In response to the gay marriage decision

ALPENA On Wednesday morning, Sharon Stewart borrowed a hack saw from her significant other and cut some scraps of wood into make-shift flag poles. Then she attached an American flag to one and a brightly hued rainbow flag to the other before displaying them out her apartment window.

A long-time civil rights activist, Stewart said she was thrilled when she heard at 10:30 a.m. on Fox News that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a section of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional.

“I felt a rush of absolute joy go through my body,” the 53-year-old said. “I felt justice had been done.”

She said the issue now goes back to individual states, which will determine whether or not they will allow same-sex marriages. States that have legalized such unions include Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia.

However, Michigan and some 30 other states do not allow gay marriage.

Kerry Clark, pastor at First Assembly of God, was celebrating his 50th birthday at Mich-e-ke-wis Park Wednesday afternoon and was willing to offer a different perspective, after several other pastors declined.

“The issue is controversial,” he said, taking a break to sit down and compose his thoughts. “There isn’t agreement.”

“We’re disappointed in the ruling and we believe that marriage is between a man and a woman,” he said. “But the heart of First Assembly is to love people regardless of their situation.”

Back at Stewart’s small upstairs apartment, she checked on the flag poles that were tied to her radiator for stability. In the 1990s, she served as a podiatrist physician in the U.S. Air Force, and concealed her sexual identity based on the military policy “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” But she has seen attitudes about race and sexuality change over the years.

Stewart organized a gay, lesbian and transgendered support group called Family of Friends in 2011.

“When we marched in the July 4th parade two years ago we heard incredible affirmations and support,” she said.

Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.