One Year on the Road

Freedom in All Fifty

For the last couple of months, Kate and I have been traveling through states that don’t recognize our Washington marriage as valid. Somewhere in Texas it occurred to me that if we were in an accident or if one of us got seriously ill, we could be barred from hospital visitation or from making health decisions for each other. We’d better stay safe at least until Iowa, I told Kate.

We are in Springfield, Missouri now, visiting my dad. Yesterday morning, we were all three sitting outside, watching thunderclouds roll in, when Kate saw on her iPad that the Supreme Court justices had ruled 5-4 in favor of gay marriage. Nationwide. No more state-by-state discrimination.

We listened attently to Obama’s speed. It was so exciting.

We whooped out loud and went inside to watch the news. The storm hit then. Rain in sheets. Rumbles and flashes. We watched in amazement jubilant crowds on the steps of the Capitol. Newsmen confirming with lawyers: “This is it then. No going back. Gays and lesbians now have the same rights to marriage as heterosexuals in every state.” When Obama spoke, Kate and I held hands and I think I saw tears in my dad’s eyes. “Sometimes there are days like this when that slow and steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.” And we laughed when a thunderclap shook the ground hard enough to jolt both dogs upright.

Our first marriage in 2004

I knew this decision was in the works, but I hadn’t let myself think about it much. Too many times we have been elated, then disappointed. Kate and I were married in Portland, Oregon in 2004, only to have our marriage revoked by Oregon voters and officially annulled by the Oregon Supreme Court. Thirteen months of wedded bliss abruptly ended with a letter and a refund. (For more about our first marriage, see “Domestic Warriors.”)

It’s astounding that our civil rights could hinge on popular vote, that our freedom to marry could be granted or denied based on the political and religious views of people we live near. Someday our grandchildren will look back on this fight with disbelief. But today, we are here, watching this historical decision unfold. When I was younger, I never dreamed I would see this day. Now that it’s here, my faith in this country has been restored. And I am so, so grateful to all those who stuck with this battle to the end.

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4 thoughts on “Freedom in All Fifty

  1. rallyteam4

    Beautiful post, Jennifer. An amazing day in US history for civil rights for all Americans! This past April, May, and June in my US history classes, we studied Supreme Court civil rights cases related to the 14th amendment. I told my students to be watching for the this decision late June…that, I fully expected the Supreme Court to uphold LGBTQ 14th Amendment rights! I was hoping for at least a 6-3 or 7-2 split, but 5-4 was all we needed!

    At the time, we also read many related MLK Jr. quotes, such as, “We are not wrong, we are not wrong in what we are doing. If we are wrong, the Supreme Court of this nation is wrong. If we are wrong, the Constitution of the United States is wrong. And if we are wrong, God Almighty is wrong. If we are wrong, Jesus of Nazareth was merely a utopian dreamer that never came down to Earth. If we are wrong, justice is a lie, love has no meaning.” And of course, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” An exciting time to be queer in America!

    Hope you’re both having the time of your lives together! 🙂

    Marty

  2. Beth

    You’ve always appreciated a good storm, Jennifer! What a perfect way for you and Kate and Dad to learn the news, with claps of thunder applauding along with you! Don and I clinked our glasses here in Texas and one of your nephews cheered in the crowds in DC… I know your friends and family are cheering all over the country!

  3. Jan

    Mazel tov! To you, to America and to all of us as we slowly climb toward a more humane existence. I am visiting Leah in Philadelphia. We were waiting to get in to the Richard Avedon show at the Museum of American Jewish History yesterday. I checked my phone for the time and saw the glorious news pop up on my screen. Leah and I gave a small whoop. The museum opened its doors to the public for free. A woman in front of us received a call as we were entering the exhibit. Leah gave her a smile and thumbs up as she was obviously being informed herself. She came over to us with tears in her eyes looking a bit shaken. I asked if she was ok. She told me her daughter has just called and she was in labor, 5cm dilated, her wife holding her hand. They were one of the couples who had filed court action in the state of Pennsylvania for marriage rights. Leah and I both hugged her and wished her mazel tov. All over the exhibition people of all ages smiled with joy and marveled that sometimes,we win.

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