I woke up a little before 8 a.m. on Monday, June 24, did my normal social media creeping and caught up on the latest news. I came across a story about the Supreme Court convening to decide on 11 cases before they dismissed for a summer break; two of these 11 cases were to be landmark decisions on the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California's Proposition 8. Those two cases would set the tone for what was to come for marriage equality in the United States.
I have been living in Washington, D.C., for almost two years now, and admittedly, I have not taken enough advantage of the politics and activism that surround me. I remember seeing pictures from the rallies that took place in March during the oral arguments for the two cases and regretting not taking off time from work to join in. Not wanting to regret another missed opportunity, and taking full advantage of the recent start of the summer break from teaching, I grabbed my big rainbow flag, jumped on the Metro and made my way to the Supreme Court.
As I neared the Supreme Court building, my flag still tightly rolled around the flagpole it was attached to, I remember being nervous about being the first (and only) person there; luckily for me, I was the second. I joined an amazing young man from Utah who expressed not only his Mormon faith but his support for marriage equality. Aside from the two of us, there were a whole lot of media men and women and the normal crowd passing by to get to work. I had no idea that the next two hours of my life would set something big into motion.
All it took was a few waves of that flag before photographers and cameramen swarmed around me and started snapping and taping away. A few asked for my name, where I was from, etc., but I could not believe the attention this was bringing. After a couple of hours, surprisingly no arm or shoulder aches, and a disappointing decision on the Voting Rights Act, we were told that the decision we were waiting for would come later in the week. A reporter asked if I would be back, and I remember saying, "I'll be here until they tell me."
Tuesday passed, I saw my picture on a few different Web articles, and more people joined the rally outside, but we were disappointed again; the court justices wanted to make us wait. Luckily, we were informed that Wednesday would be the day that we received a decision. Little did I know that Wednesday would also be one of the biggest days of my life.
The next morning, the tension was high, and my nerves were ripping at my insides, but I felt good. By this time, I knew a lot of the photographers and journalists by name, a fun bonus to the intense arm workout of the past two days. I was in front of the Supreme Court by 7 a.m. that morning, and contrary to Monday, I knew I would not be the first or only person that day; the lines to get into the courtroom had begun at 5 p.m. the previous evening.
Less than an hour into my third day of activism, a group of gentlemen from SCOTUSblog came up to me and asked if I would wear a new tank top they were getting ready to put on the market; they snapped a few pictures, said "thank you" and kept it moving. What seemed like a few minutes later, they approached me again and said that they had a plan: If the news on the DOMA decision came out positively (in support of marriage equality), they wanted me to run the decision out of the building (sporting the SCOTUSblog tank top) and hand it off to the media. It took less than 10 seconds for me to say that I would be honored.
The feeling was exhilarating; the moment I was handed the decision by one of the interns and was pushed on to deliver the news is a moment I will remember for the rest of my life. Looking out into the crowd of hundreds who had gathered since I arrived at 7 a.m., I became overwhelmed with emotions. I completed my mission by handing off the decision to a producer for NBC News and made my way back into the giant sea of people who were reading the official news from their phones: DOMA was dead. It didn't take long after that for me to start crying.
By no means did I ever intend on becoming the "face" of marriage equality. Believe me, I have made mistakes, and am not at all the perfect role model, but I stood up for what I believe in for those three days in front of the Supreme Court. I hope that that alone fights off any naysayers and dissenters. I wasn't there for myself; I was there for the millions of people in the now 37 states who cannot legally recognize the one they love.
I would be selfish if I didn't thank some people for this amazing experience. First, I thank my friends and family who have shared their positive thoughts, love and support with me since that Monday morning (and prior). Second, I thank the amazing people, like John, David and Carmen, who stood outside that building with me and put faces to this fight; it is people like you who inspire change in this world. Third, I thank the photographers and journalists, such as J. Scott Applewhite, Win McNamee, Jonathan Ernst, Elizabeth Flock and Ryan Rainey, who personified this fight with only a few pictures and articles. Lastly, I thank Edie Windsor, a true force to be reckoned with, even in her 80s. Your love and life with Thea exemplify what we all strive for in this world, no matter whether we are straight, gay or in between. You are a true inspiration, and I thank you.
The important thing that I took away from last week is the fact that this fight is not over. Yes, these decisions gave the LGBTQ community an incredible push in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go. My face has been used on countless websites and in hundreds of newspapers across the world, but what about the faces of those who cannot legally recognize their love for their partner? For them, the flag waves on, and I am happy to wave it for them.