Waiting With Pride, Dignity, and Hope
Several times in the next two weeks, the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States will file into their ornate Washington DC courtroom at 10AM, and issue their judgments on a variety of major cases that have been under consideration during the past 9 months, including Hollingsworth v Perry (Prop 8) and US v Windsor (DOMA). SCOTUS watchers have been parsing the legal filings by both sides. Scholars have been dissecting the oral arguments, to see which points of law seem to be at the center of these cases. Pundits have been predicting how the court might rule for months. Soon, the opinion will be released, and the follow-up analysis will begin.
Meanwhile, we wait.
SCOTUSblog — the best website for following the news revolving around SCOTUS, bar none — is not only revamping their site, but preparing special procedures for what they expect to be a crush of readers when these and other major decisions are announced. Major pro- and anti-LGBT organizations are preparing their press releases and public statements for the various permutations of possible outcomes. DC and federal police are preparing for press conferences and protests at SCOTUS and elsewhere, to keep opposing groups from clashing and from escalating things beyond dueling chants.
Meanwhile, we wait.
And for many, that waiting is done with increasingly powerful pride.
Whether the decisions in these two cases result in full marriage equality or not, the growing pride of the LGBT community will not stop growing. The increasing acceptance of LGBTs for who they are will not stop increasing. The expanding visibility of the LGBT community will not suddenly start to shrink.
Whatever SCOTUS decides, they cannot take away the pride.
Kansas City’s Pride festival was a couple of weeks ago, but the celebration continues. The KC LBGT Film Festival — Out Here Now — runs from June 20-24, with an amazing collection of documentaries such as I Am Divine, Breakthrough, and Continental; comedies like Tennessee Queer and G.B.F. (Gay Best Friend); and dramas like Hot Guys with Guns, described as “like Lethal Weapon only if Danny Glover and Mel Gibson were better looking and ex-boyfriends”. These films will not disappear if marriage equality is not granted. The lives and loves and longings and laughs they portray in their stories — and the connections they create with their audiences — will not go away if Edith Windsor has to pay an outrageous estate tax because a discriminatory law is upheld.
Thirty-some years ago, Harvey Milk was changing the face of local politics in San Francisco, and the broader political landscape across the country. As an out gay man running for public office, he spoke not only on LGBT issues, but on labor issues, community issues, economic issues, and justice issues of all kinds. He forged alliances with Teamsters and steelworkers and all kinds of unlikely folks. I’ve written about Milk’s famous “Hope Speech” in the past, where he laid out the connections he saw between the SF residents of all stripes that he sought to unite behind his campaign:
I can’t forget the looks on the faces of people who’ve lost hope. Be they gay, be they seniors, be they blacks looking for an almost-impossible job, be they Latins trying to explain their problems and aspirations in a tongue that is foreign to them. . . .
[After recounting various specific episodes of pain and oppression in San Francisco, he noted that these people were] reaching out for some symbolic thing that would give them hope. These were strong people, people whose faces I knew from the shop, the streets, meetings and people who I never saw before but I knew. They were strong, but even they needed hope.
And the young gay people in the Altoona, Pennsylvanias and the Richmond, Minnesotas who are coming out [this refers back to two stories told earlier in the speech] and hear Anita Bryant on television and her story. The only thing they have to look forward to is hope. And you have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right. Without hope, not only gays, but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the us’es, the us’es will give up. . . .
So if there is a message I have to give, it is that if I’ve found one overriding thing about my personal election, it’s the fact that if a gay person can be elected, it’s a green light. And you and you and you, you have to give people hope.
By their opinions in these two major cases, SCOTUS can decide various legal questions. They can give LGBTs and their relationships equal status in the eyes of the law, or not. They can change the way in which LGBTs are treated by the IRS, by hospitals and financial institutions, and by retirement plans and employers — or they can decide to leave things the way they are. They can, by their ruling, change all kinds of things in our society for the better with regard to LGBTs, or they can prop up an increasingly unstable structure of discrimination against LGBTs. They can do all these things, but there are also things they cannot do.
What SCOTUS cannot do is take away pride. Too many people have realized that being gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgendered is something to celebrate, not cure.
What SCOTUS cannot do is take away dignity. Too many people have realized that being gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgendered is something to affirm, not belittle.
What SCOTUS cannot do — what they absolutely cannot do — is take away hope. Too many people, of all sexual orientations, have discovered that regardless of the outcomes of this or that court case, their hope for a better world and a better future cannot be diminished by shortsighted and bigoted ideas held by others.
And so, the waiting continues — with pride, with dignity, and above all with hope.
Photo by From Sovereign to Serf – Roger Sayles aka Serfs Up! and used under Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license