Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Those Places Thursday - A Historic Moment at the Supreme Court

At the Supreme Court as the ruling striking down Proposition 8 occurred - June 26, 2013

My mom, two sons and I took a trip to Washington D.C. this summer.  We arrived on June 25th and walked around the National Mall and Arlington National Cemetery.  That was the day that the Supreme Court decided that the Voting Rights Act was out-dated.  So glad we didn't visit the courthouse that day.  It's a day I'd like to forget.

At the FDR memorial
On the roster for day two was the far side of the National Mall with the MLK and FDR memorials, the White House (no tours due to the sequester so pictures of the outside only), Congress, and the Supreme Court.  Sounds like a busy day, but we weren't taking any tours and we hoped to get out before rush hour.  As we were entering the National Mall portion of D.C. we turned the news on the radio.  We knew that Proposition 8 and D.O.M.A. (the Defense of Marriage Act) were going to be ruled on that day.  As we entered the Capitol we heard it...D.O.M.A. was struck down.  The boys were playing with their electronics in the back of the van. They were oblivious about what just happened until we started talking about it minutes later.  My mom was thrilled.  I was in tears.  So happy I could cry...I certainly understood that phrase that morning.

It took awhile to get to the parking garage, but we decided that the Supreme Court was the place to be.  Prop 8 still needed to be ruled on and the demonstrations should be quite the experience so we started walking to the Supreme Court.  We did have to pass Congress on our way (they're right across the street from each other, if you didn't know) and as we passed I pointed out to my children "the building where no work gets done" and took some photos for posterity.  We then crossed the street and dove into the crowds in front of the Supreme Court.

We heard cheers as we crossed and I felt certain that it was more good news.  I approached someone wearing a pro-LGBT shirt and asked what the outcome of Prop 8 was.  We were told that it had been upheld.  I was stunned.  Was all that cheering really because it had been upheld.  I comforted with the words that the fight wasn't over and we'd get there someday, and my family and I entered the crowds to try to get closer to the stairs.

The wall at the Martin Luther King Jr memorial

We couldn't.  We got through much of the media that was set up along the walkway and then couldn't go any further.  What was the hold up?  I was frustrated until I realized that I had come within 2 people deep of a statement that Representative John Lewis (D-5th District, Georgia) was giving...thus the congestion.  I recognized the man standing there from TV, but I couldn't remember if he was friend or foe to the LGBT community so I did what any other clueless bystander would do.  I whipped out my iPhone held it up over the heads of the few people that separated me and the congressman and took a picture.  I saw a young woman smiling at me when I did that and asked her, "I'm sorry, but who is this man and what district does he represent?"  She told me and I knew he was a friend.  He was a very active figure in the Civil Rights Movement and had marched with Martin Luther King Jr.  A supporter of equality for all.

I'm sorry your eyes were closed Rep Lewis, but thank you for your service!
I asked this woman what the ruling was.  That we had been told that Prop 8 had been upheld, but that everyone looked far too happy for that.  She told me that indeed it had not been upheld, but struck down.  The person I had spoken to upon crossing the street was mistaken.  I was elated.

I've talked to my children, ages 12 and 7, about topics like racism, sexism, and equality before.  This was a moment for them to experience too.  I don't know that Daniel completely understood its significance being only 7, but I know that my oldest son got it.  I know that both of them will be able to tell their children and grandchildren that they were there on this momentous day and that they stood near the stairs to the Supreme Court with their mom and grandmother when one of the fundamental tenants of our country was reaffirmed...

"All men* are created equal"

The wall at the Martin Luther King Jr memorial

*Just a little linguistic reminder that the term "man" and "men" can actually be used as gender neutral words.  A point often lost among many.  Today we would say "everyone" but language needs to be viewed in the context of the era in which it was written and "man" was the appropriate term when the Constitution was written.

Very busy in front of the Supreme Court on June 26, 2013
This post is dedicated to all the friends I have that are members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community.
To see my fellow Americans discriminated against for basic rights that everyone should have tears at my heart. These rulings are of historic significance for our country.  There are states that still deny these rights to members of the LGBT community and while we have not finished the fight, we took two giant steps forward...and I want my descendants to know that I was there.