Stevie Wyatt is certain the atmosphere at Club Pulse will be especially festive this week following the Supreme Court’s decision Wednesday to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act.
Wyatt is a bartender at the gay bar located at 803 Main Street in Myrtle Beach.
“At work I’m sure it will be a really great time,” she said. “Festive and jovial which it usually is. It’s a gay bar, it’s gay and happy.”
Working late hours, she hadn’t heard the news before speaking with The Sun News Wednesday.
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The high court deemed unconstitutional the provision in DOMA denies same-sex couples federal benefits, such as filing joint income tax returns. The Supreme Court also dismissed a lawsuit addressing the same-sex marriage ban in California, known as Proposition 8.
“That’s wonderful,” Wyatt said. “When my partner and I do have a ceremony it may not be recognized by the state of South Carolina, but it will be recognized federally. We will be offered the same benefits as heterosexual couples that should be extended to all committed, loving, adult couples.”
Wyatt said she and her partner already were planning a wedding ceremony before DOMA was deemed unconstitutional and have plans to marry next fall in a private ceremony with a big party. Both Wyatt and her partner plan to wear white dresses.
She said she’s never been able to understand what makes same-sex couple so different than heterosexual ones.
“There’s really only that one difference and I don’t understand why people choose to focus on the one difference when there’s so much commonality,” she said.
Patti Knapp and Ann Mancuso have been together for 25 years, but neither thought they’d ever see this day.
“I’m stunned that all of this has happened in my lifetime,” Knapp said. “I think we’ve reached the tipping point.”
She said she burst into tears when she heard the news Wednesday morning, a reaction she said she didn’t anticipate
“I didn’t even realize how excited i was until the ruling came,” she said. “We were all very hopeful. It seems like a no brainer that we are all created equal. I’m glad the court came down on the side of justice and equality and freedom.”
The couple, who have lived in Ohio, Virginia and Myrtle Beach, is excited for the changes the court’s decision will bring.
“It makes a huge difference to us personally,” Knapp said. “We’ve had to go to lawyers and have papers drawn up in each state we’ve lived in just so we could do things that straight couples get to do by just being married.”
That list includes the ability to make health care decisions and learn the details of their partner’s condition from a doctor because they weren’t recognized as relatives or a spouse.
“We think we’re family,” Knapp said. “But we had to pay a lawyer in all three states to have those rights.”
Knapp and Mancuso said they’ll likely have a wedding ceremony in a state that does recognize same-sex marriage now that the federal government will recognize their relationship for purposes like income tax and social security benefits.
Both also said they know there are still challenges ahead, but they have hope.
“There are still many hurdles to jump over,” Knapp said. “There’s still a lot of people that do not agree with this decision ... It’s like the wind beneath our wings, to borrow a phrase from Bette Midler. It gives you hope. It’s the landmark ruling.”
Wyatt said she still has hope for change in South Carolina.
“We’re viewed by the rest of the country – except Mississippi and Alabama – as lacking in so many ways, not just on a social level,” she said. “Jobs and what those jobs pay. We’re considered so behind everyone else. I’d really like [the world] to see South Carolina as the wonderful state it is filled with intelligent, incredible people.”
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham said in a press release Wednesday his stance won’t be changing, despite the high court’s ruling.
“I believe in the traditional definition of marriage,” he said. “South Carolinians have repeatedly said that is the definition they support as well.”
Graham said he is disappointed, but respects the Supreme Court.
“One key point, today’s Supreme Court ruling will not change South Carolina law and I will continue to fight for and defend the traditional definition of marriage.”
Tommy Starling said there’s an open invitation for Graham to join his family for dinner in Pawleys Island. Starling has been with Jeff Littlefield for 17 years.
“I invite Lindsey Graham to sit down at my dinner table with my family and get to know me and my children so he could stop being afraid of our family,” Starling said. “I would love for him to witness the family that we are.”
The pair were married in California in 2008 just before Proposition 8 passed. The Supreme Court on Wednesday also dismissed the case dealing with Prop. 8, striking down the same-sex marriage ban.
“We’re kind of in legal limbo, or marriage limbo,” Starling said. “We are one of the couples married when Prop. 8 was not in effect. We get to continue to be married.”
Starling and Littlefield are raising two children born through surrogacy with their DNA and a donor egg in California. Their daughter Carrigan turns 7-years-old in July and they have a three month old boy named Braxton.
“The important thing for us now is our children can say, ‘Our daddies are married,’” Starling said. “It’s a psychological thing because you get to confirm who you are, that you’re a family. It’s a wonderful thing for the country to recognize what we already know.”
Starling said his family isn’t always welcomed, but the reception in the Pawleys Island community has been positive.
“We hear backlash from people that think we shouldn’t be a family or that we shouldn’t have kids,” he said. “The say they feel sorry for our children or that it’s sick for two men to raise children together.”
With Carrigan in school, he said they’ve met a new group of people outside of the gay friends they already had.
“Those families get to know us and they see that we’re just like they are,” he said. “We just want good things for our kids. We want them to be happy and healthy and well educated. Because of that, people’s hearts and minds have begun to change.”