Brian Navarro was driving back from work when he heard on the radio that same-sex marriage was legalized in California. He started to cry amid the traffic.
I was really shocked and overwhelmed, said Navarro, a UCLA alumnus who has been with his same-sex partner, Ben Liang, also a UCLA alumnus, for almost nine years.
But for Navarro, as with many other same-sex couples, the feelings of joy were mixed with apprehension; Navarro said he recognizes that the gay community has a long battle ahead.
Navarro said he thinks the next step is to continue fighting and make sure the ballot measure to make same-sex marriage unconstitutional does not pass. After November, however, the fight is not over for the gay community.
I feel that this case is a step toward getting inclusion on a federal level, Navarro said. While we might have equality in the state of California, we dont have national equality.
For example, if he and Liang were to be married, they can file their California tax returns jointly but cannot do so for their federal returns. Other federal rights, including inheritance of social security and being able to apply for their spouses citizenship, will still be denied to them.
Thoman Pier, an oncology social worker at UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology who has been with his partner for 16 years, shares Navarros mixed feelings.
My first reaction was one of being very pleased with the ruling, Pier said. My secondary reaction was that it was a beginning of a battle. ... For me its like yay one day and lets get back to the fight the next.
He said that when he heard the ruling, he e-mailed his two sisters, who are also gay but live out of state, about the news and proposed the idea of a triple wedding.
Its really exciting to think about that, Pier said.
California is the second state to allow same-sex marriage, following Massachusetts. A major issue that separates these two states is that the same-sex partner has to be a resident of Massachusetts to be married there, but that is not the case in California. In this state, Piers triple-wedding idea could become a reality.
While plans like these are ideal for Pier, he said hes too realistic to believe it will be that simple.
Similar to Navarro, he said the short-term goal for their community is to defeat the constitutional amendment. A more long-term goal is to achieve federal marriage recognition and then to make skeptics really understand and accept same-sex marriage.
To do so, he says the gay community needs to reach out to others in a personal way. He said a co-worker congratulated him last Friday about the court ruling. This co-worker told Pier two years ago that a domestic partnership seems like it should be enough for a gay couple. But as she got to know Pier, she got a more personal feel for the issue.
Getting to know me and understanding our life, she realized that we deserve something equal, not something different, Pier said.
He said that even if legislation made same-sex marriage legal at both the state and federal levels, the battle would not be over.
I think there is more than just legislation, but telling people who we are, getting people to understand us, so that we really do have an equal life and they can say, Yes, I agree with you, Pier said.
Navarro also thinks that informing the community is essential for them to get the rights and recognition they want. To spread the word, Navarro and Liang joined Asian and Pacific Islander Equality, an organization that aims to promote marriage equality in more conservative communities.
We really target communities that lack informaion or face-to-face contact with gays and lesbians, Navarro said.
The group goes to an array of cities in which people are more conservative and informs them about the issue.
Rebecca Allegretto, a clinical nurse at the UCLA Medical Center who has been with her partner for eight years, said she has been waiting for the day she would be able to marry her partner for a long time.
Its really great. ... It adds another layer of support and validation to a relationship; it has been really exciting, and Im so happy that it finally happened here, Allegretto said.
Allegretto said she knows this is not the end of the battle, but she thinks a combination of educating the public and making monetary donations to the cause will help further their fight for same-sex marriage equality federally.
While they will continue to fight for completely equal rights, Navarro, Liang, Allegretto and Pier are pleased with the ruling, and all four agree it is a big step forward.
For Pier, to be able to define a relationship as a marriage brings a lot more legitimacy to it.
It puts my relationship equal to, lets say, my brothers relationship with his wife. Since they can say theyre married, they have a leg up on us, because were not. This might equalize us, Pier said.
Allegretto said this ruling helps gay couples fit in with the rest of the community.
It gives us a real feeling that we belong in society and society recognizes and validates us, she said,
Navarro and Liang have been slowly discussing getting married now that they are able to. Navarro said he is still letting the information sink in.
Now that we have this right ... what does that really mean? Navarro said. I definitely feel that weight of equality.