Experiencing Decision Day
Having waited for the Connecticut marriage decision for two-thirds of my tenure at GLAD - and having spent the first one-third preparing for the briefs and argument in the case - seeing the handwritten sign on the office door at 8:57AM on Friday morning “Connecticut is Coming Down” was thrilling. And petrifying. Thrilling because of the long wait; petrifying because we had to implement the “decision-day plan” that for 17 months had just been a few pieces of paper.
By 9:30AM (Director of Public Affairs and Education) Carisa Cunningham, (Attorney) Ben Klein, and I were in a cab on our way over to Ben’s apartment in the South End. While Ben changed into his suit and picked up the “maternity bag” he’s had packed for a year, I texted my 12 best friends and gave thanks that I had decided *not* to wear jeans that morning.
Down the elevator to the garage. Ben handed me the keys. I hopped in the driver’s seat, started the car, and headed for the Mass Pike. Carisa next to me was hoping she’d be able to hear folks on her phone in the not-so-quiet car. Ben was struggling with his new iPhone in the backseat. We were all wriggling a little bit with excitement and nervousness.
As we E-Z Passed our way onto the highway, it was already past ten o’clock, and we all realized that we would still be in the car when the decision was released at 11:30. Someone else would have to read the decision and then call us and tell us what the “verdict” was. The possibility for logistical failure was overwhelming - what if someone else called at that moment? Should they call Ben, or Carisa? A plan was hashed out through the various drops in cell service along the way. (GLAD Legal Director) Gary Buseck would call Carisa, Ken Bartschi, our local counsel in Connecticut, would call Ben. I would keep driving.
We stopped just once on the way, for a bathroom break at the Westborough service area on the Mass Pike. Ben’s gas tank was only half full, but there was no way we were taking time to fill up. We felt good about making it to Hartford on time, although possibly on fumes. After that one stop we barely slowed down, even the usually-hairy exit onto 84 was smooth sailing.
The tension built in the car as the time drew nearer to 11:30 and we approached Hartford. We discussed every sign and indicator we could think of - it was the Friday before a long weekend, there were three dissents, it had been 17 months!, there was no advance notification of the decision. What did it all mean? Every time these things led someone in a hopeful direction, we turned it around in a not-at-all-veiled attempt to steel ourselves for possible disappointment.
At 11:30 I was maneuvering the car off of 84. I could see the sign on top of the Hilton rising between the parking garages and insurance buildings in downtown Hartford up ahead. We were so close to our destination, and, as far as we knew, the decision was now up on the court’s website.
I pulled up in front of the hotel, slowed, and then Ben’s phone rang, and a half-second later, Carisa’s. I put the car in park, and turned around just as Ben screamed - screamed! - “WE WON!”
We had made it to Hartford, and we had won the case. That was just the beginning of a long and great day for GLAD and for equality in Connecticut.
Sarah Morton is a GLAD Senior Legal Assistant & Special Projects Liason