I arrived at the Supreme Court a half hour before decision time, only to wade into a sea of rainbow, red, white, and blue.
The last time I was here was in March. Bundled into my coat and scarf, I joined a demonstration outside the court as opening arguments were heard in Windsor vs. United States and Hollingsworth vs. Perry. They’re also known as the anti-DOMA and Anti-Prop 8 cases.
This time, the crowd dripped with sweat as we waited in frenzied anticipation for the decisions to be handed down.
Signs ranged from admonishing, (“SCOTUS, Try to Be Less Wrong Today”) to comically threatening, (“If I Can’t Marry My Boyfriend, I’ll Marry Your Daughter”) to simply powerful (“Gay Rights ARE Human Rights” and “Love Conquers All,” among others). One man carried an actual closet door on which he’d painted, “This Used to Oppress Me. Down with DOMA — No More Shut Doors.”
Not all the demonstrators supported marriage equality. One man stood behind a giant “Repent or Perish” sign. Another booed us from a passing trolley.
But these bigoted voices were drowned out by honking cars and cheering people of all kinds: Ministers and rabbis, Democrats and Republicans alike held pro-marriage signs.
The sun beat down, minutes crept damply by, and we waited. When not being shooed off the courthouse steps by police, the crowd sang “God Bless America” and “Goin’ to the Chapel,” or chanted “Equality now!”
the shuffle of the crowd, I ended up next to a woman named Mary, who had driven down here the night before from New York, along with her partner, to be at the court to witness history.
Suddenly, a wave of cheering and screaming broke over the assembled masses. Like nearly everyone at the court, Mary’s partner had SCOTUSblog on her phone, which was how I learned that DOMA was declared unconstitutional. Mary cried and kissed her partner. I got goosebumps and screamed my throat raw.
Mary’s partner translated the legalese of the opinion into plain English for us — the Supreme Court has declared DOMA unconstitutional, by a ruling of 5 to 4, on the basis of the Fifth Amendment.
The majority opinion says, “DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled to recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty.”
The crowd was ecstatic, and with good reason. Many feared that the decision would be drawn narrowly, striking down DOMA, but declaring marriage equality a state issue. But now, the justices actually recognized LGBT people as a minority being persecuted by hateful legislation.
We were hardly deflated when, as expected, the court also ruled that the plaintiffs in Perry didn’t have standing to challenge Prop 8. Let it go back to the lower court! DOMA is dead!
Kathleen Robin Joyce is a student at Georgetown University and an OtherWords intern at the Institute for Policy Studies. OtherWords.org