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His Day in

His Day in


National Center for Lesbian Rights legal counsel Shannon Price Minter reflects on making the case for marriage equality before the California supreme court.

The day of oral arguments, I climbed the marble steps of the California supreme court with an unwavering conviction that the court would understand it held the hopes and dreams and dignity of the entire LGBT community in its hands. I had appeared before the California supreme court before, but never in a case where the stakes for our families were so high or the spotlight so intense.

Throughout the four-hour argument, I felt literally buoyed and elated by love. I could feel the love and support of not only our 14 plaintiff couples but the millions of lesbian and gay couples who have cared for one another and worked to build families -- even when the law criminalized their relationships, barred them from public employment, and certainly excluded them from marriage.

On a personal note, I marveled at the privilege and good fortune that brought me from rural east Texas, where I grew up, to the opportunity to argue a case of such significance before the most influential state supreme court in the country. Despite a healthy dose of butterflies, I felt the strength of my grandmother and a beloved uncle, both now deceased, whose unstinting love and support had transformed my life. With so much at stake, I was determined to convey the true depth and meaning of our relationships to the court.

And yet the outcome was far from certain. Six of the seven judges were appointed by Republicans. Only one other high court had ruled that same-sex couples must be permitted to marry. But we had hope because 60 years ago, in Perez v. Sharp, the California supreme court made history by becoming the first court in the country to strike down laws banning interracial marriage.

The television crews and crowds were a constant reminder that the world was watching. But what mattered more to the court was that future generations were watching. Three times Chief Justice Ronald M. George himself quoted from Perez v. Sharp, "The essence of the right to marry is freedom to join in marriage with the person of one's choice."

And Justice Joyce L. Kennard posited that "just because there has been a long tradition of something or other, doesn't mean that that tradition is legally right or constitutionally protected." It is a credit to Justice Kennard and her colleagues in the majority that they were able to make such a profound distinction.

As a transgender man, I was able to marry several years ago. Because of that experience, I have appreciated the joy and meaning of marriage on a very personal level. My wedding day was the happiest day of my life. Throughout this case, I have been sustained by that happiness and absolutely committed to ensuring that lesbian and gay couples have that same freedom.

But it was not a battle I fought alone. Indeed, this victory belongs to many people: the couples who bravely put themselves and their children in the public eye in order to seek equal treatment under the law for their families; my colleagues at the National Center for Lesbian Rights and our partner organizations, who worked for four years to bring the most compelling story possible to the state's high court; the courageous public officials who have done everything in their power to make marriage available to lesbian and gay couples; and everyone who cares about fairness and believes that every person should have the right to marry the person they love.

Now that we have won, I wish we could just celebrate and relax. But there are those who will seek to take away this victory, to roll back the decision and reverse its effects.

Thanks to the courage of many people and one of the most respected courts in the nation, we now have history on our side. Together we must do everything in our power to keep it that way.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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