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Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

GU Students Witness Historic Ruling

EITAN SAYAG/THE HOYA Demonstrators gathered outside the Supreme Court after the court announced its ruling on DOMA and Proposition 8 Wednesday.
Demonstrators gathered outside the Supreme Court after the court announced its ruling on DOMA and Proposition 8 Wednesday.

When Justice Anthony Kennedy read the Supreme Court’s ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act on Wednesday morning, many Georgetown students were eagerly awaiting the decision from both inside and outside the courtroom.

Josh Zeitlin (COL ’13) had arrived at the Supreme Court at 6:30 p.m. the day before to ensure he would be granted one of the few seats inside open to the public. Zeitlin, who camped out overnight with coworkers from the political organization No Labels, witnessed the line grow from one person at 1 p.m. to 100 by morning. Zeitlin was the 19thperson to be admitted inside the Supreme Court building.

The court ruled the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional in a 5-4 decision and declined to decide a case from California, effectively overturning Proposition 8 and restoring gay marriage in the state.

“The courtroom was very quiet. You could feel a palpable energy, with everyone giving each other looks, getting a sense of what the justices were saying and what it means,” said Zeitlin, who is graduating in December. “There was one excited gasp in the room. … You saw people beaming, you saw some tears.”

When Zeitlin entered the Supreme Court building at 8:30 a.m., only two people stood in the area reserved for demonstrators. By the time he left the courtroom, the sidewalk in front of the building was filled with men and women celebrating the ruling.

“There was joy, there was relief. People were happy; Whether or not their state had just had gay marriage approved, their federal government had stopped saying they declare their relationship to be of a lesser status,” Zeitlin said. “Their fundamental human decency and dignity was reaffirmed so people — gay, straight — were just really joyful. I didn’t see a single anti-gay marriage person in the crowd.”

Georgetown University Student Association President Nate Tisa (SFS ’14), who is the first openly gayGUSA president and the second openly gay student body president at a major Jesuit university, had a similar response to Zeitlin upon hearing the news while on a plane to California.

“I felt this immense sense of relief. I cried a little next to this big, burly guy who had no idea what was going on,” Tisa said. “For me, going through the process of deciding what to do with my life, this was left as a barrier. Now that’s not the case, not just because of the ruling but because of what it represents.”

Many Georgetown students had gathered at the Supreme Court building for the first day of oral arguments in March, with some coming as part of the group GU Pride. Four students in particular — Alexandra Waldon (COL ’15), Hannah Hauer-King (COL ’14), Tim DeVita (COL ’14) and Dillon Brooks (COL ’15) — were featured in national news coverage when photographers captured each pair kissing in front of protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church.

“The ruling made me really proud of my country,” DeVita said. “This is just the law changing, but we still need to change a lot of people’s hearts and a lot of people’s minds.”

DeVita said that the photos, which were featured in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, New York magazine, Buzzfeed and The Los Angeles Times, contributed to dialogue surrounding these two cases.

“I see the images’ prominence in international news media as a huge success because it has brought the image of two men kissing right to people’s faces so they have to talk about it. The number of comments online proves it. Through visibility of homosexuality, people will discuss it more, which will eventually lead to a more accepting society,” DeVita said. “Showing images like that might make it someday decently acceptable to kiss my partner in public and not have people shout hateful things at me.”

Zeitlin was also featured in the media. He tweeted a photo of the line outside the Supreme Court at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday night that was retweeted 173 times, including by Buzzfeed News andSCOTUSblog. An internal email at CNN mentioned his account as a source of information regarding events at the Supreme Court throughout the night.

In the wake of the Supreme Court decision, GU Pride President Thomas Lloyd (SFS ’15) pointed to ways Georgetown can continue to improve life for LGBT students, specifically creating more resources for LGBT students of color, supporting students who have trouble accepting their sexual orientation, encouraging those who are comfortable to share their sexual orientation with others and addressing the intersection of LGBT identity and faith.

“Law can contribute to cultural acceptance … but these rulings don’t begin to address the problems that LGBTstudents at Georgetown face,” Lloyd wrote in an email.

Tisa agreed that Georgetown should work to further support LGBT students.

“We, as a community, should continue reflecting on what services we provide for LGBT students and the way we incorporate those students into our community. At this juncture of national development, we should keep looking at that and how, as a Catholic and Jesuit institution, we can improve,” Tisa said.


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