06/26/13 4:00pm
06/26/2013 4:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Town Clerk Diane Wilhelm officiated at the first gay marriage on the North Fork outside Riverhead Town Hall on July 28, 2011. There, Theresa Claudio (left) and Nancy Zaharick of Mastic were wed.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled to extend federal benefits to married gay couples Wednesday in what same-sex marriage supporters have called a ”historic victory” for gay rights.

The 5-4 decision invalidated a section of the Defense of Marriage Act that prevented same-sex couples from getting numerous health, retirement and tax benefits that were available to heterosexual couples.

The court also dismissed a case involving California’s Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in the state. That decision leaves in place a lower court’s ruling that will invalidate that voter-approved mandate, making same-sex unions legal in California again.

The court’s rulings were hailed by elected leaders as an important step toward equal rights for citizens of all sexual orientations.

“The Supreme Court has confirmed that equal protection under the law for all Americans means having the ability to marry the person you love,” said Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton). “This decision is also a victory for the families who will now be able to access the benefits and rights accorded to married partners by the federal government if they are legally married in a state.”

Mr. Bishop, whose daughter is in a same-sex marriage, has long been an opponent of the legislation and is a member of the House LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community) Caucus.

New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman also praised the decision as a “victory for the quintessentially American principle of equal justice under the law.”

For Cutchogue residents Alan Santos and Michael Buckley, who became the first legally married gay couple in Southold Town in 2011, the decision was an “encouraging” step.

Mr. Buckley said news of the decision cut into the television show he was watching Wednesday morning.

“It felt different to be married [in 2011],” he said in an interview. “Now that we have federal recognition, it feels even more different … I think it’s a great day.”

Mr. Buckley said he and Mr. Santos, who are considering retiring and moving to the South, will feel more comfortable knowing that they have federal benefits as they get older.

Mr. Buckley said there is still a long way to go; the couple said some of the states to which they would considering moving still won’t recognize their marriage as legitimate.

But the Supreme Court’s decision will open up the path for more discussion and more cases on this issue, he said.

“I’m shocked and proud that this happened during my lifetime,” he said.

psquire@timesreview.com

05/05/13 8:00am
05/05/2013 8:00 AM

It’s a clear indication that you’ve reached a certain age when your social calendar, usually based on trips to the dump or the supermarket, now includes reunions.

By definition, a reunion is a gathering of people who haven’t seen each other for an extended period of time, hence if you attend one you’ve either moseyed on through or are banging on the door of geezerhood.

TIM KELLY

And so it was that I found meself at a very nice home in suburban D.C. last weekend, there to mix and mingle with others once in the employ of former congressman William Carney (R-C-Hauppauge), who represented this fair community from 1979 to 1986. In the summer of ’83 I became the last press secretary of his congressional career (press aide actually, but, hey, press secretary sounds way cooler) and moved up from D.C. to the North Fork just before he retired.

You’ve already heard me wax nostalgic about a 20-something’s life on Capitol Hill so I won’t bore you will all that again. But since the face in the mirror now bears little resemblance to picture on the ol’ House ID, a certain amount of living in the past is to be expected.

I hadn’t seen most of these folks for over 25 years, including the former congressman, the guy who, with the exception of some gray hair and glasses, looks very much like the guy whose image graced the corner of the special paper used in printing — yes, you heard right, printing, as in batted out on a typewriter and run through a copy machine — the various press releases, columns and such mailed out through the U.S. Postal Service.

Tweet? Dude, that’s what a bird does.

I’d attended only one other reunion, that of me high school class. But we’re talkin’ two very different past experiences here. In D.C. I felt like a stranger in a strange land. OK, that was just like high school. In D.C., I was surrounded by great gals, all pretty much off limits. Ah, well, ditto. Was forced to wear a jacket, tie and even socks for pity’s sake. Damn. OK, on second thought, it was exactly like high school, minus the nuns but with Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill.

Ah, remember the fun we had? Like the time the staff counsel and I were having a water pistol duel when a lobbyist came through the office door and I swung around, planted my feet and took aim like a “Law & Order” detective bursting into a suspect’s apartment and the guy threw his hands up in surrender and muttered, “I don’t want to die”?

Or when the congressman would bring all the males into his office, make us each drop a dollar on the credenza for a putting competition that he always — and I mean, always — won?

Then there were the tapeball games; you’d crumple up a piece of copy paper, wrap it like a mummy in tape and swing away with a cardboard mailing tube filling in for a Louisville Slugger. A home run required walloping it past the appointment secretary and out the window onto South Capitol Street. Not as easy as it sounds.

On second thought, this was not at all like high school. Sister Mary Whoever would have cleaned our clocks, and these incidents would have made for unfortunate entries in our permanent records.

OK, it wasn’t always like that. Congressional staffers work long, hard hours, some assisting the member on legislative affairs and others providing constituent service, no small tasks when your district includes over a half-million people. Can’t help it if the wacky times are the most memorable. Unlike the representative, we don’t get smacked around by political foes or friends looking for favors.

As the reunion wore on, it was as if close to 30 years had melted away and we all had gathered at a Capitol Hill watering hole after work on a Friday night. Except, for some, Saturday morning might be a little more uncomfortable than it was 30 years ago.

Like my recent — gulp — 40th high school reunion, a great time was had by all. Except that a hellish ride back north on I-95 followed this gathering.

Recounting the tapeball story during Saturday’s party, I left out the part about one afternoon when the congressman was pitching and I was calling balls and strikes, and I made the strike zone about the size of a business envelope.

“You just won’t give me a break, will you?” he complained.

I thought to myself, keep me late last week before giving me the OK for the friggin’ column, will ya? I’ll show you.

“Nope,” said I, “not at all.”

tkelly@timesreview.com

11/08/12 4:00am
11/08/2012 4:00 AM

To the Editor:

To all politicians: mud slinging is childish and annoying to listen to. It’s like tattle-taling on the playground. You are mature men and women, please act your age in 2013.

Jim Dreeben, Riverhead

owner, Peconic Paddler

Read more Letters to the Editor in this week’s Riverhead News-Review available on newsstands or by clicking for the E-Paper.