March 27, 2013

With Liberty & Justice for All?

“In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.”

~ The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) (Pub.L. 104–199, Section 3)

Today marks day two of what has the potential to become one of history’s most momentous U.S. Supreme Court cases. Today, eight Supreme Court Justices will hear arguments as to the constitutionality of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act—a law which defined marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman, and in doing so, restricted the constitutional and civil rights of same sex partnerships throughout the United States.

The arguments will be heard at the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington D.C. For those who are unfamiliar with this, and many of the other historic buildings throughout Washington, D.C., their design is always intended to be thought provoking—to capture the essence and intent of the forefathers and founders of this great nation.

With respect to the U.S. Supreme Court building, this symbolism is deeply embedded.

I remember touring Washington, D.C. as a young child—walking around a city that seemed to be a snapshot in time, whose marble buildings towered above me as passerbys from all around the world stopped in awe and careful reflection.

As I walked the steps leading to this building, I stopped to admire a magnificent marble statue, “The Contemplation of Justice” by sculptor James Earle Fraser. I let my eyes carefully scan each and every brilliant detail, taking in the story that this artist worked so hard to convey.

When asked, Fraser described his interpretation of Justice as,

“… a realistic conception of what I consider a heroic type of person with a head and body expressive of the beauty and intelligence of justice.”

In this statue, her left hand rests upon a book of laws, and in her right she holds firmly a smaller figure of the blindfolded Justice.

Fraser had intended that all those who gazed upon his work, just as I had at 12 years old, would pause and contemplate the true meaning of “and justice for all.”

“Why is she blindfolded?” I asked of our guide.

He smiled and said simply,

“Because, under the eyes of the law—everyone is equal. And Lady Justice stands here, to remind us always that justice belongs to all.”

I can’t help but to think back on that moment, as this sense of pride swelled in my heart. As a child, I was always the outsider looking in, never quite fitting with the other groups of children. I always felt a bit of an outcast. But as I stood there looking up at Lady Justice, I remember feeling for the first time that I really ‘belong.’

And, as I sit here this morning looking over the news and getting ready for yet another day filled with appointments, I am struck with this same sentiment that is at times, overwhelming.

You know, I have always, and shall forever feel, that if two people on this great big planet are, in spite of all of life’s challenges and upsets, still able to find that one person who brings to their life… joy, loving-kindness, understanding, and compassion… that this is a most beautiful thing.

And, how beautiful is it that out of all of the millions of possible people-interactions, that fate has found a way to bring these two lives together.For some, these headlines are simply background noise in an already busy day—but I feel they represent something much, much greater…that all are viewed equally under our laws.

Isn’t that the true heart and core of this great nation? I know some of you are probably too young to remember, but there was a time when our school days began with a pledge to our flag,

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

With liberty and justice for all—how those words are forever engrained in my heart. It’s what I desire most, that the principles upon which this nation was founded—the true essence of democracy—is not ever lost in the ‘knee jerk reactions’ of those things that might make some feel uncomfortable.

We are all equal, and to find love is one of the most magnificent gifts of all. And, as you sift through these headlines just as I did today—remember that much bigger picture of Lady Justice who presides over us all.

Irrespective of all of our political, religious and/or spiritual ‘leanings’—justice must always be maintained.



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Ed: Brianna Bemel

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