Let love win
I await the day when I can hold my husband’s hand in public
Before April 28, I had rarely held my husband’s hand in public. This isn’t because I dislike public displays of affection. It was because I usually don’t feel safe enough to do it. My husband, Dominique James, and I were arrested in 2013 as we peacefully protested Kentucky’s refusal to grant legal recognition to our marriage, and we are now among the plaintiffs in the landmark marriage-equality cases set to be decided this month by the Supreme Court. As a same-sex couple living in the South, we are all too aware of the potentially violent consequences of our simply choosing to hold each other’s hand. Like so many other couples, we learned early on to hide any indication that we are together while out in public.
But that morning in April, we felt a full sense of the dignity in who God created us to be. It was a sacred moment that is difficult to put into words.
As we walked three blocks to the Supreme Court with the other plaintiffs to hear oral arguments, I held Dominique’s hand in a world that was changing before our eyes. We held our heads high, smiling ear to ear, and it felt incredible. Crowds of marriage-equality supporters cheered as we approached, and I could see the reflection of God in the faces of all the LGBT folks and allies lining the sidewalk. Some cried and patted our shoulders. As we entered the courthouse, each of those precious brothers and sisters was with us in spirit, their hopes, dreams and faith intertwined with our own in this historic civil rights case.
Inside, I once again felt God’s comforting presence when a kind, older bailiff came to lead us into the court. I asked his name, and he smiled and said, “Moses.” Some will say this was mere coincidence, but to me it was another reminder that we were not alone. Our loving God had delivered us to the very place that possessed the legal authority to help create a promised land of equality in these United States. Egypt lay behind us, and we weren’t going back.
After Moses escorted us to our seats, we stood as the justices entered. It was surreal to see those nine larger-than-life individuals sitting right there in front of us, all looking very serious in their black robes. We listened as the lawyers argued for and against our rights and as some of the justices questioned the validity of our request for marriage equality. We heard them discuss whether our love was equal to that of heterosexual couples and therefore worthy of the same rights and benefits that legal marriage brings. It was difficult to sit there and say nothing as the value of our love was debated by folks who had never experienced what it’s like to be homosexual in a homophobic world.
When the arguments ended, I knew in my heart that love had won. Gathering with the other plaintiffs, we walked out into the sunlight. The crowds of supporters erupted, the floodwall that had held back my churning emotions broke loose and I began to cry. Making our way onto the plaza below the courthouse, I could hear voices screaming, “You’re all going to hell, you fags!” I saw a man with a Bible in one hand and a bullhorn in the other, surrounded by angry people shouting obscenities. I started to feel the old wounds begin to throb inmy heart.
But then something happened. Like the Red Sea parting, the power of God’s inclusive love broke forth and the throng of our supporters began chanting, softly at first, but then louder and louder: “Love will win! Love will win! Love will win!” Their words drowned out the hate and lifted our hearts above the pain, and we knew what equality felt like.
Coming home to Kentucky was bittersweet. It’s hard returning to a place where we’re still not equal, where we feel unsafe holding hands in public. This is the reality for LGBT people, but like the old spiritual says, “I’m so glad trouble don’t last always.” God is bringing equality, and as we wait and pray for its arrival, Dominique and I will forever remember how it felt holding each other’s hand as we walked those three blocks to the Promised Land. Have faith, brothers and sisters, love will win. Amen.
Ikeita Cantu holds a sign supporting same-sex marriage in front of the Supreme Court on April 28.