176 // We Dissent

I am still reeling from the Supreme Court ruling yesterday. Having had the warning months ago did nothing to soften the blow. I spent much of the evening doomscrolling and falling deeper into despair and as I spiraled, a great terror rose at what I am certain is building on the horizon.

We are returning to a time when women knew their place, when people of color were kept poor and oppressed, and queer people lived in isolation and fear.

It’s happening all around us. Conservative school boards are banning critical race theory. Anti-trans laws are being passed quietly all over the country. The right to protest is slowly being chipped at and the rising cost of living is wringing all sense of possibility and hope from the most vulnerable among us.

Our political leaders either can’t or won’t work for us, and now, the highest court, which has always been a last defense for the minority, is, at last, an arm of the ruling majority.

It’s hard to see a way forward, but there is a lesson to be learned from the other side. We lost sight of something and, in doing so, we left an opening for our oppressors. We forgot the power of community.

When we blamed congress, they attended school board meetings. When they redrew district lines, we looked to the President. When they appointed county judges, we stopped voting. Politics is not a top-down institution, but we have been treating it that way and all the while they went about their work putting people in little and low places that added up year after year.

I think it’s time we got back to learning about our local elected officials. There is a lot of power afforded to mayors, city councils, and school boards. There is an enormous amount that a state legislature and a governor can do. We have to take back our rights county by county. We have to expand those rights state by state and all at once.

It takes showing up more often than every four years. It takes being interested, informed, and involved. It takes caring! Changing hearts means nothing if there isn’t action behind it.

Love and justice are not feelings, they are actions.

176 // What Was Denied Us

After work, my fiance and I went directly to our local County Clerk and Recorder’s Office to apply for our marriage license. This is the part of the wedding planning I’ve looked forward to the most. In my eyes, no part was more momentous in my eyes simply because this is the part that I never thought I would be doing.

Though same-sex marriage was illegal for most of our relationship, that fact would not have stopped us from planning a wedding if we’d wanted to. It is this process, this paperwork and these simple legal matters that was denied us.

I’ve always gotten the impression that straight couples find filling out an application for a marriage license and speaking to an impartial county clerk through a window about social security numbers and mother’s maiden names to be an unremarkable errand and not worth speaking about, but I sat there stifling a whirlwind of emotions.

I felt so proud and so happy to be alive and in love just where and when and with whom I am but I also felt the weight of all those who came before me and fought for and were denied this simple dignity and privilege. When we left, and the clerk congratulated us, as I’m sure she does every other couple, I nearly broke down in tears.