For Jose Viri-Dunahue, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Friday to legalize same-sex marriage across the nation was about more than matrimony.
The landmark 5-4 decision, which struck down same-sex marriage bans in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee, legally validates his family, he said.
Viri-Dunahue, 53, of Ostrander, and his husband, Jeff Dunahue, married in Indiana last year on their 32nd anniversary and are the parents of two adopted children.
Legally, until Friday, though, they were each parent to one child: Dunahue to their daughter, Viri-Dunahue to their son.
“Hopefully we will be able to re-adopt our kids so our names will be on both our kids’ adoption certificates,” said Viri-Dunahue. “Ultimately, so we can feel like a whole family instead of portioning it out.”
With the high court’s ruling, that will now be possible.
But Viri-Dunahue was unsure if the day would ever come.
“The first year we were together, (Dunahue) did propose and I told him I would marry him when it becomes real,” he said. “We’re elated that we’re finally recognized in our own home state.”
But for some Delaware County religious leaders, the decision is a symptom of moral degradation in America, and possibly a sign of darker times to come.
“When these things happen, the end is very close,” said Pastor Andy Freeman of the Christ the King Worship Center. “I think it will actually have a very positive impact on the church. I believe the Lord will stir his people in these last days.”
While disappointed in the decision, Father Michael Watson said the decision could lead people of faith to strengthen their relationships with God.
“It calls those who are Christian and those who want to live in the Christian discipline to perhaps step it up,” he said.
Eric Sapp, pastor of the New Hope Baptist Church, said he has no plans to perform same-sex marriages in his church and he does not believe that government should be in the business of marriage.
“I’m opposed to any government, state or federal, having anything to do with marriage,” he said. “Marriage is a biblical concept. Marriage is an institution that belongs to God. I don’t personally think the government should have ever been involved. I wish the Supreme Court would have made the decision that they weren’t even going to hear it.”
Despite Sapp’s wishes, government is in the business of marriage. And the Delaware County Probate Court issued its first marriage license to a same-sex couple just after noon Friday. Tina King and Michelle Deere, who have been together for the past 13 years, were the first recipients.
“It’s a very exciting day,” said King. “A lot of people have sacrificed so much to get here. A lot of people haven’t had the chance to do this.”
Ty McCearley and his partner of 15 years, Dave Kay, were the second same-sex couple to be issued a marriage license.
“I have never been more proud to be an American,” said McCearley. “I never expected this would happen in my lifetime. It feels like a miracle and a blessing. God bless the USA. Now I feel equal.”
Tony Marconi, a local activist, said the battle for full equality is not yet over, pointing out that there are no anti-discrimination or anti-bully statutes in Ohio that specifically protect people in the LGBT community.
“It is a great first step and a long overdue step in reaching equality for all of our citizens,” he said. “But it does not mean LGBT people will have achieved total equality in our society. This is a huge step forward but it’s not the last step yet.”
Both Marconi and Viri-Dunahue said they were both surprised and pleased with the speed at which public opinion on gay rights has changed. In 2004, more than 60 percent of Ohio voters approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Recent polls have shown that more than 60 percent of Ohio’s now favor same-sex marriage.
“We pay the same taxes as anyone else,” Viri-Dunahue said. “We should have the same rights.”