Lisa Ward got a text from her wife shortly after 10 a.m. Wednesday.

It read simply: “Yea!”

Ward knew what it meant.

Then a barrage of congratulations from friends and family flooded her phone.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday morning struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, which had denied federal recognition and benefits to legally married same-sex couples.

“I almost couldn’t believe it,” said Ward, who had hoped it would happen but wouldn’t allow herself to be overly optimistic, especially after losing the right to marry in Maine once before.

Ward and her wife, Mel Cloutier, were married the morning of New Year’s Eve in Lisbon, where they live.

They were married in front of a Christmas tree at home with friends. One friend who was a notary performed the ceremony. They held an informal breakfast reception afterward at a local cafe where the notary worked.

Together for more than 13 years, the couple would have married sooner but wanted a legal bond in the state where they live.

Now, with the high court’s decision on DOMA, their marriage is legal on a national level.

“It’s a very exciting day,” Ward said.

Eric Gagnon, who lives with his partner, Jess, in Wales said the couple and their son had been planning an August marriage, whether or not the federal court’s decision was favorable.

“This just makes it a little sweeter to have the (U.S.) Supreme Court say we recognize that you’re just as equal as everyone else,” Gagnon said.

Having worked on campaigns to make same-sex marriage legal in Maine, the couple decided to wait until the law passed in this state.

Together for nearly 16 years, Gagnon said Wednesday’s news was less about federal rights and more “just an acknowledgment of our family by the state and federal governments.”

The ruling will make a big difference in the lives of thousands of legally married gay couples across the country, including couples in Maine, said Zachary Heiden, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine Foundation. He said federal law includes more than 1,100 reasons being married makes a difference, including eligibility for family medical leave, Social Security survivors’ benefits, access to health care for a spouse and income and estate tax benefits.

All of those benefits had been denied to legally married same-sex couples in a dozen states where same-sex marriage had been legalized through court decisions, legislative enactment or citizen referendum.

Had the nation’s highest court instead upheld the Defense of Marriage Act, that ruling would not have undone Maine’s legalization of same-sex marriage, according to Maine Attorney General Janet Mills.

Mills said Wednesday she was “delighted” by the court’s findings.

She said the court ruled in concert with arguments made in the amicus brief Mills’ office signed onto back in February.

“We contended that the federal ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ violated the basic due process rights of Maine citizens and the sovereign rights of states to define marriage,” she wrote in a statement. “The (U.S.) Supreme Court majority agreed.”

Ward said she and her wife would file joint federal tax returns and check insurance policies, but beyond that they don’t plan to take any other immediate actions.

“It’s just one of those things, just knowing that you don’t have to worry as much about taking care of each other,” she said. “I think it’s more emotional and intellectual than it is actual, at this point.”

She said she and Cloutier aren’t any more showy about their marriage than their straight neighbors.

“I expect, as a working person and as a citizen, to be afforded the same rights as my neighbors,” she said. DOMA, she said, “pretty much negated our marriage because it didn’t respect it or recognize it and that’s just unacceptable.”

U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Michael Michaud, both Maine Democrats, along with U.S. Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent, had signed on to a “friend-of-the-court” brief in the DOMA case, arguing that DOMA should be struck down.

King called the court’s ruling an “important and good decision.”

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said in a written release Wednesday that, since taking office, she had twice voted against amendments to the U.S. Constitution that would have banned same-sex marriages by pre-empting state laws.

“I did so because states have traditionally handled family law,” she said. “I agree with the court’s decision that the federal government should not discriminate against couples married in states that choose to legalize same-sex marriages.”

Not all Mainers were pleased with the court’s ruling.

Paul Madore, a “practicing Roman Catholic” of Lewiston has long actively opposed same-sex marriage and adding sexual orientation to the Maine Human Rights Act to bar discrimination in housing and jobs.

“It doesn’t make me warm and fuzzy about same-sex marriage,” Madore said of Wednesday’s ruling. “I’ll continue to oppose it vehemently.”

He said he was disappointed to learn of the decision but wasn’t shocked, having said publicly that “it was entirely possible that DOMA was unconstitutional.”

Madore said the federal high court is “idealogically driven” and the federal courts generally are plagued by “judicial activism.”

Bishop Richard Malone of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland wrote Wednesday: “This is truly a tragic day for marriage and for our nation.”

He said the court’s decision “goes against everything human reason teaches us about marriage — it is the union of one man and one woman open to the birth and rearing of children.”

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