WASHINGTON Usually Fay Jacobs doesn’t like to be photographed but today she is happily making plenty of exceptions. There is no shortage of cameras being pointed at her and she is beaming into every single one of them.
The gorgeous weather and the blooming cherry blossoms are not the reason for her being in Washington and in such good mood though. Jacobs, 64, and her partner Bonnie Quesenberry, 63, are holding up a sign that reads “If Gay Marriage were LEGAL Today would be our 31st Anniversary.”
“I never thought I’d see the day with the Supreme Court even listening to this cause”, says Jacobs.
Jacobs and Quesenberry are surrounded by hundreds of people that assembled in front of the Supreme Court Wednesday to show their support for the LGBT community in the second of two historic cases. On Tuesday Americas highest court heard arguments on California’s ballot initiative Proposition 8, which has banned same sex marriage in the state. One day later arguments in favor and against the Defense of Marriage Act, commonly known as DOMA, are being heard. DOMA determines the meaning of marriage in any act of Congress, ruling or regulation as strictly between one man and one woman.
The bill was signed into law by President Bill Clinton, on Sept. 21, 1996. President Clinton himself has since voiced his opposition to the law, calling it “incompatible with our constitution” in a Washington Post op-ed this March.
This shift in opinion can also be detected in the American public at large. Whereas support for gay marriage was at 40 % in 2007, it now reached 57 % according to a CNN/ORC International survey.
The rising numbers in support for same-sex marriage are accompanied by a rising amount of Americans that say they have a close friend or family member that is gay. This phenomenon has been dubbed “Rob Portman effect”, after the Republican senator from Ohio that changed his position on same-sex marriage after he learned that his son was gay.
Strong opposition, however, still exists. Anti-protestors in front of the Supreme Court are few and far between but the ones that did feel strong enough about the issue to come out and showcase their aversion – we counted three over on the Capitol side of the street – are not as cheerful as everybody else. In contrast to the supporters’ fun and playful signs (one of them says “Don’t mess with Dumbledore’s rights”), their sinister posters are bearing Nazi-swastikas, bible verses and depictions of the devil. They read “Tyranny”, “National Sin” and “Sodomy”.
On the other side of the street, where the first live witnesses leaving the court after the hearing are welcomed with frantic applause, James Rowe and Alison Amyx have a different opinion on the notion that religion and homosexuality are not compatible. They are members of a group called “Believe Out Loud.” “We believe that God loves us exactly as we are. We believe we don’t have to leave our churches because we are LGBT” says community outreach director Rowe, 48. “We are all about the Christian Church opening up their door for everybody.”
Senior Editor Amyx, 26, has been a part of what she calls progressive religious circles ever since she started college. As a Baptist she strongly believes in the separation of church and state. “In the founding of the United States, the Baptists were involved in putting freedom of religion in the constitution and we have gotten so far away from that.”, she explains. “DOMA is legislating morality and that is something Baptists are inherently against.”
Whether the Supreme Court will really overturn Proposition 8 or DOMA is far from certain. Rulings in both cases are expected by the end of June. But because the federal government refused to defend the case there might not even be a ruling in the case of DOMA. Whereas some say it might have been too soon for full marriage equality anyway, Jacobs and her wife need to see DOMA overturned as fast as possible. “It’s more important for us, especially at our age. There are many marital benefits that we are not eligible for. I don’t want to be a second class citizen anymore. Done.”