Countless rainbow flags waved at gay rights rallies in Omaha and Lincoln on Wednesday night in celebration of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a 1996 law that had blocked the federal government from recognizing gay marriages.
A reporter-estimated crowd of 150 people met at Memorial Park in Omaha for an impromptu rally at 5 p.m. Attendees gathered around two giant rainbow flags and held smaller flags to celebrate the high court's striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. At one point, everyone sang the national anthem.
Jess Meadows Anderson, the event organizer, said Memorial Park has been a gathering place anytime there's a reason to rally for gay rights. Meadows Anderson married her wife, Ariann Anderson, in Iowa in 2011. They have an 8-year-old daughter.
“This is a monumental occasion that really gives hope for my family,” Meadows Anderson said.
Becki Brenner, head of ACLU Nebraska, and Anne Boyle, a Nebraska Public Service commissioner, addressed the crowd, saying the ruling leaves them optimistic about the possibility of same-sex marriage being legal in Nebraska in the future.
Brenner said the ruling gives same-sex couples dignity and respect: “This is the first step in recognizing that people have the right to be in a committed and loving relationship with whomever they choose to love.”
In Lincoln, a reporter-estimated crowd of 100 people gathered near the west steps of the State Capitol. One person carried a rainbow flag, one twirled a rainbow umbrella and one wore a rainbow skirt to celebrate a day they consider historic for same-sex couples.
“Let's have a big scream if you love that DOMA is dead,” said Tyler Richard, president of Outlinc, a gay and transgender community center.
Several people at the rally said they hope the court rulings signal the eventual fall of same-sex marriage bans in all states.
Emily Dvorak of Lincoln, who attended the rally with her partner, said the Supreme Court's decisions made her feel “overjoyed for those who this is affecting in a big way.”
About 10 minutes after he learned of the Supreme Court's decision in the federal case, Dan Huntley of Lincoln said his elation was tempered by the realization that it changed little in Nebraska from a legal standpoint.
“We still have some work to do,” he said.