His Day in Court: National Center for Lesbian Rights Legal Counsel Shannon Price Minter Reflects on Making the Case for Marriage Equality before the California Supreme Court

Article excerpt

THE DAY OF ORAL ARGUMENTS, I climbed the marble steps of the California supreme court with an unwavering conviction that the court would understand it held dreams and dignity of the entire LGBT community in its hands. I had appeared before the California supreme court before, but never in a case where the stakes for our families were so high or the spotlight so intense.

Throughout the four-hour argument, I felt literally buoyed and elated by love. I could feel the love and support of not only our 14 plaintiff couples but the millions of lesbian and gay couples who have cared for one another and worked to build families-even when the law criminalized their relationships, barred them from public employment, and certainly excluded them from marriage.

On a personal note, I marveled at the privilege and good fortune that brought me from rural east Texas, where I grew up, to the opportunity to argue a case of such significance before the most influential state supreme court in the country. Despite a healthy dose of butterflies, I felt the strength of my grandmother and a beloved uncle, both now deceased, whose unstinting love and support had transformed my life. With so much at stake, I was determined to convey the true depth and meaning of our relationships to the court.

And yet the outcome was far from certain. Six of the seven judges were appointed by Republicans. Only one other high court had ruled that same-sex couples must be permitted to marry. But we had hope because 60 years ago, in Perez v. Sharp, the California supreme court made history by becoming the first court in the country to strike down laws banning interracial marriage.

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The television crews and crowds were a constant reminder that the world was watching. But what mattered more to the court was that future generations were watching. Three times Chief Justice Ronald M. …