On Friday morning, the country’s gayest outpost, the capital of this adolescent empire, moved the United States another step toward adulthood, or damnation, depending on your druthers. Five Supreme Court justices declared that marriage is a right protected by the Constitution, whether you’re gay or straight, whether you’re in Massachusetts or Mississippi. “It is so ordered,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy, who goes both ways (judicially speaking). The states are now united, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. Better get comfy, y’all.
There were marriage proposals on the steps of the Supreme Court building. There were all-you-can-drink specials at bars gay and straight. There were extra-long lunch hours and early quitting times. The capital was happy. The mild humidity was a bonus. Washington has had marriage equality for years now, but now its lifelong tenants — the Supremes, as we refer to them locally — had brought the rest of the states in line, Von Trapp style, with a swoop of their robes.
In Dallas, George Harris, 82, married Jack Evans, 85, after 54 years of non-wedded bliss.
“Threat to American democracy” was a phrase in Antonin Scalia’s dissent.
“I didn’t read his full dissent, but there didn’t seem to be a lot of legal analysis,” said one middle-aged man holding a glass of white wine on the patio of Cobalt on a street named after Frank Kameny, a Washington pioneer of gay rights. “It was just, ‘I hate the modern world.'”
This is the kind of stuff you overhear at D.C. happy hours on a day like Friday. Regardless of who’s running Congress or sleeping in the White House, Washington is a certain kind of town: 91 percent of District voters went for President Obama in 2012, and 10 percent of residents identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (higher than any of the 50 actual states, according to Gallup). The spirit of the city rises and falls with election nights and Supreme Court decisions. Remember the slow vise of election night in 2004, as state after state banned same-sex marriage? Remember how just four years later, the city quaked with joy when the race was called for Obama? In the modern world, change takes forever and then happens fast.
Breaking: Cold-hard bureaucrats and sharp-tongued commentators felt feelings!
Conservative pundit S.E. Cupp cried tears of happiness on CNN.
Straight-shooting justice correspondent Pete Williams appeared to choke up briefly on NBC, but maybe it was just allergies.
Now, of course, there is no such thing as gay marriage.
The president took to the Rose Garden for his second victory lap of the week. His tone was subdued, weary, about-time; he had a eulogy to deliver later.
“This ruling will strengthen all of our communities,” he said, “by offering to all loving same-sex couples the dignity of marriage across this great land.”
Scalia: “Mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.”
If you want American exceptionalism, park yourself near the Supreme Court on a day like Friday. The steps of the court were a spectacle, a circus, a crackling meeting of minds and hearts and spirits all day. There were so many young people swaddled in rainbows, freshly armed with the sword of the Constitution, sparring with people who used scripture as a shield.
The cuckoo birds were also there, on behalf of hellfire. (If “God hates fags,” he has a funny way of showing it.) The polite defenders of religious liberty were there, smiles on their faces, holding a banner that said “One Man, One Woman.” Arkansas pastor Vincent Xavier, 52, wept Friday morning in his hotel gym even before the decision was announced. He could already feel God’s heart breaking. He spent most of the day at the Supreme Court, engaged in friendly and passionate debate with people half his age, behind a sign that said “Warning! God draws a line on gay marriage.”
“You think that the wisdom of the court is greater than the wisdom of God,” Xavier said.
“Jesus never said a word about homosexuality in the Gospels,” said Savannah Gross, 20, a rising senior at Emory University in Atlanta, representing the flock of Washington’s underpaid summer interns that had turned out to witness and discuss.
“It’s in the Gospel of Matthew,” Xavier answered.
“That’s in the context of divorce,” Gross said.
“Good, you know your word,” Xavier said, impressed, before warning of the Islamic State, another manifestation of the end times and the coming darkness.
Xavier pointed to the clouds in the sky.
“That ain’t darkness,” said a young black man passing by. “That’s rain, baby! That’s rain.”
It never did rain Friday.
The country is always falling apart; it never actually does.
“It all comes down to God and Satan,” said Christine Weick, a traveling Christian activist from Michigan whose next stop is Monte Rio, Calif., to protest the pagan gathering of “illuminati” at Bohemian Grove. “It’s a tug of war for control of the Earth.”
If this is a tug of war, Washington is the rope. Americans elect presidents who nominate Supreme Court justices who are confirmed by senators who are elected by Americans. The narrow 5-to-4 outcome Friday was therefore everyone’s doing, in one way or another. This change, these small raptures, may start elsewhere, but they happen in the capital. And these days, SCOTUS is the busiest and most daring of our branches. The gays have made Ruth Bader Ginsburg their queen — Notorious RBG! — but really, the diva extraordinaire has been that old, bald, straight, white dude, whose swing vote has swung the date of June 26 into the history books year after year: Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, U.S. v. Windsor in 2013, Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015. What, praytell, does he have in store for us on June 26, 2016? D.C. statehood? (Too much to ask? Not gay enough?)
“Now, the only thing keeping me from getting married is literally everything else,” tweeted former Obama speechwriter Jon Lovett.
Down in Charleston, S.C., mere hours after he left the Rose Garden, the president delivered a eulogy for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, shot dead in his sanctuary last week, allegedly by a 21-year-old, swaddled in the Confederate flag, wanting to start a race war. Obama’s theme was grace. Toward the end of the speech, the president started singing “Amazing Grace.” It was tuneless and tentative, but then the organ kicked in, and it was like a revival — something out of an America that’s always been there but has just started to reach the mountaintop.
“Clem understood that justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other,” Obama said, delivering a variation on the day’s theme. “That my liberty depends on you being free, too.”
By nightfall, the White House would be lit like a rainbow. A rainbow, Frank. A rainbow, Harvey. A rainbow, Del and Phyllis. People went to to see it, photograph it, disperse it on social media, mingle in Lafayette Square, a former slave market, a place more often used for protest than celebration. #LoveWins was the consensus on Twitter. (If love won, what lost?) This week the Confederate flag came down and the rainbow flag was hoisted in its place.
Lord there were tears Friday! Of grief. Of relief. Of anger. Some people couldn’t handle it. It was a shredding of the Constitution. It was the government run amok. This one nation, under God, had stumbled.
“Some of the darkest 24 hours in our nation’s history,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), presidential candidate, on Sean Hannity’s radio show.
They were among the brightest for Linda MohrParaskevopoulos, 60. She was working from home in Herndon when the ruling came down. She told her office that she had an emergency, ditched work and celebrated with her wife, Susan Murray, 57.
“We’re finally legitimate,” said Murray, who has been married to MohrParaskevopoulos for five years. “The whole U.S. has to recognize our marriage. We count now.”
Scalia: “I would hide my head in a bag.”
But really, it was not a good day for liberals anymore than it was a bad day for conservatives. It was simply a day in which taxpaying individuals became more equal under the earthbound law. It was a day in which a man of God was laid to rest with words designed to heal a violent, violated nation that will continue to struggle with equality, either on the steps of the Supreme Court or in the mind of a troubled 20-something with a .45-caliber Glock and an ax to grind.
If you do some fuzzy math with the U.S. birthrate and percentage of LGBT citizens, you might conclude that between 300 and 400 LGBT Americans were born Friday. They were born into the modern world, into the most interesting country on the planet.
Staff reporter Perry Stein contributed to this report.