Heather, my assistant, sat in front of me and handed me water. Her strawberry blonde hair tied back professionally as she handed me a typed out agenda for our day with the phone calls I needed to make to other clients. This was our routine, a comfortable rhythm I’d grown accustomed to. Thoughts of this past weekend washed away as I stared at the list of things I needed to accomplish today.
“Thanks. Need to stay hydrated.” I opened the water, chuckling at the dumb joke, and then the ache hit me, hard. I’d left Jordan on the street, watching me leave him, and I waved like an idiot from the entrance of the hotel saying goodbye to the man who made me feel loved. I ruined my chance with him because I chose my job.
Heather raised an eyebrow at me as if she could sense my uncertainty. “It’s going to be alright. We are going to get the right decision.”
I nodded at her, my doubts for the case and Jordan flooding me.
Did I make the right decision?
An email pinged my phone. Then a text from Michael saying he’d meet us in the waiting room. I glanced at the list Heather gave me. Most of this was emails I needed to respond to. The calls I could make later. This morning was too important to be distracted by all of these things. I gave Heather back the agenda. She’d keep it for me and ensure I got it all done today as well as dropping me at the courthouse then taking my things to the hotel suite on this side of the mall. I looked at the painting, wrapped in brown paper and thought about the note. Jordan gave me a painting of his cat. He knew it would just be a weekend and nothing more. That’s why he let me go. That’s why I chose to go. It wouldn’t work out.
I repeated those words to myself as I walked up the steps, through security and into the waiting room filled with media. Jordan slipped from my mind as the clicking of cameras, shutters opening and closing focused on me. I put on my mask of confidence and strode over to my clients.
Obi stood up and hugged me, her long black hair reaching her shoulders perfectly styled. “We’re going to win.” She assured me as her partner, Paula, stood up and grabbed my hand, squeezing it. She looked less confident. I covered our hands.
“We got this, Paula.”
She bit her bottom lip and nodded affirming. We were all nervous. This case could go either way. The judges were mostly conservative, and past precedence was on our side.
Across the room, I saw Cameron, his dark suit camera ready. He didn’t notice me at first. I’d like to think Cameron Berkshire was a good man, defending the first amendment rights of a church, but this case meant so much to me. This case was personal. It was about my brother and his husband, about Obi and Paula and every other LGBTQ+ couple who wanted to help foster youth. It was about the overtaxed foster system that required good people to offer their solid homes to kids who needed them. It should be about discrimination.
My eyes flickered back over to Cameron and locked on. His eyes narrowed slightly, and I remembered his comment to me on Saturday night. He wasn’t a good man. He was a political climber, and this case was a rung on his ladder. He sneered at me as my junior partner Michael nudged me.
“You doing okay? You look solid, not a hair out of place, and your suit is rocking. Dark blue. We’re almost twins.” Michael had a way of making me at ease. I couldn't care less about my clothes, but he was convinced that if he talked to me about mundane things, I would look bored on camera, which was good for the battle armor. Maybe he was right, but I spent more time on the litigation and planning than my clothes.
“We’re going to win. Berkshire is a tool and his arguments were weak. We’ve been over this a thousand times, Katie.”
God, I hoped so. The next hour ticked by slowly. Heather came in and sat next to Paula. Obi, Paula and Heather held hands like they were at a hospital waiting for the announcement of the surgery. It’s how I felt too, I just didn’t show it. Both Michael and I wore impassive faces. No matter what happened, we did our best. I know there were crowds outside the courthouse waving signs and protesting on either side of the issue. Our arguments were sound.
Another hour passed, and we waited. I took a few phone calls working down my list and we sat, sometimes in silence and sometimes giving each other reassuring words.
Michael leaned over, “It’s in.” A woman came into the room and she had a few people behind her with stacks of paper. Those were for either side, so we could read through each of the judges’ decisions. They passed papers around as the buzz in the room grew louder. Obi’s eyes met mine, and her lips tightened, preparing for the worst. Heather walked to the front of the court official, giving her the stack of paper.
Michael leaned in. “We won. Seven two decision. Great job, Katie.”
The room began to swirl as the decision became known. Obi and Paula were locked in a tight embrace. They released each other, and both hugged me at the same time, their faces soaked with tears. I couldn’t help it, my eyes tingled with wetness. We won. We did it.
Cameron walked in my direction. I stood up. He shook my hand.
“Well done, Kathryn. You are always a worthy opponent.” He sneered at me. “I’ll see you at the next case.”
I nodded, and he left. I looked at my clients were celebrating with their families. I got pulled into the mix of hugs and tears.
Heather handed me a small stack of papers. It was my celebratory speech I planned to give when we went outside. I looked at Obi and Paula.
“Are you ready?”
“We’ve been ready our entire lives, darling.”
They hugged me once more, and we walked out of the receiving room. We had talked about who would go out on the steps first. Hector and Robert would be the first. I would move off to the side after they spoke to the press. Heather and Michael would stand with me when I spoke to the press.
It was nothing like that. Obi and Paula got lost in the crowd, and the media ran straight to me. They shoved microphones in my face as the police realized what was happening. I stopped on the mid steps and allowed the media to surround me. Heather and Michael helped with the crowd control. They threw questions at me a mile a minute. I took a deep breath and looked out to the crowd. The protestors had all but left, and only those who were in favor remained. Rainbow colored signs, happy people, smiling and chanting filled the space. The cameras honed in on me. I’d done this before, but not at this magnitude. I closed my eyes to commit this to memory. When I opened them, I gave my speech.
“We came to the highest court because we knew we had the law on our side. When the United States government denies its citizens the right to choose their life partner in marriage based on their sex, we are not allowing the freedom we fought so hard to achieve back in 1776. Freedom isn’t just for white, the straight, the Christians… It’s for all people. We have spent hundreds of years making America free. We do not get to discriminate who enjoys the rights to pursue happiness. I am proud of the opinion today. It was the right decision, but I’m most proud of the people like Obi and Paula Stanton who continue to advocate for equity and equality for all people. Freedom to love whom they choose. Free from religious persecution and discrimination. Those are the foundations our country was created on. Until all people, in this country, have equality and equity, we still have a long road to travel.”
At least that’s what I think I said.