Michelle Obama

Chapter 24, p.386

This is the moment when the former First Lady Michelle Obama realized she wanted to celebrate the gay marriage ruling with the public outside the White House because of the importance of this day, contrasting with the moment the Obama family had on the same day when they attended the funeral service in Charleston.


The same day as the funeral service in Charleston - June 26, 2015 - the Supreme Court of the United States issued a landmark decision, affirming that same-sex couples had the right to marry in all fifty states.

This was the culmination of a legal battle that had been fought methodically over decades, state by state, court by court, and as with any civil rights struggle it had required the persistence and courage of many people. On and off over the course of the day, I’d caught reports of Americans overjoyed by the news. A jubilant crowd chanted, “Love has won!” on the steps of the Supreme Court.

Couples were flocking to city halls and county courthouses to exercise what was now a constitutional right.

Gay bars were opening early.

Rainbow flags waved on street corners around the country.

All this had helped buoy us through a sad day in South Carolina. Returning home to the White House, we’d changed out of our funeral clothes, had a quick dinner with the girls, and then Barack had disappeared into the Treaty Room to flip on ESPN and catch up on work. I was heading to my dressing room when I caught sight of a purplish glow through one of the north-facing windows of the residence, at which point I remembered that our staff had planned to illuminate the White House in the rainbow colors of the pride flag.

Looking out the window,

I saw that beyond the gates on Pennsylvania Avenue, a big crowd of people had gathered in the summer dusk to see the lights. The north drive was filled with government staff who’d stayed late to see the White House transformed in celebration of marriage equality. The decision had touched so many people.

From where I stood,

I could see the exuberance, but I could hear nothing. It was an odd part of our reality. The White House was a silent, sealed fortress, almost all sound blocked by the thickness of its windows and walls. (...)

Oftentimes, I was happy to withdraw into the protected hush of the residence at the end of a long day.

But this night felt different, as paradoxical as the country itself.


Reference: Obama, Michelle (2018). "Becoming". Barnes & Noble.