Covering DOMA and Proposition 8 Rulings

Marili Arellano //Mosaic Staff Mosaic journalist Matthew Chow, left, conducts an interview in San Francisco, Calif. on Wednesday, June 26, 2013.

Marili Arellano // Mosaic Staff Photographer
Mosaic journalist Matthew Chow, left, conducts an interview in San Francisco, Calif. on Wednesday, June 26, 2013.

By Matthew Chow // Mosaic Staff Writer

I woke up this morning to my phone’s ringtone. After reassuring Kelly that I was alive and awake, I glanced at my phone’s clock: 4:55 a.m. Oh no! We were supposed to leave in five minutes! Quickly dressing up, I scrambled through my backpack, camera bag, drawers and closet to assemble my “gear” and hurried out to the kitchen where everyone else had already assembled.

It was the momentous day of the Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA and Proposition 8, and Mosaic was sending seven of us into San Francisco at dawn to cover the reactions. We were super excited and nervous, if a little drowsy still. Kevin and Audrey arrived outside Washburn so we all filed out of the double doors and into the dark, cold morning.

Audrey was taking four of us to Civic Center while Kevin would drive the other three to Castro, “ground zero” as Elliott called it. As we pulled onto the highway, I pushed my sleepiness out of my mind and focused on the task at hand. To be honest, I had no idea what to expect. Would there be a huge crowd? What if we got lost or separated?

Surprisingly, when we arrived at the Center at around 6:15, only a handful of people had gathered at the foot of the City Hall, but the parking spots were already occupied by scores of news station vans. We parked underground, made our way to the front door and began to talk to people.

I was pleasantly surprised. Everyone was eager to speak, insightful and extremely passionate. But I guess I could have assumed that, considering how early they had woken up to participate. And, as I probably should have guessed, probably everybody I saw present was either a member of the LGBT community or an active advocate of same-sex marriage.

At 6:30, they opened the doors and the crowd, which had been slowly growing larger, packed into the rotunda. I continued making my way through the noisy crowd, shouting my questions over the ruckus, texting quotes and descriptions back to Katie to write out the story and occasionally spotting Mahima and Marili shooting away at the crowd with their incredibly heavy Canons.

Then, silence.

The news had turned one, and everyone in the rotunda had stopped talking. One screen was tuned to CNN while the other showed posts from the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) blog. I quickly grabbed my trusty iPhone 4 and began filming, anticipating a huge uproarious reaction, regardless of the Court’s decision.

And sure enough: commotion started first from those nearest the television screens and spread through the crowd until the high-ceiling marble room reverberated with cheers for a good two minutes. DOMA had been reversed.

But of course, the more important decision for these Californians was yet to come. Would same-sex marriage become legal in the most populous state of America?

The crowd grew more restless as the CNN reporters and SCOTUS blog kept repeating: “The Prop 8 decision is just moments away…

The second wave of cheers came rather uncertainly, until everyone closely focused on the screen and noticed, in small font at the bottom: “SUPREME COURT DISMISSES SAME-SEX MARRIAGE APPEAL.”

Oh boy. You can guess what kind of screaming, chanting, stomping and whooping occupied the room for the next few moments.

Then, dozens of city and state officials descended the marble steps amid the cheers, and speakers such as Mayor Ed Lee and Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom addressed the crowd, recognizing people such as Phyllis Lyon, a member of the first lesbian couple to be married in San Francisco.

Through it all, the people never stopped cheering.

It was a historic day. It was also an exhausting one. And it was only 9:45 a.m.

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