Something old, something new

One year after the Supreme Court OKs same-sex marriage

By Timothy Walker

Friday, June 26, 2015. Call it the day love ruled.

It’s been roughly one year since that day, when the Supreme Court of the United States issued its landmark ruling in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges. With that decision, the highest court in the land ruled 5-4 that the fundamental right to marry was one afforded to same-sex couples just as it had always been to heterosexual couples, by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. With that ruling, the Supreme Court made it suddenly against the law to deny the marriage of same-sex couples anywhere within the United States.

Shock waves went out across the land from Washington that day, shock waves followed closely by disbelief, even dismay from some quarters, and intense celebration from others. The news media was filled with images of couples hugging and cheering the Supreme Court’s decision, and the White House itself stood illuminated in rainbow colors a few evenings later, in tribute to the achievement of the gay rights movement.

Not everyone celebrated the decision, of course. Four of the Court’s nine justices dissented, the late Justice Antonin Scalia among them, and all four wrote separate briefs outlining their problems with the ruling. Scalia, vehement in his disapproval, wrote, “When the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in 1868, every State limited marriage to one man and one woman, and no one doubted the constitutionality of doing so. … Since there is no doubt whatever that the People never decided to prohibit the limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples, the public debate over same-sex marriage must be allowed to continue. But the Court ends this debate, in an opinion lacking even a thin veneer of law.”

The debacle that later transpired in the state of Kentucky, when Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples due to her religious beliefs, was well documented. The clerk, herself divorced three times, was briefly jailed and even more briefly held up as a cause celebre by the nation’s conservatives, but has since mercifully faded from the public eye.

The hue and cry against same-sex marriage all seems a bit silly now, in retrospect. Society and the nation’s moral fiber did not suddenly collapse when marriage became a legal option for same-sex couples. The oft-mentioned decay of our nation’s values doesn’t appear to have been hastened by gay couples now being able to legally unite themselves in holy matrimony. If anything, the ruling seems to have hit Miami Valley individuals on a much more personal level—with benefits, and the rights that come from legally being someone’s next of kin, and the simple security of knowing you are bound to your beloved spouse in all ways, and that your union must be recognized by hospitals, courts, even each other’s families.

So, in celebration of the first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s monumental decision, The Dayton City Paper reached out and talked to several local same-sex couples, asking how their lives had been changed by the ruling, and how their lives continued to be affected by it one year later.

“I remember I was sitting in a staff meeting at the library,” says Chuck Duritsch, external relations manager for the Dayton Metro Library. “I was there with my fellow managers and directors. And someone texted me, and tears just started rolling down my cheeks. Someone looked at me and said ‘What’s wrong?’, and I said, ‘It passed, 5 to 4’. And everyone in the room started applauding.

“That is a day I will never forget,” continues Duritsch. “I was ecstatic, and even a little surprised that the court would come out 5-4 in favor of that decision.” Chuck Duritsch and his husband Don Yeazell, who recently retired, were actually married three years ago on April 19th in New York City. They were forced to travel to New York because at the time same sex marriages were not legally available or recognized in Ohio. “We’ve been together for 18 years this past April. We got married at City Hall in New York, and we had a small reception for friends and family at a dim sum restaurant in Chinatown. We have a commitment between the two of us. We don’t need that piece of paper—but we felt that this was such an important issue. We got married not long after California passed Proposition 8, which got rid of gay marriage, and I just felt like we had to make a statement. I feel we’re a normal couple—we’re not extreme on any end, but I just felt like we needed to make that statement. We planned our wedding for nine months, and we honestly didn’t think, at the time, that it would be legal for long in New York, either.”

For many couples, the desire to have their union recognized by the state stems in part from a fear about what might happen should one partner suddenly get sick or pass away. Too often in the past, family members and other legally recognized next-of-kin were able to step in during illnesses and prevent even long-term same sex partners from visiting their loved ones in the hospital or making any healthcare-related decisions. Many times property and even residences were taken away from surviving partners by family members of the deceased. For Duritsch, an ugly past experience along those same lines certainly influenced his desire to be legally married.

“I personally had that experience. My first partner—the reason I moved to Dayton was to be with him and, coincidentally, his name was also Don—we were together for 10 years. He had a short illness and passed away fairly suddenly. Luckily we did have a will and insurance, but the day after his memorial service a county sheriff’s deputy showed up at our home with his mother. They wanted a copy of the will—she wouldn’t talk to me, but she wanted a copy of his will. They were saying it was her house, which obviously it wasn’t—she wanted his possessions, which were half mine, so it was really a devastating experience, especially so soon after his sudden death. I never thought I was going to be in another relationship after that, honestly, but I didn’t want something like that to ever happen again.”

