Annise Parker — the first openly gay mayor of a major American city — was beaming as she strolled into the Houston city council meeting on Wednesday, slightly behind schedule.
“I apologize for starting late. I was a little distracted," she said. "It is a great day in the United States."
In the wake of the Supreme Court's landmark 5-4 ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the happy mayor couldn't have summed it up better for the local LGBT community, which will have plenty to celebrate at this Saturday's annual Pride Festival and Parade.
"The Court's decision strikes down an inequality that has prevented legally married same-sex couples from enjoying the same rights as other married couples," Parker said later in an official statement. "Today we take a huge step forward, but this fight is not over. It is my hope that the decision leads to greater acceptance and tolerance — and ultimately to full equality."
"Today we take a huge step forward, but this fight is not over."
The mayor's cautiously optimistic tone speaks to Texas legislation that continues to forbid same-sex marriage, which currently is recognized in 13 states and the District of Columbia. (California marriage equality laws were reinstated Wednesday with the Supreme Court defeat of Proposition 8.)
Nevertheless, area LGBT activists applaud the federal government's monumental initial steps.
"We are literally dancing in our chairs this morning," says Sally Huffer with the Montrose Center, which has provided counseling services for the city's gay community since 1978.
"It all boils down to equality for us. While the right to marry is only one piece of the puzzle, the ruling will certainly help reduce the feelings of isolation many experience by being treated as an outcast. No one should have to ask permission to have the same rights as other Americans."
For Legacy Community Health Services — which has assisted local same-sex couples in receiving medical benefits blocked by DOMA — the Supreme Court ruling will add yet another layer of health care expansion already taking place thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
"We've been watching the SCOTUSblog like hawks this week," Legacy executive director Katy Caldwell tells CultureMap.
"We're thrilled to see married same-sex couples finally have access to federal benefits that were only available to married hetrosexual couples under DOMA. It's a wonderful moment for the gay rights movement."