Editor's note: The following is a speech that entertainment lawyer Steve Warren delivered Saturday, May 11, at the San Francisco leg of the 2013 GLAAD Media Awards.
It is an extraordinary honor for me to introduce the four people who have put their lives front and center before the Supreme Court as the plaintiffs in the Prop 8 case. Today, five weeks or so away from judgment day, while the justices are still deliberating, we stand at a precipice, waiting and hoping, and hoping and waiting, for justice to finally be ours.
During this debate over marriage equality, I have learned about one marriage in particular that has made a profound impression upon me. It involves two people who fell deeply in love 17 years ago and, by all accounts, share an even richer connection now.
They speak glowingly of one another, love gardening together, hold hands in public, and early on in their relationship they decided, for reasons of their own, private reasons, not to have biological children, but when a 6-year-old grand-nephew was found in need of support and love, they took him into their home and legally adopted him.
Yet had they met and fallen in love a mere 20 years earlier, they would have been prevented from marrying in their home state. Why? Because he is a black man, and she is a white woman. That would have been a tragedy.
This is the story of Virginia and Clarence Thomas, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Whether or not their relationship would have endured without the sanctity and societal acceptance that marriage bestows upon a couple is a question we thankfully never have to ask.
Then why is it that we in the LGBT community find ourselves needing to ask this question of our own relationships, lacking in the ability to marry the ones we love and live our lives as all other Americans take for granted? Because the Clarence and Virginia Thomases of the world are accorded the protections of the U.S. Constitution and we are not.
Our basic civil rights are currently being experimented with in 50 different state laboratories, many of which have little or no hope of ridding themselves of the prejudice and hate that still exists in so much of our country. It pains me to think of what could have been for our relationships, including my own of 26 years, if our nation had embraced all of us and given us the love, respect and support given to heterosexual couples of all races. We need, we deserve, and we are rightfully entitled, as American citizens, to be included under the shield of the equal protection of the 14th Amendment.
OK, picture this image: The nine justices are sitting at an oval table in their conference room, deliberating these cases, deliberating our fate, when one of the justices brings up a line of reasoning used by our opponents that goes like this: "Marriage is an age-old tradition reserved for opposite-sex couples that is needed to encourage society's interest in procreation."
So when Justice Antonin Scalia, a man who has repeatedly debased our families and our community, takes up this line of attack and looks to one side and sees Justice Thomas, and then to his other side and sees Chief Justice Roberts, two men who have created their families through the beauty of adoption, just as George and I have done with our daughter Katie, we would all hope that the hypocrisy of this argument would dawn on him and move him.
A second line of reasoning favored by Justice Scalia goes like this: "My own personal feelings have nothing to do with this" -- however, you know, Google hateful things Scalia has said on the Internet and you'll know his personal views -- "but nowhere in the Constitution," he says, "is it stated that there is a right for homosexuals to marry."
Then he looks again at Justice Thomas, whose presence and marriage and family remind him that nowhere in the Constitution is it stated that interracial couples have the right to marry.
He knows, and we all know, that it required a ruling from the Supreme Court to interpret -- interpret -- the Constitution to allow for this basic civil liberty, because without it, justice would be denied, and individual states' discriminatory practices would be allowed to continue.
We are at that same, exact place now. And as he looks at Justice Thomas, Justice Scalia is struck that he has no viable arguments left on his side. He has nothing but his prejudice and stubbornness preventing him from doing what is right. It is time to move on. It is time for the court to acknowledge the reality of the world in which we live, just as it did unanimously in 1967 in a 9-0 decision -- unanimously -- in Loving v. Virginia, when interracial marriage was finally constitutionally protected. It is time.
Behind me right now stand the four plaintiffs in the Prop 8 case: Paul Katami and Jeff Zarillo, and Sandy Stier and Kris Perry. These two families have put themselves forward to stake our claim to our families' futures. They, alongside Clarence and Virginia Thomas and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a man of incomparable courage and vision who we are blessed with tonight to have in our presence, serve as role models for all of us.
While they may not share the same political philosophies, they share something much more important: the love of family and our country's ideals. May we look back 20 years from now, just as Clarence and Virginia Thomas looked back 20 years from their wedding day, and may we be able to ask ourselves the question: Can you believe we didn't allow Sandy and Kris or Paul and Jeff to get married? Can you believe it?
And my hope is for us to look back not with anger at anyone, or with remorse, but instead with an acknowledgement that the tears needed to be shed, the pain needed to be endured and the work needed to be done. And we did all of that and more.
And finally may we have the joy of looking back and remembering that the Supreme Court, in June of 2013, instead of leaving us to live our lives in 50 different Americas while the justices themselves lived in one America, found in its wisdom and strength -- its strength -- that equal protection of the law is more than just words; it is what defines us as the American people. May this be another Loving v. Virginia moment in our nation's history.
May the justices rule 9-0 in favor of what is right: the extension of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to our community so that we too can feel the warm embrace of American justice. And as we all believe in this message, let's get it out to the justices themselves. Tweet it, post it, talk about it with your friends.
Who knows? Maybe their kids will see this; a new generation who wants and understands equality will see it and pass it on to the justices themselves, and justice will be finally ours.
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