Every minute after my arrival around 9:15 was another minute closer to the DOMA and Prop 8 decisions, and all attempts to focus were futile. And I spent some time checking in on what had gone down with Wendy Davis and the SB5 filibuster, since I am an old biddy who can’t hang til midnight Texas-time anymore.
When SCOTUSblog announced that the decision was 5-4 (which everyone knew it would be), my stomach dropped. I’m pretty sure I was holding my breath as I waited for the next sentence to appear, and when it did, I screamed. “DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment.” I screamed. Tears welled up in my eyes and spilled down onto my cheeks. I clasped my hands together covering my nose and mouth and forced myself to breathe as I read and re-read that sentence.
I felt…everything. Joy. Elation, really. Relief. Wonder. Validation. Recognition. Accomplishment. Pride.
With every quote from the opinion that I read, these feelings magnified.
“DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled to recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty. It imposes a disability on the class by refusing to acknowledge a status the State finds to be dignified and proper. DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others.The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the state, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.”
In Tumblr-speak, these quote “give me life.” They recognize my life and the lives of people who are important to me as valid and legitimate. They acknowledge that they have heard our struggle, analyzed our cries, and found us to be in the right. Quotes like these make the kind of mornings that I live for.
And yet, on some level, I was surprised by how strongly I felt a part of the “we” that was victorious today. I am not currently, nor have I ever been in, a same-sex relationship. I’m still working on the same-sex sex part. It was less than three years ago that I started “admitting” to a level of bi-curiousness, that has since blossomed into a full-on queer identity. There are tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people to whom this fight belongs more strongly than it belongs to me. And yet, I felt that WE had done it. WE had won. WE made history today, and unlike yesterday, were on the right side.
How I felt reminded me of how I felt on that night in early November 2008, when I watched in utter disbelief as my nation elected its first President of color. His fight to the White House was a fight I had been involved in, via canvassing, phone-banking, button-making, voter-registering, and money-donating. My actions were small, but they were. I participated in that history-making, in ways I did not participate in this. Sure, I signed petitions and shared articles. Yes, I actively try to disrupt heteronormativity in social situations. Yes, I have been to Pride parades. But I have held no signs, made no calls, cast no votes for this. My LIFE is my participation in this struggle, in a manner that even Barack Obama’s election cannot compare to. My own struggle is not bound up in his, whereas it might be in this case.
Complicating these feelings of astounded exuberance, however, was more than a bit of rage boiling deep in my stomach. Rage at such a major win coming on the tails of yesterday’s incredible loss. Rage at the inconsistency with which the institutions that determine our civil rights choose to move our country forward. Rage at the fact that old white men are still the majority of the persons determining said rights. Rage at the amount of lip-service given to “equal protection” in this decision in comparison to the utter lack of understanding that it sometimes takes unequal measures to ensure equal protection in yesterday’s VRA decision. Rage as I still wonder whose interests the federal government is most interested in protecting. Rage as I imagine the politicians interested in bringing up change through the states that will not be elected or re-elected due to redistricting and voter restrictions enabled by the gutting of the VRA. Rage at the fact that the Court cited Loving v. Virginia but declined to re-affirm marriage as a fundamental human right. Rage because, as always, there is still so much left to do.
Later, I learned that I can watch the livestream of the George Zimmerman trial online. Today and tomorrow, Trayvon Martin’s friend Rachel, who was speaking to him on the phone during the altercation with Zimmerman, is on the stand. The defense is making a mockery of her, as the attorney tries to catch her up in irrelevant details to make her look like a bad person and the court stenographer treats her as if she isn’t speaking English. People on Twitter are destroying this girl, criticizing the way she speaks, the examples she cites, her mannerisms and nervous tics, asking why someone didn’t “prepare her” for being on national television. I follow the Zimmerman hashtag on Twitter while this young girl is on the stand trying to give the story of what she knows about the night her close friend was gunned down WHILE SHE WAS ON THE PHONE WITH HIM and people want to talk about her grammar, her weight, and how uncomfortable she seems on the stand. I cry again for Rachel. I cry for her because I cannot imagine the weight of this task bearing down upon her, and I cry for her because, despite witnessing it, I cannot understand a country that has no sympathy for her. I look at her and remember my late cousin’s best friend wailing at his wake. I look at her and remember young men with tough facades taking off their fitted caps and running their hands over their heads as they gazed upon a fallen brother. I look at what this attorney and these strangers on the internet are doing to her and I wonder where I can find hope.