Equal Justice Under Law
Tuesday, March 26 2013
location: near Sligo Creek Park, Silver Spring, Montgomery County, Maryland
Everyone in the house got up sort of early because those who normally would have gotten up late (Gretchen's mother, me, and Gretchen) as well as our sister-in-law and nephew, had plans to go protest in front of the Supreme Court for the right of gay people to marry one another. (Our nephew, who is nine, couldn't understand why anyone would have anything against gay marriage.) Today and tomorrow the case for and against both California's gay-hating Proposition 8 and the even uglier 1996 law known as the Federal Defense of Marriage Act would be argued, and so people were gathering to have their puny voices heard by the Supreme Court. As Supreme Courts go, the present one is about as reactionary as they get, tending to favor Goliaths over Davids whenever given a choice, but the swing vote these days is Anthony Kennedy, who tends to vote libertarian, which in this particular case would place him on the side of good.
We drove the Silver Spring Metro station and rode the red line to Union Station, which is a relatively-short walk from the Supreme Court. I hadn't been inside Union Station in many years and was surprised by how much like a Turkish bazaar it had become (I would have said shopping mall, but there's too much marble).
On the walk from Union Station, we came upon someone leaving the protest carrying a circular pro-equality sign printed by the National Organization for Women, and when Gretchen expressed support, she said we could have it. "How's it going there?" Gretchen asked. "The haters showed up," she sighed.
But there were no haters in evidence in any part of the crowd we waded through on our way to the center of the protest. A microphone and speakers had been set up and various people were talking to the crowd. They were mostly single-sex families or their children, talking about what it means to be discriminated against and what it would mean to achieve equality. Many referred directly to the inscription carved on the front of the Supreme Court building itself (which, for some reason, was shrouded in mesh). Reading simply "Equal Justice Under Law," it seemed to unambiguously stand on our side. The only thing we found unpleasant about these speakers was that a lot of them had worked in the Reagan and Bush administration and claimed to be Republicans. I can't fathom why anyone would work for a political organization whose ideological center is intent on demonizing your lifestyle and has repeatedly used scare talk about it to rally the troglodytes eager to make life for your kind a living hell, but such people exist. And their purpose at this protest was to imply that marriage equality is a bipartisan cause. Because of their rarity, gay Republicans get disproportionate exposure, much like black conservatives.
Before the protest, Gretchen's mother had passed out some buttons for us to attach to our jackets, and I'd put mine on without even looking at it to see what it said. The one worn by Gretchen's mother was a large one reading "Keep Abortion Legal," an admirable cause to support. But when I finally looked at my button to see what it said, I was unhappy with its message: "Straight but not narrow." I found this to be something of an overshare; I didn't want to be proclaiming my straightness for all the world. Though I am sexually straight, I don't identify with all the baggage associated with the word. And finally, it seemed defensive, like the kind of thing a straight guy would wear to a gay rights protest if he were concerned that people might assume him to be gay. So I took the button off and put it in my pocket.
The protest lasted until the court adjourned and the various litigants and their staffs streamed out of the building, many of them pausing on the steps to take photographs of the rally spread out below.
Our little nephew had been overwhelmed by the intensity of the crowd and he and his mother had left not long after arriving, leaving just Gretchen, me, and her mother. When the protest was over, we headed back towards Union Station, passing only a single anti-equality protester (an older woman with a ramblingly-worded sign written on a small piece of cardboard; Gretchen told her she was being "a hater," something she tried to deny).
