Mere hours after the Supreme Court issued its long anticipated ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, Joe Woolley, the Executive Vice President of the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce, organized a impromptu rally to celebrate the announcement of nationwide marriage equality.
When I asked Woolley why he planned the event, he explained, “Jim [Woolley’s husband] and I were sitting at home today, crying, hugging each other. I was seeing the Facebook posts roll through, the text messages come in, and all of a sudden we realized that we hadn’t organized anything here to show our happiness in front of our state capital. I posted on Facebook, ‘Let’s celebrate officially,’ and picked Legislative Plaza, and here we are. To me, it’s just incredible.”
Camera crews and reporters from local news stations were there, filming the group which stood on the steps of the plaza directly in front of the state capital, as Joseph Woodson, a past president of Nashville Pride, led them in a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Many drivers passing by honked their horns when they saw the U.S. flag, the state flag, the gay pride flag, and an HRC flag all flying.
Not long before this, Woodson had told me, “I can’t believe this has happened. Growing up, I always felt like my pursuit of happiness was limited,” and that it’s an odd but welcome feeling finally seeing this come to fruition.
Soon after, Representative Mike Stewart (D - District 52) arrived to show his support.
“Well, look, the Supreme Court has spoken,” Rep. Stewart replied when I asked for his thoughts. “I think what they have said reflects the views of the people. It was a very big, momentous decision, and I think they just decided it’s clearly the right decision. It’s time to make that declaration and give people marriage equality. And I just think it’s a great day.”
To my follow-up question—“Do you foresee any difficulties with the implementation of this ruling in Tennessee?”—Rep. Stewart answered: “Well, we’re going to hear about that today. I’d like to think, even though I’m sure there will be people who disagree with the decision, you know, we’re a nation of laws, and historically people abide by the law. And I think, no, generally speaking, this will become the law. It will be enforced, and in Tennessee and elsewhere, it will go forward without any difficulty. I’m very optimistic.”
To support Rep. Stewart’s optimism, news arrived near the end of the rally that the Davidson County Clerk’s office had begun issuing same sex marriage licenses at noon, and that the Shelby County Clerk’s office issued its first such license around 11 a.m.
As I walked back to my car, I listened to the recording I had made of Quincy Acklin’s comments about the impact this ruling will have on LGBT people: “It means equality. That I have the same rights that everyone else has. That I can have what my parents had.”
Just as important as that, Acklin’s other comments hinted at how this sea-change will reshape the coast of social expectations.
“Growing up gay is not an easy thing,” he said, “and I always felt like I was out of place. And even when you come out and meet other gays, society still tells you you’re not equal, [not] the same, as everyone else. I wanted to be able to do everything everybody else could, and now I can. And I feel awesome about that.”
For once—as I think about the much brighter, more inclusive future that children who are LGBT will have now that none of us is a second class citizen—I don’t mind The LEGO Movie’s theme song being stuck in my head.