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White Plains LGBT Center Activist Reflects On Rally For Marriage Equality

Members of the LOFT, a White Plains LGBT community center, rallied in Washington D.C. as the U.S. Supreme Court heard cases on same-sex marriage.
Members of the LOFT, a White Plains LGBT community center, rallied in Washington D.C. as the U.S. Supreme Court heard cases on same-sex marriage. Photo Credit: RoseAnn Hermann

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – RoseAnn Hermann waited in line nearly five hours to sit in the U.S. Supreme Court for exactly three minutes as it heard arguments on marriage equality last week.

“You just want those three minutes to last,” Hermann said. “You want to get as much in as you can. It’s really quite remarkable.”

Hermann is a member of the LOFT, a White Plains LGBT community center. She became active in the fight for marriage equality when her son Gabriel Blau, 32, married his husband. They had a Jewish wedding in 2006, then got married on June 24, 2011, the day New York’s Marriage Equality Bill went into effect. Like her son, Hermann’s daughter, Tamar, has a young child with her partner.

“It started out being for my kids,” said Hermann, who raised her three kids in White Plains. “Now it’s a matter of doing what’s right for the country.”

Hermann was in the state Senate chamber when it passed the state’s Marriage Equality bill into law. Nearly two years later, she was in the U.S. Supreme Court on the first day of oral arguments March 27 in the case of United States v. Windsor . Edith Windsor’s wife, Thea Spyer, died in 2009, at which time she inherited her wife’s estate. But because they were married in Canada and the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriages, she was required to pay more than $363,000 in federal estate taxes on it. If same-sex marriage had been legal then, she would have paid no taxes.

The LOFT honored Windsor and had a plaque to commemorate her efforts that hangs in the group's community center on Bryant Avenue.

By hearing her case, the high court is considering the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 law that denies same-sex couples benefits from the federal government, including those legally married in their home states. The high court heard arguments March 26 on the constitutionality of Proposition 8, a 2008 ballot proposition that banned same-sex marriage in California.

Michael Sabatino, the first openly gay city councilman in Yonkers and member of the LOFT, was the plaintiff in the lawsuit, Godfrey v. Spano, that led to New York recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. Windsor's partner died the same year Sabatino won the lawsuit in 2009.

Sabatino and his husband, who were married in Canada in 2003, also attended the rallies in Washington D.C. March 26 and 27 as the high court heard Proposition 8 and DOMA.

“Our case, Godfrey v. Spano, was referenced in her [Edith Windsor's] case because that is one of the cases that legitimizes or recognizes her Canadian marriage here in New York,” said Sabatino, who added he caught up with Windsor before her case was called Wednesday.

Sabatino decided not to wait in line to go into the high court, but instead supported the rallies outside.

“There was really a lot of energy,” Sabatino said. “There were people from all over the country. It was pretty exciting.”

Hermann went with her son and his husband and child. She was one of several LOFT members to attend.

The Supreme Court is expected to make a decision on both Proposition 8 and DOMA in June.

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