Last week, the Supreme Court decided not to hear appeals in marriage cases in five states. The act of doing nothing made same-sex marriage legal in the five states and their circuits, causing other states to quickly follow. Then the Catholic church announced that gays have gifts to offer the church. It was a big week for marriage equality.
I hold my breath.
We walked across the Boston Common to go ring shopping. We were young and in love and excited to start a life together, a life that would start first with getting married. Same-sex marriage had passed in the courts but wasn’t legal quite yet. There was a lot we didn’t know.
I didn’t know what it would be like to be part of the first generation to fall in love as a lesbian and get married in a state that recognized us legally. I didn’t know a life where I could be fired for coming out. I didn’t know a life where it was illegal or inaccessible to start a family without full legal protection for both same-sex partners. I didn’t know how loud the opposition would get as we got closer to equality.
So I hold my breath.
I hold my breath for North Carolina, where my friends and their four children will now have the legal protection as a family they deserve. I hold my breath for Alaska, where the governor vows to fight the ruling, for the same-sex couples in the Catholic church and for the LGBT youth in these new equality states.
I hold my breath because the hate is about to turn up the volume. I heard the shouting before I realized what was happening. As I turned my head, the hot tears burned down my cheeks. A large group had gathered to protest in front of their church. Not because the church supported us — no, that particular church still doesn’t — but because that’s where their numbers were the greatest.
They held signs condemning us.
Their children held signs and chanted the hate with their parents. In my enthusiasm for love and engagement ring shopping with my soon-to-be-legal-wife, I forgot that they hated us. I forgot that who we are offended them. I forgot that they wanted to take all of this away from me just because of who I love, just because of who I am. I hold my breath as the marriage equality momentum picks up.
With every voice of support and Supreme Court nondecision, there will be a loud wave of protest. This one isn’t just about a law — this is about human beings. This is about identity and families and equality. When the volume gets turned up against us, we may fight back and even win, but our hearts will surely break in the process.