Down in the bowls of Union Station, it was like the ultimate shopping mall food court, though it was more crowded with people than any food court I'd ever been to. After attending to bathroom needs, Gretchen headed off to do lunch with one of her friends from the writerly activist world, Sarah B. Gretchen's mother and I decided to do lunch right there in the food court, getting vegan curries from the Indian food stand. Somehow we found a place to sit and the food was actually pretty good. The fact that it was a little spicy indicated that the DC market for Indian food isn't a bunch of whiny gringos (as it must be in Saratoga Springs). The order came with both rice and naan, and I always like to use my naan to make little sandwiches with the curry. As I was doing this, Gretchen's mother handed me her naan, and I asked, "What, you don't want your naan?" and she said, "It's Passover." I'd completely forgotten. But no matter; that naan was not going to waste. Indeed, neither was the rice. Ashkenazis don't consider rice kosher for Passover, but Sephardic Jews. do. Gretchen's mother, holding on to the thin tendril of justification that one of her ancestors had a vaguely Ladino name (it's the Jewish version of having a Cherokee grandmother), allows herself to eat rice during Passover.
One of the things we talked about over our curries was drones and what can be done about them. Gretchen's mother was ambivalent about them. Sure, they enable unconstitutional abuses, but they sure do cut down on the cost of fighting a war. My attitude was more defeatist. I don't see any easy way to stuff the genie back into the bottle. And I'm not concerned (as Gretchen's mother was) about drones from other countries, at least not for the time being. They're too slow and their range is too short for them to survive very long in American airspace. Indeed, if Pakistan really wanted to do something about American drones, they'd be easy to shoot down using a fairly modest fraction of their airforce.
I had a little trouble with my Metro card in Union Station and ended up having to buy another one (I feared I couldn't recharge the one I had because of a crease). There was a Golden Retriever service dog a few seats away for most of the ride back to Silver Spring, and I wondered what he was thinking about in his tiny professional canine mind as he looked at people coming and going, his eyebrows moving back and forth with every turn of his eyeballs.
Back at the house, I had difficulty getting the dogs to walk with me in nearby Sligo Creek Park. Eleanor had found a can of "Savannah Crockpot" that she insisted on lying on the ground and licking (it turns out that it's actually a dog food and contains a lot of chicken). Once the can found its way into the house and had been licked completely, I was finally able to take the dogs for a proper walk.
This evening all the others in the house went off to another seder, leaving Gretchen free to have a different sort of meal. We decided to go to Mandalay, the Burmese restaurant that is a favorite of ours every time we come to Silver Spring. At my urging, Gretchen ordered a tofu-cum-tomato dish "spicy," and it ended up being a bit too spicy for her, so she stuck mostly to a rice noodle dish (kosher for 1/128th Sephardic Jews such as herself). I also had the Loose Cannon IPA, which (as I'd discovered in the past) goes well with Burmese food.
Back again at the house, I eventually went upstairs and found Gretchen and my little six year old niece chatting away on the bed. At some point Gretchen asked her if she still thought Ramona was a "scary dog," and she said that she didn't. "But what if she tore your face off? What would you say then?" I asked. "I wouldn't say anything, because I'd be dead," my niece replied matter-of-factly. (I wouldn't have expectedly her to parry so well with my reductio-ad-absurdist style.) When Gretchen left, my niece's chattiness continued. I was surprised by the maturity of her language skills. I'm not talking so much about her vocabulary (which seemed large) but about her techniques. Whenever the conversation would fall quiet, she'd feel the need to start it up again, usually by talking about how amazingly cute or soft Marie (aka "the Baby") is. Somehow the subject of coyotes came up, and my niece said she thought they were in the cat family, so to show her that no, they're dogs, I called up a Wikipedia page on my iPad. So then she wanted to look up other things, mostly things that could be spelled with three letters (she knows how to type "dog" and "cat", though she has some trouble hunting down the keys on the virtual keyboard). From there she moved on to games at the PBSKids.org website (whose URL she could type) and started playing various games, even ones she apologetically dismissed as "babyish." As her brother had with my netbook the night before, my niece glommed onto that iPad and it was very hard for her mother to pry her loose, even when tempted by her special blanket.
Marriage equality protest, looking across the street towards the Capitol.
Protesting for equality.
That's Gretchen holding the round purple NOW poster.
The Supreme Court building was shrouded in mesh for some reason.
Label from the can Eleanor insisted on licking this afternoon.
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