On the morning of June 26, I was glued to my computer, tuned in to the SCOTUS blog, relentlessly refreshing my browser waiting for the decisions on same sex marriage. I knew that this was a moment in history that, no matter the decisions, would have a major impact on human rights, and for me personally. I didn't know how I would react, but when I finally read, "DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment," my body erupted in goose bumps and my eyes flooded with tears. I felt the decision in every fiber of my being. A weight was lifted from my shoulders that I didn't even know was there.
At 8:59 am on June 26, 2013, I was a second class citizen; just after 9 am, I was not.
Before the activists go ballistic ranting about the work we have to do before we are, in fact, equal, I want some time to revel in this magical moment. I want to feel the shift and comprehend what the decisions means -- beyond politics and law. I have a lot of reflecting to do, but so far for me it keeps coming back to shame.
No matter where you come from, who your family is or what you do, if you fall within the broad classification of "LGBTQ" -- you live under a veil of shame. In the book The Velvet Rage, author Alan Downs focuses on the shame that gay men carry through their lives because of our 'different-ness.' Downs opens the book stating that, "we are all born into this world helpless, love-starved creatures," and he goes on to explain that as we begin to understand that we are different, shame sets in. As I see it, shame begins once we begin to realize that we will eventually have to violate the cardinal rule of life -- love is between a man and a woman.
The realization of being different and the fear of rejections plague us and follow us in every area of our life -- no matter how hard we fight it. And whether our difference is accepted, celebrated, rejected, or ignored, shame manages to rear its ugly head. I'm not even sure that shame can be removed completely from our beings completely because it has affected us so deeply -- physically, emotionally and spiritually. It is a rare occasion that takes some of the shame away. June 26, 2013 was one of those occasions.
Since the decisions came down I have felt stronger, braver and more authentic. But, I have also begun to recognize that because of the shame we carry with us, we have lost ourselves. We have lost ourselves so much that the reality of being a second class citizen and not being equal has become somehow accepted and rationalized. Ellen and Will & Grace were pioneers in the acceptance of homosexuals in popular culture, but they created the false impression of equality. The representation of gays and lesbians in popular culture and media has diluted our expectation of equality. We bought into this dogma. But we would never have a true chance for equality, because through DOMA, it was written in the law of the land that gays and lesbians do not deserve equal protection under the law.
I know that the fight for equality for LGBTQ people is far from over. I know that even if the law one day gives us full equal protection,like other minority groups, there will be a long road to true equality. And I recognize that these decisions are far from full equal protection. But today, I want to enjoy the layer of shame that has vanished because the Supreme Law of the land tells me that I have not broken the cardinal rule, that I deserve equal protection. For now, I will relish in the words of Justice Kennedy:
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.
As we fight through our own layers of shame, and for true equality for all, the decisions ensure that our children will grow up in a country where, at the very least, the law does not tell them that they are less worthy. As Kris Perry, one of the Plaintiff's in the Proposition 8 decision, so perfectly stated, "The importance of this case was to send a message to the children of this country that you're just as good no matter who you love, no matter who your parents love."