Sounds of celebration as justices rule DOMA unconstitutional

(This story was originally published for SHFWire on June 26, 2013.)

WASHINGTON – People pressed up against each other, elbows rubbing, exchanging sweat. Hundreds of pairs of feet blotted out the gray concrete sidewalk, meshing together to create a crowd reminiscent of an audience at a rock concert. It shifted with the same nervous excitement, the same jolt that can be felt rippling through before the band takes the stage.

But the people holding signs and waving flags weren’t gathering for a sidewalk performance. They sang and chanted in the name of marriage equality outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday, waiting for rulings in the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 cases.

“This is not an issue that just affects gay people, it’s about families. And everyone has a family,” Emily Cloyd, 32, of D.C. said. Cloyd, a public participation and engagement coordinator for the U.S. Global Change Research Program, was outside the Supreme Court with members of the All Souls Church Unitarian. She sang gospel songs with the other members throughout the morning as they waited for news from the court.

Across the hopeful crowd from Cloyd stood Lauren Egan, 18, of Baltimore. She just graduated from the McDonogh School and plans to attend Vanderbilt University in the fall. Her toned arms lifted a white sign with the words “Marry who you love” over her head. Her blue-purple-yellow tie-dye shirt stuck to her stomach with sweat. She sang “God Bless America” with the protesters around her.

“It’s inevitable,” she said of marriage equality. “It’s not a question of if but a question of when.”

Decision time for the court neared. Chants of “What do we want? Marriage equality! When do we want it? Now!” undulated through the crowd.

Protesters clasped their cellphones, anxious to know what the justices were saying inside the building in front of them. It was past 10 a.m., when the justices enter the courtroom. It was time.

“DOMA is unconstitutional!” The shout came from somewhere in the crowd, an unknown protester.

The crowd cheered. People chanted “DOMA is dead! DOMA is dead!” They embraced each other, strangers and friends, united by their desire of equal rights.

Tears rolled down her face as Hannah Greenberg, 21, of D.C., smiled and laughed. “I’m elated and relieved,” the American University student said. “Thank God. But we got a lot more to do.”

A group of protesters started singing “Somewhere over the Rainbow” in celebration.

“I’m jubilant,” Sharon Solomon, 60, of Los Angeles said. Solomon was visiting D.C. with her son, Adam, 21, to visit American University. They happened to be here by chance, she said.

Not gay herself, Solomon said the issue of marriage equality is important to her. Her uncle is gay and wasn’t able to get his marriage recognized. He and his partner had a “ceremony with the rings and everything.”

Her son said he was excited and in shock. “I’m just so glad I could be here.”

Mother and son embraced, cheering and laughing.

“This is the beginning of the next step of a continuing journey,” Solomon said.