The XX Factor

What the DOMA Decision Means to Me   

American University students Sharon Burk (left) and Mollie Wagoner embrace after hearing that the Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional on June 26, 2013, in Washington.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

I never understood why Oscar winners sometimes find themselves onstage, gripping a statuette, without a list of people they need to thank. Their chances of victory were 1-in-5. Why didn’t they prepare?

Now I know exactly why those actors find themselves without a speech. They’re too scared to imagine the possibility that they might win.

When the Supreme Court’s decision on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act was released Wednesday morning, I was genuinely surprised and totally unprepared. I knew it was coming, but I hadn’t dared to hope that the court would do the right thing for families such as mine. Votes had gone the wrong way too many times in the past. Feelings had been hurt. What did straight Americans have against their gay and lesbian compatriots that they would go into a voting booth or stand on a legislature floor and choose to deny them basic civil rights?

As the decision was announced, I finally allowed myself to experience a feeling of belonging. Perhaps the world really is changing. Perhaps responses that feel like hatred and rejection are just temporary expressions of discomfort with rapid change. In the past, when people would assure me that attitudes were changing slowly but surely, I always responded by telling them, “The time for justice is always now.”

This morning, justice arrived at 10 a.m. There’s no statuette, but it feels like a great victory.