Chuck pauses before continuing.

“When I took the job at the library, and found out they offered benefits to same sex couples, which they offered even before the ruling, Don and I were already married. Don was ready to retire, his company was downsizing, and there was an opportunity for Don to take an early retirement and still have affordable healthcare through my employer. We were so thankful for that.”

Melissa Moore, who works, appropriately enough, in supplier diversity and sustainability, married her wife Veronica in Indiana on July 25, 2015, less than a month after the ruling.

“We got engaged in November of 2014,” Moore says. “Veronica actually proposed to me. We knew we lived in a conservative state, here in Ohio—not that Indiana is much better, but for same-sex marriage at the time, it was. So we looked, and we wanted to find the closest place we could get where it was legal. We considered Chicago, because we felt it was more liberal there, but we finally decided on Indianapolis because it was legal there and only two hours away. So we started planning anyway.”

“Neither of us are from Indianapolis, or has any family there,” Moore continues. “But we went and found a venue—we started getting irritated, because we went to some venues and you could tell it just wasn’t for us. So we parked on the side of the road and just started to Google ‘wedding venues,’ and we found the perfect venue, and they were so accepting from the moment we walked in the door. We could tell they just weren’t treating us any different, so it really ended up being perfect.

“Before the Supreme Court’s ruling,” Moore says, “we had booked our venue, we had made hotel blocks, we had everything set. Because at this point it didn’t even seem realistic that it would happen. Even the day of, it was still a shock. You get in this mindset just not to get your hopes up, and we were going to get married no matter what. So we had it all planned—then the Supreme Court’s ruling happened a month before, and part of me was like, ‘Dang it, we could have had it here in Ohio where all my family is, then nobody would have had to travel.’ We could have stayed locally, which would have been nice, but we made it work.”

“Love is love,” says Devin Dame, president of the Gatlyn Dame Group, whose stated mission is to raise awareness and provide education and outlets for transgender, non-conforming gender identity persons, and their allies.

“You can’t help who you fall in love with. It’s an amazing thing, and two people that fall in love should have the same rights that my parents, your parents, my grandparents, and every other heterosexual couple has had from the start.

“We married April 24, 2013, and we have kind of a different outlook on the Supreme Court ruling,” Dame continues, “Because Gage is transgender, so he is legally male. Legally, we were married before the ruling came down. It affected our lives, and it certainly affected our friends’ lives, but at the same time—it didn’t, if you see what I mean.

“What the ruling did,” continues Dame, “was it allowed people who had been together 15, 20, 30 years to be able to have that legal bond so they can claim each other, so they can have legal rights when it comes to healthcare, when it comes to being in the hospital or in intensive care, when it comes to the decision-making process. There are so many horror stories out there where one of the partners dies and the family comes in and legally takes whatever they want while the other partner is just forced to sit there. So now, with the legalization of same-sex marriage, that has all changed.”

Local couple Tom Humbert and Jim McKinnon were married in February, and for Humbert, the best part of the Supreme Court’s ruling was that it made life, and the ability to marry, a normal thing for all couples.

“I am an office manager for a surgical office,” Humbert says. “My husband’s name is Jim McKinnon, and we got married on February 27th. He just graduated from Wright State with a degree in history. We got married at the Top of the Market, here in Dayton. We had planned on getting married; we were just waiting until it was legal in Ohio. We didn’t want to have to travel outside of the state in order to get married. That seems to be what a lot of people did; they wanted to get married but they didn’t want to have to travel, didn’t want to be forced to have their families travel—they wanted to do it right where they live.”

Which, again, is the best part of the new normal situation we have now regarding matrimony in these 50 United States…. that it leveled the playing field for all couples, straight or gay, and made marriage itself—not “gay marriage” or “same-sex marriage,” but just “marriage”—a right available to all of this country’s citizens.

“To me, it’s just a marriage,” Humbert says. “A lot of people call it same-sex marriage, a lot of people call it gay marriage, whatever you really want to call it, but to me it’s just a marriage. Probably 90 percent of our guests were straight couples… co-workers, family members, friends… so to me it was just a normal wedding.”

Tim Walker is 50 and a writer, DJ and local musician. He lives with his wife and their two children in Dayton, where he enjoys pizza, jazz and black t-shirts. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Walker at

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Tim Walker is 51 and a writer, DJ, and local musician. He lives with his wife and their two children in Dayton, where he enjoys pizza, jazz, and black T-shirts. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Walker at

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