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Same-sex marriage ruling has deep resonance within E.L. community

June 26, 2015
<p>Okemos resident Joe Palcucci, 63, stands in front of the State Capitol Building June 26, 2015. Yuanzhe Zhuang/The State News</p>

Okemos resident Joe Palcucci, 63, stands in front of the State Capitol Building June 26, 2015. Yuanzhe Zhuang/The State News

East Lansing City Councilmember Ruth Beier was once warned about having her children taken away from her through legal action. She lived with the fear of losing her kids not because she was neglecting them, but because she is a lesbian.

“I have been with the same woman for 30 years, and 30 years ago we had four children and we were told that the court would take them away,” Beier said. “We actually had an attorney tell us that we were at risk of that."

But today she, as many across the U.S., rejoiced at the United States Supreme Court ruling this morning that same-sex marriage was constitutionally protected.

“This happened really fast in my opinion because my lifetime isn’t that long,” Beier said. “We went through all of those years of having to pretend to be something that weren’t while the kids were little, and now people can get married — it’s an amazing thing to happen this quickly.”

Okemos resident Joe Palcucci, 63, said he has been waiting for this day to come for the past 30 years.

"We've got our constitutional rights once again," Palcucci said. "We've got our constitutional rights despite bigotry, ignorance and fanaticism.

"We have our benefits now, and the government can't take them away."

Beier said she does not think equality would have been reached so soon if it were not for the generation of people under 35.

"My generation did a lot of the groundwork and a lot of the standing up and a lot of the horrible things," Beier said. "But your generation — anybody under the age of 35 — is just so accepting and so nonchalant about the obvious practice really everybody should be equal. I don't think it would have happened without that."

East Lansing was the first city in the country to adopt a nondiscriminatory ordinance back in 1972 and Beier said this is a huge day for the city.

Colin Wiebrecht, former representative for the Alliance of Queer and Ally Students in ASMSU’s general assembly, was awaiting a decision all week, and when one in favor of same-sex marriage came this morning, he was ecstatic.

“It was very exciting, because I never thought two years ago that it would happen this quickly,” Wiebrecht said.

While he called the ruling “very historic,” he didn’t see this as the resting point for LGBT rights efforts.

In Michigan, employers can still discriminate against workers who are members of the LGBT community, as sexual orientation and gender identity are not included in the list of discriminatory protections known as the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

“It's not like our fights over, so I think it's important to remember that,” Wiebrecht said.

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