Op-ed: On Day of Decision, How Will You React?
If the Supreme Court says it's wrong how California has treated my husband and me, that it's wrong to pretend the wedding we had in our church in Washington, D.C., in 2010 was merely dress-up, then I don't know that I'm prepared for how I'll feel.
Maybe it will be like getting married all over again. Maybe I'll have to hold back tears, like I did on my wedding day, because I'm the strong one.
When the Supreme Court issues its much-anticipated ruling, as is expected to happen any day now, the media will predictably turn its cameras on LGBT people across the country and ask us how we feel. But when the reporter levies that expected question, what will we say?
Those of us living in California might be cheering in the streets because Proposition 8 is overturned. Or we might be caught off guard while lining the sidewalks at a Pride celebration, like one in New York City where plaintiff Edie Windsor is a grand marshal. We'll surely applaud loudly as she passes by, a true hero, having challenged the Defense of Marriage Act and won. It might be hard to remember, though, that despite legitimate reason to celebrate, no matter the outcome at the Supreme Court, this isn't the end.
Hardly anyone with legal expertise expects the justices will make a sweeping ruling that sends marriage equality throughout the country. Even if DOMA is struck down or if Californians can marry, we need only look to New York City and its recent spate of violent antigay attacks for a reminder that marriage equality won't solve all our problems.
No matter what the Supreme Court says, Florida teen Kaitlyn Hunt will still be put on trial over her relationship with her girlfriend. Transgender people will still be barred from military service. The Boy Scouts will still fire gay scout leaders due to a senseless fear we will molest children.
The Advocate has been keeping a somewhat informal "marriage census" as each new state in May recognized same-sex marriages. It attempts to show the rising tally of LGBT people who can now legally marry the person they love. With just 12 states plus the District of Columbia in our column, roughly 2.1 million of us are able to marry. It's sometimes easy to forget that hundreds of thousands of people are impacted by a law, or a judge's decision. Will those of us in California, where my D.C. marriage might suddenly become legal, be thinking of our gay and lesbian friends in Louisiana when the high court issues its ruling? Only if we try.
I recently spoke with longtime activist Robin Tyler — who is one of the original plaintiffs in the suit that led, briefly, to marriage equality in California — about her and others' plan to revive a worthwhile idea called Day of Decision. After the Lawrence v. Texas ruling in 2003, Day of Decision actions happened in 50 U.S. cities. The Supreme Court had overturned precedent and ruled that gay sex couldn't be made illegal. A photo taken of two Chicago men holding a sign at one of the Lawrence v. Texas rallies seems almost prescient today. It read, "Supreme Court VICTORY today — ORGANIZE for FULL LGBT equality tomorrow!"
In the event that the Supreme Court doesn't make marriage equality a reality nationwide, Day of Decision is calling for protests. The website is a coordinating tool. In some ways, protests strike me as a reminder to ourselves as much as to mainstream media that the ruling isn't a final "happy ending." It's actually not an ending at all. Whether you can protest on that day or make a poignant post on Facebook or answer a reporter's question with a longing for more action, do something on the Day of Decision that ensures we have many more "Days of Decision" to come.
As always, the Supreme Court is unpredictable. Among the possible permutations of its judgment is a fairly bare-bones approach that makes same-sex marriage legal in some states but not others. The Obama administration has pushed for this idea, that marriage equality could be left for states to opt into.
"On a practical level, a half-way decision could easily bitterly divide our community," the new Day of Decision website warns. "It’s not hard to see why: Imagine a country made up of 'blue' states that have marriage equality, oblivious to the sufferings of others, and the 'un-free' red states where LGBTs would be left to twist in the wind, without rights, perhaps for a generation or more."
In pursuit of the very basic dream of getting married and starting a family, my partner and I decided to leave one of those "un-free" states. We said goodbye to friends and family, good jobs, the first home we bought together, and the Florida Gulf Coast where I'd grown up. We packed up the car and moved away.
And I hope that when the Supreme Court issues its ruling, I will think of all the LGBT people who still live there.
LUCAS GRINDLEY is editorial director for Here Media. He lives in Los Angeles with his husband and two foster children. WHAT DO YOU PLAN TO DO, LARGE OR SMALL, ON THE DAY OF DECISION? Send us an essay about how you plan to mark that day and what it will mean to you personally at [email protected].