Saturday night Attorney General Eric Holder announced the federal government will give equal recognition to same-sex couples, even if their state has not legalized gay marriage. The change means same-sex couples will receive equal benefits when it comes to the court system, bankruptcies and prison visitations.

This Saturday it's a perfect day for a volleyball game. On the sidelines sit Heather Hill and Jeanna Martinez hand-in-hand.

"I sprinkled rose petals everywhere and put up twinkle lights and had music in the background and just had the works," Hill said of the proposal. "Obviously she said yes."

In December they'll be married in New York.

"The reality is that when we say 'I do' everybody there along with the state will be able to say 'I do' with us. And I think that's just so important to us," Martinez said.

Same sex marriage isn't legal in 34 states, including Texas. But Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement this weekend means the federal government will recognize their wedding no matter where they live.

"Although we cannot get married in Texas being able to come back to the state that you've grown up in, that your family is from, that you feel like your heart is tied to that's a big deal," Hill said. "Being able to come back and feel that you are not a second-class citizen and that you do have the same rights as any other person marrying their partner."

"These issues, if they went to the state level, and particularly at the federal level, they wouldn't pass," said Texas Values President and Attorney Jonathan Saenz.

Saenz said this is an example of overreach from the feds.

"It's very clear that the people of the state of Texas have already spoken on these issues when it comes to the definition of marriage and same sex benefits and the reason that you see the Obama administration abusing their power and overreaching is because they don't have the will of the people on their side," Saenz said.

Others in Austin disagree and hope this leads to even more states recognizing gay marriage.

"The concept of marriage is changing daily. It's no longer the old world contract it used to be," said supporter Ari Neufeld.

"I do think it is one more step forward," added Michael Mendoza.

Hill and Martinez said, for them, the timing couldn't be better.

"This is a very big step forward and this does give a lot of people a lot of hope, especially us," Hill said.

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz responded to the Attorney General's decision to recognize same-sex marriages in all 50 states, calling it an infringement of individual state's right to chose.