Last Tuesday, I stood beneath the steps of the United States Supreme Court as oral arguments were heard in what will hopefully be our nation’s last marriage equality case.
In addition to my work as a lobbyist, I carry multiple other identities, including being a retired attorney who once aspired to clerk on the Supreme Court and an amateur photographer who now more modestly hopes to place in Plymouth Magazine’s annual photo contest. I may even be your friend in real life or at least on Facebook. Most importantly, I am Naomi’s husband, and Noah and Elsie’s dad.
Blessed with all of these identities, it was my good fortune to be in Washington, D.C. with my camera as advocates came before the Court to argue whether under our Constitution, gay and lesbian couples, like their fellow Americans, are entitled to the dignity of civil marriage.
While still at the Supreme Court, I uploaded onto Facebook a picture taken on Tuesday with my iPhone. Though there is nothing remarkable about this shot of me, the reaction to it on Facebook has been truly humbling. From grade school classmates to lifelong college friends and professional colleagues, I have been amazed by the overwhelming number of “likes” and heartfelt thanks which I’ve received for just being at the Supreme Court with my small Human Rights Campaign flag in hand.
This incredible feedback, particularly from my gay and lesbian friends, some of whose weddings I’ve participated in, is somewhat unnerving because it feels so underserved on my part. All I did was show up; when many others have done much more for far longer to ensure that the promise of “equal justice under law” is fulfilled. Still, I get it. By being at the Supreme Court, I was in a way the proxy for millions of others who, like me, are anxiously awaiting the Court’s decision this June, but unlike me didn’t have the good luck to personally be there.
What follows then are my thoughts on some of the scenes I witnessed from an extraordinary morning at the Supreme Court. While I have no pretensions to being a photojournalist, the pictures which follow are representative of the substantial crowd which came to bear witness both for and in opposition to marriage equality.
If challenged to describe the mood outside the Supreme Court in a single word, I’d say it was festive. While I’m aware that the professional Supreme Court prognosticators are at best cautiously optimistic, and while no one was declaring victory yet, everyone I spoke with seemed confident that not only was history on the side of marriage equality, but most likely so were a majority of the nine Justices. Of all the pictures that I took, this one best captures that mood.
There are so many things which I like about this picture beyond this young woman’s beautiful visage. As a lawyer and as a lobbyist, I am immediately drawn to the key message of her sign, “Marriage Equality and Respect For All.” As deftly analyzed by Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick, and several others, the belief that the right to marry the person of our choosing bestows all of us with dignity appears to be of singular concern to Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy.
In response to claims that the ban on marriage equality is in the best interest of children, this woman, who was raised by two gay dads, has come to the Supreme Court to contradict the assertion that children such as her cannot be successful. More than mere anecdote, studies indicates that children raised by committed gay couples do just as well, if not better, than children raised by straight couples. Because of this and many other reasons the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Nursing, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Bar Association, and the National Association of Social Workers have all endorsed marriage equality.
People came from all over the United States to attend Tuesday’s rally, including these kids from Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Unfailingly positive and on message, they didn’t even take the bait when I ribbed them on the alleged superiority of rival Wayzata’s sports teams.
I could not help but notice that amongst the opponents to marriage equality were a handful of protestors from the Neturei Karta sect. These Jews are infamous for their fierce opposition to the State of Israel and their warm embrace of former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Among the many Jewish Minnesotans in attendance at the rally were Rabbi Adam Spilker and Aaron Weininger, as well as Minnesota Deputy Secretary of State Ann Kaner-Roth. Previously the Executive Director for Minnesota’s Project 515, as well as the Advocacy & Policy Manager for the ACLU’s National Marriage Campaign, Ann has done incredible work in advancing marriage equality in Minnesota and nationally. It was an honor to share this historic day with her.
A graduate of Stanford Law School and Macalester College, Ethan Roberts is a board member for TC Jewfolk Media. Ethan resides in Plymouth, Minnesota with his wife, Naomi, and their children, Noah and Elsie. Ethan is adamant that anyone can be a decent photographer. You just need to take lots and lots of pictures.