The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Journey to the Promised Court: Dartmouth First-Year Fellow Shares #SCOTUS Experiences #DOMA #Prop8

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At approximately 9:10 am on June 26, I got it—my golden ticket. With it, I gained access, not to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, but to the Supreme Court of the United States where I heard the justices pronounce, explain and dissent some of the most important human rights rulings since the Civil Rights era.

Here, behind the magnificent marble columns and Greco-style carvings evoking ideas of justice and power, nine justices decided the fate of so many. Before the proceedings began, however, I took a moment to reflect on the last 12 hours that brought me to this moment of reckoning.

It started with a Twitter post saying people were already lined up at the court entrance at 6 p.m. the night before. Along with three of my Dartmouth cohorts, I raced to secure a spot. Arriving at 10:30 p.m., we became a tentative 60th in line. We were quite unsure if we'd make it inside. Someone said only 47 slots would be open. But we were determined. Hey, you never know.

We braved a 30-minute thunderstorm and loads of humidity to make it to our promised land. To make up for the severe weather, lack of sleep, and four-block excursions to relieve ourselves at the Union Station, however, the campout did present us with many memorable moments.

We had pizza delivered to the court steps at 1 a.m. We had the Capitol building all to ourselves at 3 a.m. (not counting the building’s security that hid behind every column and cranny). At 6 a.m., two of us were interviewed by the New York Times reporter, while the other two had a casual conversation with House Speaker John Boehner at the nearby Starbucks.

All this led up to seeing Justice Kennedy finally allow for all marriages to be treated equally under eyes of the law, and Justice Scalia to then grandiloquently ramble about the decrepit state of the court.

However, amidst all the history that unfolded before me, what I will take away most from last night are my fellow campers. They came from places as disparate as Arkansas and California and Canada. Some were straight, some were not, and you would have been hard pressed to find two people with matching careers. But regardless of whether they were veterans who’d braved colder conditions to hear March’s oral arguments or first timers who still couldn’t believe they’d voluntarily become homeless for the night, each brought his/her own political savvy and perspective to how the court should rule and the implications of the rulings.

It was in suffering in solidarity with this group during the night that I was reminded of what drives this country forward. It is the passion and youth; wisdom and dedication; and fundamental belief that every voice in this country will be heard either as an individual, a group, and more pertinently, irrespective of sexual orientation.

While I held no personal stake in the way the court ruled today, I could not help feeling that a win for gay rights was a win for all American citizens. And that was personal. It validated the trust and love that each one of those campers had for this great nation.

-- Karna Adam '16
Rockefeller Center First-Year Fellow

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences