Equal Justice

Last week two of our HUCCers, Brent and James came up to me after worship and said “we are going to Washington to be at the Supreme Court for the oral arguments in the marriage equality case and we wanted to invite you to come with us.” So on Monday the three of us set out on a road trip to Washington to bear witness to history in whatever way we could.   Early Tuesday morning we walked to the court building from our hotel with hope that if even for three minutes we would be able to witness the historic case being debated before the highest court in the land.  When we arrived we found our place in a line that a few moments later grew behind us and stretched around the block.  Finally after about three hours of waiting a guard gave us tickets indicating that we had a strong chance to get inside before the arguments ended.  A few minutes later, just a short time before the arguments ended, we found ourselves escorted to tiny seats in the back corner of the court room where for about 4 minutes we could hear the attorneys and justices debate the case. Then the door quiet opened and we were escorted out so the next group could have their moment in history.  With a feeling of accomplishment we gathered our belongings and left through the front doors where we once again entered the boisterous crowd gathered outside the court building. As I saw that diverse crowd, it occurred to me that perhaps the Justices might be aided just as much in their decision by leaving that court room and coming outside. Outside to see and hear:

•The voices who came to a microphone set at the base of the courthouse steps to declare their support or disagreement with marriage quality.

•The people of all shapes, skin tones and ethnicities carrying signs of support or disagreement.

•The litigants in the current case walking down the line and thanking every person for coming out to support them or bear witness to this historic moment.

•The women who two years ago sat in the court to fight for their right to marry in California but who on this day are just two more ordinary Americans standing in line to bear witness to three minutes of history.

•The street preachers who are trying to save souls and feel the core of their faith is threatened.

•The older African American man who quietly stands holding a sign that says “Don’t be on the wrong side of history, again”.

                And maybe those justices would come to stand in line where family-like communities form as folks share and hear each other’s stories.  Communities like the one that includes a Jewish mother who hopes to tell her young son that she witnessed the case that allowed him to choose whoever he loved as his legal spouse, alongside a wise experienced married couple of women, married 36 years but only legal recognized as married for 6, who hope they are bearing witness to the case that would allow them live the rest of their lives wherever they choose and finally in that circle two engaged men and their pastor who hope that this case will assure that these men’s children would never have to question if their family is “real”.  Mingling in that crowd, in those uniquely American spontaneous communities formed on the street outside their court perhaps the Justices would, with the sounds of the DC Gay men’s Chorus singing the National Anthem in the background, turn to that building  they enter every day to reread those words our forbearers engraved on the facade “Equal justice under Law” and see  clearly that even though the ones who chose those words may have never imagined families would look like they did on that street in 2015 they are, however, each real American families and heirs of that promise, entitled to the protection, the rights and the justice those words proclaimed.  This is my hope and prayer.

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