The ruling yesterday on the Voting Rights Act broke my heart. I was juggling my iPad on my lap with a cup of coffee and my boarding pass as I saw the Shelby case come down, and I let out an audible gasp and an "Oh, no! No!" I have spent enough time covering redistricting and reapportionment in Florida to know that those states that required adult supervision for how they conduct themselves with political district maps and voting are still looking for ways to undermine the rights of minorities to vote. To say that we have somehow, magically, reached Nirvana in voting rights, especially after the stunts pulled in this last election which resulted in people standing in line for 8-10 hours to vote, is ridiculous.
With that in mind, I was quite anxious about what was going to happen to the marriage equality cases this morning. My hosts were celebrating their youngest child reaching the grand age of 21 with a breakfast of eggs, bacon and blueberry-banana pancakes. I apologized, but said I really needed my iPad to be a dining companion.
"Of course!" said my hostess.
Eating was not first and foremost on my mind. What was in those boxes that the court reporter had delivered to the bloggers was all I cared about. And then it showed up on the blog feed. The first case would be DOMA (also known as U.S. v. Windsor). Section 3, which deals with the federal benefits portion, was struck down. I announced it at the table. Everyone thought that was bad.
"No, no!" I said, "That's good! That's good!" And I put my eyes back on the screen.
As I saw more, I started to cry. It was amazing. We'd won. We really had made the case and we'd won. Now, the win does come with the asterisk that the benefits apply to couples who reside in states where marriage is legal. That leaves Florida, and 36 other states, in an awkward place. Then Prop 8 (Hollingsworth v. Perry) dismissed for lack of standing. California had won! Marriages for LGBT people were upheld again.
My phone was buzzing, the emails were flying, the Facebook messages were everywhere. One of the PFLAG-Tallahassee officers asked me to put out a statement to our chapter. I was not able to be at our rally in Tallahassee, the one that I worked to pull together. So, sending an email to everyone was my best way of being present while being so far away.
Here's what I said:
Today's rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court were truly an historic moment in our long march toward full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in this country. Admittedly, after yesterday's decision in the Voting Rights Act case, I was more than just a little nervous about what we where we were going and what we would hear from the Court. And while this is not a sweeping victory that says, "Everybody can get married in the United States," it does continue to bend the moral arc of the universe toward justice.
But we are not done. What these rulings seem to say is that those people living in the 13 states and the District of Columbia that have marriage equality will now have full equality under both the state and federal laws. However, couples that live in a state such as Florida, which constitutionally and in statute ban marriage equality, will not receive the full benefits of marriage.
Increasingly, it seems we are not living in America, but rather something more like George Orwell's "Animal Farm" where all marriages are equal, but "some marriages are more equal than others." This is not the America I want to live in. It is not OK to have a country divided by geography this way, where 90+ million people live in an area with full equality. And I am tired of receiving the smiling postcards from these equal states with that phrase, "Wish you were here!"
For those LGBT Americans who benefit from these rulings, my heart is full and I am so proud and excited for all of you. This is a remarkable day for justice for our community. Now, we must carry this momentum to the south. Please don't forget us!
For our straight friends and parents, thank you for standing with us. Now, more than ever in Florida, we need you to join with your friends and your children to keep us marching toward light and liberty.
I encourage everyone on this list in Tallahassee to attend tonight's rally outside the Old State Capitol building and Get Engaged in the movement for justice in Florida.
Now, it's time to go visit with my mom and tell her the good news! She worked so hard as a PFLAG mom to have victories like this one. It'll be good to give her a hug on this day.
I did tell my mom, the Anonymous Peggins, who happened to be in one of her PFLAG shirts today, about the court rulings. "So, SO!" she said. And she smiled. She understood this was a good thing.
In New Hampshire, where equality for LGBT people has long-since been settled, there were no rallies planned to react to the ruling. So my celebration was a Celebration of a New Ministry at my childhood church home. A perfect way for me to mark these victories by being in a place that embraced my mom when she told them her daughter was a lesbian. And while they didn't sing the hymn at the service, I privately gave my own thanks to God for this latest victory in the words of Hymn 390:
Praise to the Lord, o let all that is in me adore him!
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before him.
Let the "Amen!" sound from His people again
gladly for we all adore Him.