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Advocates cheer Downtown as Supreme Court rules in favor of gay marriage

| Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 7:06 a.m.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Revie
Nancy Murrell (left), 51, of the North Side kisses her partner, Adriana Helbig 38, also of the North Side, when the LGBT community and supporters gathered on Liberty Avenue to watch the historic Supreme Court ruling on Prop 8 and DOMA live, Wednesday June 26, 2013.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Bloomfield residents Mackenzie Greenert (left), 23, and her partner, Erika McCue, 23, embrace when the LGBT community and supporters gathered on Liberty Avenue to watch the historic Supreme Court ruling on Prop 8 and DOMA live, Wednesday June 26, 2013.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Lavi Darling, 26, of Bloomfield sits on a giant rainbow flag in support of the LGBT community who gathered on Liberty Avenue to watch the historic Supreme Court ruling on Prop 8 and DOMA live, Wednesday June 26, 2013. The court's ruling in favor of gay marriage was cause for celebration at the rally.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Diane Anderson, 43, (left) and Heidi Anderson, 36, slow dance in the street when the LGBT community and supporters gathered on Liberty Avenue to watch the historic Supreme Court ruling on Prop 8 and DOMA live, Wednesday June 26, 2013. The court's ruling in favor of gay marriage was cause for celebration at the rally. The Anderson's were married in New York last year.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Mary Kay Prido of Sewickly cheers during a rally when the LGBT community and supporters gathered on Liberty Avenue to watch the historic Supreme Court ruling on Prop 8 and DOMA live, Wednesday June 26, 2013.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Dinah Denmark, 50, of Point Breeze becomes overwhelmed with emotion as she watches the historic Supreme Court ruling on Prop 8 and DOMA live, Wednesday June 26, 2013. Denmark has been a gay-rights activist for 30 years.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Joe King of Regent Square embraces his friend, Beth Matway, 55, of Squirrel Hill, when the LGBT community and supporters gathered on Liberty Avenue to watch the historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Prop 8 and DOMA live, Wednesday June 26, 2013. Matway has two lesbian daughters.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Nancy Murrell (left), 51, of the North Side embraces her partner, Adriana Helbig 38, also of the North Side, when the LGBT community and supporters gathered on Liberty Avenue to watch the historic Supreme Court ruling on Prop 8 and DOMA live, Wednesday June 26, 2013. The court's ruling in favor of gay marriage was cause for celebration at the rally.

Rainbow flags waved. Couples kissed. One man skipped through the crowd throwing glitter.

A crowd gathered Wednesday morning in a blocked-off section of Liberty Avenue in Downtown and erupted in celebration as the Supreme Court announced its rulings on two landmark gay marriage cases. Elsewhere, others expressed concern and called the development a “major blow.”

“I knew we were not going to have a riot. I knew we would rejoice,” said Gary Van Horn, president of the Delta Foundation, which organized the “Riot or Rejoice” rally to watch the decisions.

The court's 5-4 decisions ruled legally married same-sex couples should get the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples and cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California.

The rulings dismayed some religious groups. Bishop David Zubik of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh said the decisions contained troubling aspects, particularly equating a gay relationship to marriage.

“This can only further undermine our understanding of the true nature of marriage as a lifelong union of one man and one woman for their good, and the good of their children. We weaken that understanding much to our peril as a people and a nation because marriage is not merely a private institution, or a private matter, but foundational to society,” Zubik said.

The Pennsylvania Pastors' Network called the decisions a “major blow” to traditional marriage and a turn away from the biblical definition of marriage.

Outside the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, where about 300 people gathered, Mackenzie Greenert and Erika McCue wrapped their arms around each other as they awaited word of the court's ruling.

“It's amazing,” said Greenert, 23, of Bloomfield. “I can't wait for it to be legal everywhere.”

“It's all about the small steps,” said McCue, also 23, of Bloomfield. “And this is an amazing small step.”

Former Pennsylvania senator and GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum said the Supreme Court overstepped its role and ruled in opposition to the will of the people.

“Time and time again, when the definition of marriage has been put before the people, we have affirmed the unique and irreplaceable role the union of a man and a woman play in society,” Santorum said.

Some Pittsburgh and Allegheny County politicians praised the court's decision.

“Welcome to full equality,” Pittsburgh councilman Bruce Kraus of the South Side, who is openly gay, told the crowd.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald congratulated the Supreme Court on its ruling.

“What a great day for America,” Fitzgerald told the crowd. “They did it. They got it right.”

Councilman Bill Peduto, the Democratic candidate for mayor of Pittsburgh, called the ruling a historic moment as he addressed the crowd.

Josh Wander, the Republican candidate for mayor, opposes same-sex marriage but supported the Supreme Court rulings. He said the law should treat people equally.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, said the ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act was a step toward strengthening equal rights for all. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, did not issue a statement Wednesday afternoon.

Staff writer Mike Wereschagin and the Associated Press contributed to this report. Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7986 or aaupperlee@tribweb.com.

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