Nine Guys in Robes

My Con Law professor had me from the first class by saying that the Supreme Court Justices were nothing but “nine guys in robes.” He wasn’t discounting the women at all, just making the point that you don’t have to be a lawyer… hell, you don’t even have to have a GED to be on the Supreme Court. It’s an at-will position. Sometimes they make right decisions. Sometimes they don’t. They are no more and no less than the rest of us, powers derived only from the ones we give them ourselves. On some days, it seems like it.

On some days, they seem hundreds of feet tall…. like today.

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.

It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage,” Justice Kennedy said of the couples challenging state bans on same-sex marriage. “Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

-Anthony Kennedy, Author of Majority Opinion

Today, we all have a chance to breathe, take in these words, and find them self-evident. Words that are beautiful enough to be carved on the facades of state and federal buildings the country over as we prepare a new way of being in the world, gay and straight people alike.

For instance, we can all stop calling it “gay marriage” now… because there is no difference. One marriage license does not have any demarcation from the other… or at least, it won’t a few weeks from now. I am sure that there are thousands of clerks across the nation taking heterosexual marriage licenses out of their file cabinets and making the necessary changes in black ink. Some of them have tears in their eyes as they do it, not knowing that this day would ever come.

I certainly didn’t.

I didn’t even want to plan a wedding with my then-wife of 7 years because I was too internally homophobic to stand up in front of everyone. I talked a good game, like just how many brass quintets we would need, but inside, my heart was turning upside down. She talked to the priest before I was ready to have that conversation, and I did not get to hear it. My stomach churned as she was recounting it. I loved her (in some ways, still do), but as I have said before, my internal fear was “what if we planned a wedding and nobody came? What if it just looks silly?” My ex-wife’s parents said they would be there, begrudgingly, after SEVEN YEARS OF TRYING, but their attitude was way closer to my own because it was the same attitude that let me beat myself down for years and years. That it somehow just wasn’t right… interesting because I have been to lots of gay weddings and never felt that way about my friends. Just about me.

In my formative coming out years, gay marriages were the equivalent of hopping over a broom so quick no one would see it. Vows were taken in the privacy of your own home. Rings were worn on any finger but THAT ONE. Pronouns were altered. Gay marriage wasn’t out loud, it was on the down-low.

Now, marriage has a sense of legitimacy for me, because while Kathleen and I have a civil union in Vermont that still hasn’t been annulled (which I can now get based on abandonment because she is married and has a kid by someone else now) and Dana and I have a domestic partnership in Oregon (I asked her to file to no avail), it didn’t feel THE SAME AS EVERYONE ELSE.

And that is what the Supreme Court did for me today. It made nothing I asked any different from anyone else. There don’t have to be special words, special documents, special anythings for me to get married. It is as if the weight of a thousand Chevrolets has been lifted from my chest.

It’s too late to marry Dana. It will always be too late for that. But what it does allow is that when my Sassenach comes along, I’ll know that it’s ok to ask her if she’ll marry me. I know that if I am someone else’s, it’s ok for her to ask me to marry her. I won’t have to feel like we have to go into our bedroom and close the door so no one finds out what we’re saying to each other…….

Thanks to nine guys in robes.


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