The day after the Supreme Court announced their decision in favour of marriage equality, I went to a Starbucks in Jackson, Tennessee, to check my emails and start my day. Overnight, my news feed was flooded with rainbow filters and celebration.
In Jackson, however, reactions were a bit different. The two of the front-page stories in The Jackson Sun were about the decision; about how the marriage licence software of the local court had to be updated to accommodate gender neutral name entries (currently, one party in a marriage had to be “male” and the other party “female”), about how some people were unhappy, about how the Tennessee Governor and Attorney General disagreed with the ruling, about how state representatives Bryan Terry and Andy Holt were working on the “Tennessee Pastor Protection Act” to save preachers from feeling compelled to act against their faith. Adjacent was an article titled “Court decision not likely to affect religious groups legally”.
In line to order my coffee, with my grandfather’s copy of the paper in my hand, the woman behind me scoffed, “it’s all trouble, its all just going down from here”.
There is actually a Chick-Fil-A across the street from that Starbucks. Waiting in line with my new friend, I could see a long line of cars wrapped around the corner. I wondered how many people were there as an act of political resistance and how many people were just hungry.
In Jackson that day, marriage equality was on the tip of everyone’s tongues. I heard two people in Walmart talking to each other about how it should be a state decision; another couple over dinner talking about how gross it was- they suspected their waitress of being a lesbian. One woman explained to another in the supermarket fruit section that it was her job as a Christian to love everyone, “I pray for them, I love them with god’s love- even if they are ungodly”. There were no rainbow flags, no joyful signs, no parties in the street. Some things were coded and others weren’t—at the gym a man told me without hesitation to shave my armpits.
Disapproval, “jurisprudence”, disgust, a little bit of “god save us”. Jackson was not as celebratory as my newsfeed.
I have a couple of friends from Tennessee, who last year went to DC to get married. They met in their third year of college and were each other’s first and only lesbian relationship. They told me that growing up, they both thought they were different but tried not to be- they talked about thinking that they were broken. Liz* was disowned by her family when she fell for Jackie* and Jackie’s parents were both dead- “luckily”, she had told me. They were some of the first on my feed to change their pictures. They added the filter to matching photos from their wedding day.
*names have been changed to protect privacy