Supreme Court decision changes outlook for Pawleys Island gay couple

The Supreme Court handed down two historic decisions Wednesday in favor of gay marriage.

The provision of the Defense of Marriage Act that was struck down kept legally-married same-sex couples from receiving tax, health and pension benefits that go to married couples of the opposite sex.

In the other ruling, the justices said nothing at all about same-sex marriage itself. But the outcome will probably allow California officials to order the resumption of same-sex weddings in the state in about a month.

The high court decisions will change thousands of lives across the country, including those of a gay couple in Pawleys Island.

Tommy Starling and his husband, Jeff, have two children born to surrogate mothers and are legally married in California.

The couple were guests of President Barack Obama at the White House on Father's Day. The president even held their three-month-old son, Braxton.

When Starling heard the court had overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, he says he burst into tears of joy.

"It means that the federal government will finally recognize us a married couple and that we will not be considered second class citizens as we have been for many years," Starling said.

The couple will now be eligible for the same Social Security benefits and federal tax treatment as other couples.

But the way they're treated under South Carolina law, which doesn't recognize gay marriage, remains the same.

Starling believes the high court ruling paves the way toward changing that.

"It's inevitable. I mean, fairness is fairness and people need to be treated equally and our day is coming and I hope it'll be soon."

Not everyone is pleased with the Supreme Court's decision.

On the WPDE NewsChannel 15 Facebook page, Bobby Hodge commented, "The sexually immoral will not have a place in heaven, or those who applaud them."

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted: "I'll continue to fight for & defend traditional definition of marriage."

But Starling says he senses that people's attitudes toward gay marriage are changing.

"Talking to people, letting people know who we are, changes hearts and minds one person at a time, and that ultimately changes the broad spectrum of what people think," he said.

Starling says as the generations grow up, people won't think much about gay marriage anymore. It'll just be accepted, like any other marriage, he says.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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