A Sign of the Times for Marriage Equality
Sometimes I think the pace with which the gay marriage debate has overtaken the country has been achingly slow and and other times it feels like an overnight sensation.
On Wednesday, March 27th, as Bonnie and I stood on the steps of the Supreme Court, oral arguments for overturning the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) raging inside, it felt like both. On one hand, after marching, joining gay rights organizations and donating money for the cause for over thirty years, I was amazed that the U.S. Supreme Court was finally discussing the matter; on the other hand, I couldn’t believe I’d see this day in my lifetime.
Also, I was laughing. First, we’d bundled up and shlepped from our hotel to the court on foot—about a mile, and I was pleased to do it. Second, we forgot to put slits in our four-foot sign proclaiming If Gay Marriage Were Legal, Today Would Be our 31st Anniversary, so the windy conditions turned the sign into a giant sail. I hoped we wouldn’t be carried aloft to land in the midst of the pitifully small Westboro Baptist Church contingent. If, as they say, God hates Fags, they’d really hate me and Bonnie landing on them like some flying house from Oz.
Thirdly, our people in front of the court were nothing if not clever and colorful. Favorite signs included Three Words to Fix the Economy: GAY BRIDAL REGISTRY, Get out of your DOMA Coma, and the humble My Sexuality Doesn’t Define Who I Am, but I Sure Am Fabulous!
Early in the morning, Bonnie and I had a choice to make. We could stand in the long, long line for those waiting to get into the court for a three-minute walk-through, or just stay outside with the supportive throng. We chose the open air option and it was a great choice.
From the minute we stepped in front of the court and unfurled our sign, and for three hours following, we stayed busy, being interviewed by the likes of Reuters, Newsweek, NPR, NBC, AP and dozens more. Cameras and cell phones flashed in our faces, giving us a delicious taste of paparazzi life.
Reactions to our sign ranged from “cool” with a thumbs up from many young guys, “Way to go” from folks, gay and straight, and lots of people telling us how many years they’d been together, too. One baby-boomer woman smiled at us, put her hand over her heart and said “you make me proud to be a woman.” Wow. Didn’t expect that.
But it was the young gals, gay and straight, who had us crying from laughter. They’d read the sign, then look at us and emit a loud and plaintive “Awwwww,” like a sound you’d make when seeing a puppy. “Awwww, aren’t these old lesbians cute….”
Conservatively, at least 300 cell phones snapped our photo and many a contingent of teens and twenty-somethings crowded in to have their pictures taken with us. We felt like rock stars. The diversity of the crowd was staggering, often impossible to tell gay from straight. The clothing, demeanor, and signage ranged from wacky to conservative to spectacular.
At one point, a reporter asked if we’d rallied for our rights before this and we recounted tales of the ’79, ’87, ’93, and 2000 marches, also discussing our predecessor Barbara Gittings marching at the White House in the 1960s. “She and her fellow protestors were dressed to the nines,” I said, telling the reporter that they had required the men to wear suits and ties and the women to wear dresses and high heels. “I love that!” hollered a guy sporting bright purple hair and so many earrings you could strain spaghetti through his ears.
Two women approached us, holding their sign also proclaiming 31 years, though not on this specific day. Our conversation, overheard by a reporter from the Huffington Post, turned into a full fledged interview of the four women she called “the 31 Ones.”
Per protocol, each reporter had to ask us our names and ages. As I repeated that big numeral over and over I was pleased by the number of times people responded with “Well, you don’t look it.” By hour four of standing and holding the sign aloft, I felt it and then some.
When the oral arguments inside the court ended, the plaintiff, Edie Windsor, and her legal team came down the steps to thundering cheers from the crowd. We milled about a few moments more, then packed in our fifteen minutes of fame and headed back to the hotel.
With aching legs, horribly stiff necks from staring in just one direction at each other across the sign all day, and rotator cuffs throbbing from raising our banner, we collapsed on the hotel bed and turned on the TV.
We made CSPAN, WRC-TV in Washington, a montage of photos on CBS, a mention on Public Television and more. By 4:30 the Huffington Post article was posted. My cell phone lit up with texts, messages and calls from friends recounting the places they’d seen our brief celebrity.
By Thursday morning we were, quite literally, yesterday’s news.
But what a hoot it was. And now, all we can do is hope that the Supremes heard our message and declare the offensive Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. Enough already. I want to retire from the protest business. Equality Now!
Fay Jacobs is the author of As I Lay Frying—a Rehoboth Beach Memoir; Fried & True—Tales from Rehoboth Beach; and For Frying Out Loud—Rehoboth Beach Diaries. Email Fay Jacobs
A Note From Fay
Just a note to let you know that we had to put Moxie down March 22 after a glorious 15 years.
At the moment and for the future, at least in the short term, our home is no longer a Schnauzerhaven.
Well traveled, Moxie toured Maine and Nova Scotia by RV, I-95 to Florida and back, and many other destinations. He loved the book 1000 Places to Pee Before You Die, (seriously, it's a real book written by a Schnauzer). He did his best. He was predeceased by his brother Paddy and many good friends—canine, feline and human. It was a great run.