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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

"They also serve who only stand and wait"

After today, all that can be done, at least in the courts, will be over.  The arguments will have been made, the justices will retire to their chambers and by the end of June we will know the fate of our LGBT family, friends, coworkers and fellow Americans.  For many of us it will be an excruciatingly long time.  As I listen to my body's reaction too all of this, I find myself feeling much as I did as a child anticipating the arrival of Santa Claus, or the first summer day in the swimming pool.  It was almost unbearable; yet Santa did come and go, and the summers dragged on.  But much more is a stake than getting that nice new bike or meeting with friends for a dunking contest.  Not knowing, when we know only too well how necessary the defeat of Prop 8 and DOMA are, added to the mystifying awareness that America is now only beginning to wake up to LGBT injustice, makes one grieve.  

I don't even want to think about what to do should the Court not rule in our favor.  It will be like how WWII was waged in the Pacific, beach head by beach head, atoll by atoll, island by island.  But in this case it will be State by State.  This will be enormously expensive both in money and effort.  The good news is that DOMA likely will fall.  Should Prop 8 only be limited to California, then when each State approves gay marriage, the 1011 Federal benefits now denied will be extended to all in same-sex marriages.  This is to be celebrated.

Americans are getting a world-class education in gay rights.  America will never be the same, and will eventually, say, 20 years from now, find its way to make LGBTs full citizens. It's this unnecessary interim that's so devastating.  How many couple's hopes will be dashed?  How many more children will be subject to ridicule? How many more families will have to live without the protections that heterosexual couples enjoy every day?  

I'm still holding out for a complete sweep of victory.  The signs are impossible to read with any assurance, but nothing has been ruled out as yet.  As David Boies put it, "The most remarkable thing that happened in there was there was no attempt to defend the ban on gay marriage."  I remember the day in 1954 when the decision in Brown v. Board of Education was announced that ended segregation.  This was not a popular decision, yet it was made. When Loving v. Virginia (IN 1967!)  struck down miscegenation laws allowing interracial marriage, the vast majority of the country was appalled.  So especially when the majority of Americans now favor same-sex marriage and gay rights over all, the Court is perfectly situated to do the right thing.  So I remain hopeful.

To really appreciate the title of this blog, we need to recall John Milton's poem, "On His Blindness."  

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg'd with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o'er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait." 
Wait we must; yet let us listen to Patience who counsels against those thousands who "post o'er land and ocean without rest."  Why is this Patience's work to counsel us to stand and wait? I think it's to remind us that, as Martin Luther King, put it, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”  In other words, not everything depends upon us; let us pause for the moment and let the universe do its thing.  It just may be that we will need to get going soon enough as it it.  

Here's a great summary of the events of yesterday from David Boies and Ted Olson

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