DOMA in the Deep South: What will the impact be?

Published: Jun. 27, 2013 at 3:58 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 27, 2013 at 4:02 AM EDT
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Billy Wooten
Billy Wooten

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Gay rights advocates across the nation celebrated the Supreme Court's decision to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, but it left some the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry wondering where they stand.

Take Billy Wooten. He's gay and married his partner of 15 years in March -- traveling to Washington, D.C., where gay marriage is legal, to tie the knot before coming home to Savannah.

"We did it one because we wanted to and two because we could but three to prepare for the day when DOMA was struck down," he said. "There was no doubt in my mind that DOMA would be found unconstitutional."

As a married gay man living in a state where gay marriage is illegal, Wooten will file his 2013 state tax returns as single, but he's not sure yet how he'll file his federal returns.

The Defense of Marriage Act, signed in 1996, had made it illegal to offer federal benefits to same-sex couples in states where they were legally married.

The Diocese of Savannah decried the Supreme Court's decision. Rev. Daniel Firmin, the diocese's vicar general called it a "watershed.

"Different relationships have different terms different meanings," he said. "But marriage is a special one. Marriage is a special one. We can entertain the duscusssion of what we call different types of relationships for sure. But marriage is. Marriage is a unique one."

Firmin reaffirmed the church's position that marriage is between a man and a woman and is for the purpose of creating children.

"Society defines it as a union between a man and a woman, and that's what we will focus on," he said. "And that's what we will defend."

But Wooten sees those tides turning despite the church's efforts.

"Some case somewhere will work its way through the courts I feel sure, and it will just be a matter of time before gay marriage will be in 50 states," he said.

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