Supporters of marriage equality in Sonoma County started celebrating early Wednesday and continued into the night in the wake of two landmark U.S. Supreme Court rulings restoring same-sex marriage to Californians and extending the rights of married gays and lesbians around the country.
"My heart won't stop pounding," Sonoma resident Tim Church said as he processed the news at a neighbor's home minutes after the momentous decisions were made public.
"It's a good day. It's a very good day," said his host, Gary Saperstein, who opened his home to more than a dozen friends who hovered over laptops to get immediate word from the court.
Santa Rosa attorney Naomi Metz, already slated to fly to Washington today for a meeting of the national Gay and Lesbian Task Force, made a last-minute decision to travel Tuesday night so she could be at the court when the long-awaited decisions emerged.
The earlier flight meant she celebrated the news with her wife long-distance, by phone, but the chance to witness "this moment in history" was too alluring, she said.
"When it came out, the place just filled with tears — tears and laughter and whoops of excitement," Metz said, still standing in front of the Supreme Court building. "It was amazing."
In a one-two punch, the nation's highest court struck down a key provision in the federal Defense of Marriage Act that denied federal benefits to same-sex spouses.
The high court also paved the way for same-sex marriages to resume in California. It left in place a 2010 district court decision that found Proposition 8, the 2008 voter-approved ban on gay marriages, was unconstitutional.
Stu Harrison, co-chairman Wine Country Says No on 8 five years ago, on Wednesday declared it finally "dead."
"It's a momentous day," he said.
He gathered with about 75 others Wednesday night at Healdsburg Bar and Grill in a low-key victory celebration.
Harrison said the highlight of the day was watching President Obama on TV calling the two Prop. 8 plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case from Air Force One.
"We were witnesses to this phenomenal event," he said.
"This is about equality and fairness," Harrison said, adding that for the gay community "it's the end of state-sanctioned stigma. It's about respect, worthiness and the end of indignities."
"It's a big release for me personally and many other gay people of my generation," said Harrison who was there with his husband Dave Ring. They were married in 2008 by North County Supervisor Mike McGuire, before gay marriages in California were discontinued.
Healdsburg Mayor Susan Jones also was present with her wife, attorney Toni Lisoni.
She said she was proud of her fellow City Council members who joined the lawsuit to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which recognized only marriage between a man and woman.
And personally, she said, it will feel great not to have to pay to twice have her taxes filed, since the federal government didn't recognize her marriage.
Greg Miraglia who has a KRCB radio program on LGBT issues, said Wednesday's court decision felt huge for him and his husband. They were were married in Canada in 2006.
"The difference is between feeling like a second class citizen, versus first class, like everyone else," he said.