The “thunderbolt” struck the nation around 11 a.m. Friday morning. For some Newton County residents the storm had been brewing for two decades, and for a local couple the ringing began at 3 p.m. – ringing of wedding bells.
After the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was legal throughout the country, couples rejoiced and made preparations to get married.
Lisa Kirkley and Luann Kirkley were united in matrimony in Judge Henry Baker’s courtroom at the Newton County Probate Court.
The couple had been keeping tabs on the anticipated action from the Supreme Court, and was excited to actually be able to hold a ceremony.
“We didn’t know we would actually be able to have a ceremony here today,” Lisa Kirkley said. “It all worked out so we could have a ceremony.”
With their marriage legal, the couple planned to have a party Friday evening to celebrate not only their marriage, but a historic day.
“We were just elated when we heard the ruling,” Lisa Kirkley said.
Another Newton County same-sex married couple, Kim Smith and Angela Croy, also were elated at the news. Smith and Croy have been married since March 24, but they said their nuptials in Florida, and did not have their last names changed since it was not legal in their home state Georgia.
Angela has lived in Newton County her whole life, and Kim moved to the county in 1982. The two have been together 23 years, and long been awaiting a day when they could be legally recognized as a married couple. When that day came, they were left almost speechless.
“Wow,” Croy said. “We were so ecstatically happy. We were crying because we were so happy. We never thought in our lifetime that we would see this coming.”
The marriage didn’t change their relationship, but allowed them — they felt — the same rights as other legally recognized couples
“It’s basically having human rights across the board,” Croy said. “We had to do the legal thing a couple of years ago to protect our assets. That was a big chunk out of our pockets that if we were married we wouldn’t have to. When in the hospital we could say I’m going to sit right here in this room and nobody can tell me when to leave.”
The right for Lisa and Luann, Kim and Angela, and many others to marry came after a narrow, 5-4, vote that put an end to same-sex marriage bans in the 14 states that still maintained them, including Georgia.
Ga. Attorney General Sam Olens and Governor Nathan Deal issued statements on Friday saying the state would follow the decision of the Supreme Court. "In our system of government, the Supreme Court bears the ultimate responsibility for determining the constitutionality of our laws. Once the Supreme Court has ruled, its Order is the law of the land. As such, Georgia will follow the law and adhere to the ruling of the Court," said Olens in a released statement.
In praise of the decision, President Barack Obama called it "justice that arrives like a thunderbolt."
“It’s a major, major turn in history in our life,” Croy said. “We’re no longer second-class citizens. We’re all equal now.”
Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory released the following statement after the Supreme Court decision:
"Each U.S. Supreme Court decision that has ever been rendered has resulted in deep disappointment for some people and vindication for others. If we all agreed on the outcomes of these divisive cases, there would simply be no reason for the Court to convene. This most recent decision is no different.
"By the same token, every court decision is limited in what it can achieve; again, this one is no exception. It does not change the biological differences between male and female human beings or the requirements for the generation of human life, which still demands the participation of both. It does not change the Catholic Church's teaching regarding the Sacrament of Matrimony, which beautifully joins a man and woman in a loving union that is permanent in commitment and open to God's blessing of precious new life.
"This judgment, however, does not absolve either those who may approve or disapprove of this decision from the obligations of civility toward one another. Neither is it a license for more venomous language or vile behavior against those whose opinions continue to differ from our own. It is a decision that confers a civil entitlement to some people who could not claim it before. It does not resolve the moral debate that preceded it and will most certainly continue in its wake.
"This moral debate must also include the way that we treat one another - especially those with whom we may disagree. In many respects, the moral question is at least as consequential and weighty as the granting of this civil entitlement.
The decision has offered all of us an opportunity to continue the vitally important dialogue of human encounter, especially between those of diametrically differing opinions regarding its outcome.
"The decision has made my ministry as a pastor more complex since it demands that I both continue to uphold the teachings of my Church regarding the Sacrament of Matrimony while also demanding that I insist upon respect for the human dignity of both those who approve of the judgment as well as those who may disapprove."
Meris Lutz and The Associated Press contributed to this story.