Rally At Supreme Court Represents Larger Debates On Marriage Equality

by Joseph DeIorio and Thos Shipley

Two years ago, the day after our engagement, Thos and I stood at this very place in front of the Supreme Court. We took an active part in a rally on front of the steps of the United States Supreme Court on the day oral arguments were heard for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8 ban against same sex marriage.

Two weeks ago we stood there once again, on a sunny day with the same motivation, energy and hope that the American government we believe in and proud to be a part of would address an issue that affects the core of our being—marriage equality.

And there, we participated again with hundreds of others in making that history.

In Washington D.C., at the United States Supreme Court is where landmark decisions on the interpretation of the Constitution take place—these decisions affect the lives of millions. On April 28, SCOTUS heard oral arguments from the case Obergefell v. Hodges, et al, in an attempt to make a decision whether the Fourteenth Amendment requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex.

And further, the Supreme Court also considered: does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?

One of the points of contention among the justices, plaintiffs and respondents was the question whether the states should allow democracy to rule this decision over time with public discourse and debate. The argument was that the concept of same sex marriage is too new for the Supreme Court to hear, and they should instead have the people decide.

What the participants could not see inside court chambers was the debate among Americans that took place outside.

In 2013, the two opposing forces were separated by space and location. But this year, we walked through the crowd with people holding signs exclaiming “Love Is Love” interspersed with those touting phrases like “One Man One Woman” and “Sin and Damnation.” In the background, strains of “We Shall Overcome” sung by the Washington D.C. Gay Men’s chorus were punctuated by shouts of ”Lesbian and Gays will burn in hell” and “Repent!” with scripture read over bullhorns.

This year, proponents of marriage equality and those who would define marriage only as between a man a woman were much more physically intertwined. Sometimes we were chanting with our fellow allies only a few steps away from the proverbial “lion’s den.”

And there was more at stake this time around. The hearing we gathered for will ultimately determine the fate of same sex couples across the United States.

Mind boggling and at times tenuous, speakers for marriage equality and speakers for traditional marriage had podiums only 20 feet apart.

Individuals were pushing limits—cheerleading, vulgarity, prayer, ignorance, profanity, all speech, free and protected under the constitution; shouting to be the loudest and to be heard the most.

We found ourselves in the midst of a face-to-face confrontation when an individual dressed in sackcloth and marine cap equipped with a bullhorn blasted vitriolic insults at a gay serviceman in uniform with his partner. The serviceman’s partner turned to confront him, nose to nose, both yelling. Would this be the spark to that would incite violence? It was only a fraction of a moment later that the serviceman pulled his partner back from a potential fight.

Frustrations ran high at times, with the emotions of fear and hate being expressed. Sometime serious, other times comical, it was organized anarchy and we were in the center of it. It was evident that those in favor along with those against, stood up, spoke up and made all voices heard.

The rally at the Supreme Court was just a microcosm of the larger debate among Americans over the decades—a culmination of time and study on marriage equality.

The justices should be assured that that the debate and discourse has taken place. And now it is up to them, as the system of the government our forefathers created, to rule.