Friday, June 26, 2015
Written by Justin Bras
For some reason, I have never been really good at sharing my feelings (cough, Montana). Most of the time, I think my feelings are too much or too little and usually not appropriate. However, since last Friday, my feelings have been fighting to get out.
On Thursday of last week, I realized two things: one, the Supreme Court would most likely rule on gay marriage (either Friday or Monday), and two, regardless of how they ruled, it would be an historic day.
My alarm goes off. I have a massive hangover. I blame my sister and the bartender, who had a heavy hand the night before.
Still in bed. Should I get up?
I have an undeniable urge to get up - today will be the day. I pop some Advil and stuff some dry crackers in my mouth and jump in the shower. Everything hurts.
It’s time to go. I found my rainbow flag lapel pin that I secretly bought when I was 18 (17 years ago) and sometimes secretly kept in my pocket. This pin reminds me of so much. I remember when traveling, I used to seek out the brightly colored rainbows for safety. I knew that, if I saw that symbol on a business or bar, not only I, but everyone was welcome. I wore this pin during my first Gay Senate Alliance meeting with Senator Kennedy. (Cameras were not allowed. Some people wanted it to be a secret.)
I decided to walk to the Supreme Court. It is a beautiful walk. Per Facebook, I know one of my friends is also going to the Supreme Court. Apparently, he knows of a line that would let you actually into the Supreme Court. I think to myself that no such line exists and it’s probably the tour line or a 3-minute line to quickly view the courtroom.
I see my friend standing in line. There are a lot of people in this line. Different people. Many different people. The rainbow flag is represented well here.
The line is not growing. Weird. Maybe today is not the day.
A stranger offers everyone in line a small doughnut coated in white powder. My stomach yearns for this doughnut but my brain is playing out the scene in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie when they feed the evil mutants (Tokka and Razar) tranquilizers with white powdered doughnuts. I say, "No thanks."
Why did I not grab more crackers?
The lesbians behind us are getting impatient. They warn everyone in line that people are going to try to cut. “We have done this before and people will cut. Do not let it happen.” I try not to make eye contact.
The line is moving! This is a thing!
The line stops moving. There are about 16 people ahead of us. Damn! We are left standing in front of the media. I secretly wish I was smart enough to be a reporter. How cool would it be to report outside of the Supreme Court? Telling the world how the United States is navigating constantly changing times.
This is not looking good. But I realize where I am, right in front of the Supreme Court. It doesn’t matter if they rule on gay marriage or not today because it is awesome just being here, feeling the warmth of the crowd reflecting from this large stone building. And the energy is starting to pick up.
A security officer is walking down the tall steps of the court and he has a handful of green tickets. Things move fast. He hands me a ticket. I think to myself, "Willy Wonka with his golden ticket!" I look back at the growing crowd, they seem so far away.
They quickly rush about 10 of us through a magnetometer. They ask us to store our cell phones, so my friend rents a locker for a quarter, and we quickly lock up our cell phones.
Ugh! I wish I would have texted my boyfriend to let him know I was inside.
Another security checkpoint, another magnetometer. A security officer wands me, then speaks:
Him: “Sir, your pin.”
Me: “Oh, should I take it off?”
Him: “Yes, you can put it in your pocket.” I put the pin back into my pocket, a place it’s familiar with.
Him: “Do you plan to protest?”
Me: “No, of course not.”
Him: “Good, because any outburst at all will warrant an arrest.”
My friend and I are literally feet away from going inside the courtroom. I start thinking about everything that can go wrong. I came up with EVERYTHING. Everything could go wrong. EVERYTHING. I’m scared they will start without us.
We get in! The room was silent and packed. It’s a small room about the size of a small church from home in Hot Springs, Montana. There are just a few seats left. We are escorted to two chairs on the right side of the middle of the room. I can see everything. I can see the bench and everyone in the room. There was so much silent energy in the room it felt like it could burst. I remember one of my bosses telling me to “soak it all in” so I decide to look up to the ceiling to study the detail of the flowers.
A buzzer goes off. My friend tells me it means the Justices are putting on their robes. I immediately imagine each judge standing “off stage” with their arms up in the air and their staff throwing robes on over their heads.
We hear the sharp knock of a gavel and everyone in the room rocketed from their seats and stood in straightness looking at the bench. "The Honorable, the Chief Justice and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! All persons having business before the Honorable, the Supreme Court of the United States, are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the Court is now sitting. God save the United States and this Honorable Court!"
It’s like I’m watching a movie that desperately needs a foreshadowing soundtrack.
All the justices enter at the same time like magic from behind three curtained off entrances. We sit. Chief Justice Roberts reads the docket number and title “Obergefell v. Hodges” This is it! He says Justice Kennedy will read the majority opinion.
Justices Thomas and Scalia rock back in their chairs. I can barely see their faces. I wonder why they don't seem to care. Did we lose?
I have no idea whose side Kennedy is on. I think he is on ours, but I’m not sure. No one in the room is making any movement or noise, so I cannot tell.
He is reading, and I still have no idea. Then we all hear “Held: The Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-State.”
The room was still silent but tears were flowing and people were carefully touching each other. I can feel my rainbow flag pin inside my pocket.
I immediately realize that I am in this glowing courtroom witnessing something that will shape the face of this young country. I often think of times in history I wish I could have witnessed (laying the corner stone of the Capitol, Emancipation proclamation, dinosaurs) - and here I am.
Something that, at one time, I did not understand and wished (prayed really) away was being presented as now okay, you are American, you are part of our history. You deserve to be married.
I floated on every word that Justice Kennedy spoke.
Then Chief Justice Roberts began to read the descent. I prepared for the worst. But as he spoke, I appreciated what he had to say. I felt he was saying so much more than the words he was speaking. I tried to read in-between the lines. I think he wanted this to happen, this way.
10:30 a.m. (I think, I miss my phone with the clock)
It’s done. We won! They won! Everyone won!
Justice Scalia said “No one go anywhere.” Everyone laughed. It was the first noise made in the courtroom. He gave the majority opinion on sentencing guidelines. I didn’t understand and it sounded like the justices didn’t understand either.
Chief Justice Roberts then said the remaining cases would be read on Monday. They exited as quickly as they entered.
My friend and I are one of the last people to leave the room. I wanted to soak it all in and we are seated that way anyway. Some people in the front of the room started whispering and a security officer quickly told them to silence.
We leave the room and walk into the hallway full of columns. The only people left are collecting their belongings (cell phones) from the various locker cubby holes. Many people are hugging.
Then, we exit from the Grand Entrance. Hundreds of people are cheering. And for a few brief seconds, I allowed that warm, all-embracing radiance of the crowd to sweep me away. Then, reality intrudes. I feel guilty. So many others over so many years have deserved this moment more than me. I wonder if I’m stealing it from them. But then I realize that I think—I’m a witness to history, not history itself. And I can share my experience. No, I feel responsible for showing them. I fumble to get out my cell phone to record the cheers for everyone to hear, the living, the dead, the ones I will never know about. They did this. They all did this. I descend into the crowd. And I quickly became part of the rainbow.