This was a big week at the Supreme Court and I was thrilled to have the privilege of a front row seat to history. After camping out all night , I was first in line to get into the court’s chamber to hear the decision on Alabama’s challenge to a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. The process itself was certainly something to behold, occurring in an ornate chamber like a temple built to justice with a level of decorum rarely seen in any other government body.
What I found most surprising of everything I experienced though, was how deeply emotion ran through the courtroom. The emotion and very human reactions were in stark contrast to the ordered, measured process of handing down decisions. What often gets lost in the shuffle of Supreme Court drama is that the decisions the Justices make are not merely academic answers to legal questions, but have very real and emotional consequences.
Wednesday morning I was again in front of the Court, this time not in line but with the crowd on the steps waiting for the decisions in the cases challenging the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8. These provisions, which have hindered the freedom of millions of people, were struck down by the court. When the decisions were announced and cheers rang out across the crowd, my pride and my heart swelled. Our work is, of course, not yet complete—inevitably there will continue to be much debate over whether marriage equality is a threat to religious freedom which we of course do not believe it is. We must still overturn the rest of DOMA, not to mention push for marriage equality nationwide. But these monumental decisions worth much celebration.
When Justice Ginsberg expressed her regret at the court’s decision in the Voting Rights Act case, she quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “The arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice…” Though on Tuesday Justice Ginsberg used this quote to say that the court’s decision slowed the bending of the arc of history, the arc has, with Wednesday’s decision, bent a little closer to justice.
For more on religious freedom and marriage equality, you can listen to Rev. Welton Gaddy’s interview with the Rev. Pat Bumgardner, executive director of the Global Justice Institute and pastor of Metropolitan Community Church. You can also watch Rev. Gaddy’s speech about the DOMA and Prop 8 cases on the steps of the Supreme Court here.
Written by Matt Andersen. Matt is a rising senior at New College of Florida and is interning at Interfaith Alliance for the summer of 2013. He is also a participant in the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism’s Machon Kaplan program.