Manhattan community celebrates same sex marriage decision

Manhattan community members and K-State students and faculty hold "Love Wins!" signs in Triangle Park after the supreme court marriage rights decision legalized same-sex marriage. (George Walker | The Collegian)

Cheering, rainbow flags and signs filled Triangle Park on last Thursday afternoon as the sound of cars honking passed by. Local Manhattanites gathered in a rally to celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same sex marriage in all 50 states.

Sponsored by the Flint Hills Human Rights Project, more than 50 men, women and children turned up for the event.

Mariya Vaughan, assistant coordinator for K-State First, cheered as a passing car honked at the crowd.

“I feel great,” Vaughan said. “This is exciting. We haven’t won a complete victory, but this is a huge step.”

In a 5-4 ruling, the high court decided that state constitutional bans on same sex marriage were illegal. Justices cited the 14th Amendment, stating that same sex couples were entitled to equal marriage rights nationwide.

“I’ve been excited and grinning all day,” Vaughan said. “It made the last day of orientation and enrollment that much more exciting.”

Although the court decision was celebrated in Manhattan, not everyone was pleased with the ruling. Gov. Sam Brownback issued a statement condemning the court.

“Activist courts should not overrule the people of this state, who have clearly supported the Kansas Constitution’s definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman,” Brownback wrote. “We will review the ruling carefully to understand its effects on the people of Kansas.”

In 2005, Kansas voters passed an amendment to the state’s constitution that banned recognition of same sex marriage. According to a recent CNN poll however, about 59 percent of Americans said they supported the Supreme Court’s decision.

For Vaughan, her interactions with people were all positive.

“There’s been a lot of support,” she said. “I haven’t seen any negativity today. Everybody’s just really happy.”

Jerry Sextro, freshman in open option, sat with other supporters as they discussed the ruling.

“It’s great to see so many people come out for this,” Sextro said. “We’re having cars honk as they drive by, people showing up with signs. It’s just been a great day.”

Darci Pottroff and Joleen Spain were the first same sex couple to be married in Riley County after a federal appeals court first overturned the state’s marriage ban last year. Pottroff, information systems supervisor at K-State, said she had long waited for the ruling to come.

“It’s just amazing,” Pottroff said. “I really can’t find the words to express it.”

Pottroff said she found out about the ruling while she was still at work.

“I’m not a very emotional person, but I’m the first to admit that this has been an emotional day,” she said. “I’m glad I work with understanding people. I was continuing on with my workday when my coworkers said, ‘Go. Go on and call your wife.'”

For Pottroff, the day was significant for her entire family.

“We’ve got three children and a couple more from other marriages,” Pottroff said. “I’ve been on the phone so much. There’s so much happiness. I can’t express it. I can’t express it.”