NCLR: A giant leap forward

Lesbian wedding fashionBY KATE KENDALL
Executive director, NCLR

On Monday morning, I was in my hotel room in Washington, D.C. The news was on, all was as expected, and I was finishing up e-mails before heading out to a breakfast meeting. A minute later, the world was gloriously, fabulously, improbably turned upside down.  

I was nervously waiting, as we all were, to see which case(s) the U.S. Supreme Court might take this term to decide whether same-sex couples throughout the country have the freedom to marry. Then, that penultimate question was suddenly settled in a huge new swath of the country, including for NCLR’s case in my home state of Utah. Marriage bans in Utah, Indiana, Wisconsin, Virginia, and Oklahoma were gone.

I sat at the desk in my hotel room in stunned, gratified, awe-struck, elated disbelief. I may have even screamed a little.

On that beautiful fall morning, the high Court declined petitions for review in all of the marriage cases before it. The practical effect of that decision was to make all of those decisions final. The bans were nullified as unconstitutional, and lower court rulings in those cases could now take effect. Translation: couples in all five states could now marry.

But wait, there’s more! The Supreme Court’s decision meant that marriage bans in all the other states within the Fourth, Seventh and Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals—in Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming—would soon be history as well. By the end of the week, couples were already marrying in Colorado and West Virginia, one county in Kansas was already issuing licenses, and the other three states were moving closer to ending their marriage bans as well. In short order a total of 11 more states will join the other 19 where marriage already means marriage for everyone. Soon, more than 30 states will respect our relationships and treat them equally to all others.

At 9am on the first Monday in October 2014, life and reality and expectations were one thing. By 10am on the first Monday in October 2014, life and reality and expectations had undergone an exhilarating renovation. It was, quite literally, breathtaking.

The next 24 hours were a blur. But for me, it involved a late night and very early morning. On Monday night, I did a segment on “America Tonight” on Al Jezeera America, and before dawn on Tuesday, I was at a studio just blocks from the Supreme Court for a segment on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” (one of my East Coast travel addictions). You can see that segment here.

But wait, there’s more! On Tuesday afternoon, as I boarded my flight back home, I got the news that the Ninth Circuit, in our Idaho case, had invalidated that state’s marriage ban, as well as Nevada’s. (And later that night the San Francisco Giants clinched the series over the Washington DC Nationals, that’s another story…but YAY!)

In what many saw as an odd twist, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy granted a temporary stay of the 9th Circuit ruling in response to a request by Idaho officials. We are disappointed for couples in Idaho at this delay, but we believe it is just that, and soon Idaho will be among the states where we can marry.

Whew!! I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted! Actually, not really.

Truth be told, I am thrilled at this turn of events. For us, it means more deliberate work to assure that EVERYONE will one day live in a state where they live in the light of full equality and justice. While the events of this week have been extraordinary, they have highlighted where we still lag and the inanity of being denied basic equality—like employment protections—even as we win the right to marry.

We are not done. In some ways, we now have even more to do to win marriage nationwide and then to bring the FULL promise of “equal justice under law” to every LGBT person, no matter where they live. But if the events of this week are any indication, justice and love will win out AND the ride will be filled with unimaginable twists and turns.


Kate Kendell, Esq.
NCLR Executive Director

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