Plaintiffs Thomas Kostra, center and his husband Ijpe Dekoe, right, from Tennessee, speak with the media outside the Supreme Court of the United States following arguments on marriage equality in Washington on April 28, 2015.
Ken Cedeno—Corbis
By Ijpe DeKoe
May 1, 2015
IDEAS
Ijpe DeKoe and his husband Thom Kostura are plaintiffs in the Tennessee Supreme Court same-sex marriage case. DeKoe is a Sergeant on active duty in the Army Reserve and Kostura is a artist and graduate of the Memphis College of Art Master's Program.

This is the second in a series from Ijpe DeKoe and Thom Kostura chronicling their experiences as the Supreme Court considers overturning state bans on same-sex marriage. Read Part 1 and Part 3.

Before Thom and I walked through a throng of cheering supporters and up the U.S. Supreme Court’s marble steps on Tuesday morning, we had breakfast—a seemingly ordinary start to what was an extraordinary day.

He and I are at our best when we’re together. That togetherness starts in the smallest ways, such as sharing breakfast, talking our way through our respective plans for the day and determining how we can best support one another. On this day, we felt particularly vulnerable. Later that morning, Thom and I would rely on one another during the biggest day of our lives, as the justices heard why our marriage should be treated equally.

Walking toward the door of the court, we could hear hundreds of people behind us as they cheered and waved signs—some that read “Love for All” and “Justice Rules.” Hearing the crowd as we made our way into the august halls of the Supreme Court, we knew we weren’t alone in this long overdue moment in history.

When we entered the Supreme Court chambers, the room was stock-still. Everyone was sitting, watching us enter. We were seated to the right of the center, mere feet from the bench. We all rose when the justices entered, and then the arguments began.

The attorney arguing on our behalf, Doug Hallward-Driemeier, took each of our stories and shared them with the court. To hear my name and Thom’s name chilled me. Our story would forever be a part of the argument validating our marriage, the rest of the plaintiff’s marriages, the marriage of anyone who has taken upon himself or herself the responsibility of caring for another person. For that brief moment, Thom and I were every couple that has ever felt the sting of their marriage not being respected. For that moment, Doug elevated our story as an example of everything that is wrong with laws across the country that continue to discriminate against same-sex couples.

Afterward, as we made our way through the main gallery to the front doors of the court, we could hear the roar of the crowd that had grown fivefold to thousands lining the sidewalks. They were cheering and singing songs about giving love a chance. They had waited to see us—regular people who decided to challenge Tennessee laws that discriminated against us. Thom and I didn’t get involved in this case to make history. We got involved because we couldn’t sit back and let others tell us we weren’t worthy of rights. We simply could not accept that our marriage would not be respected.

Thom and I always knew that we had the support of the people around us. We’ve witnessed this show of support from strangers who have become close friends in Memphis, where we have been welcomed since we made it our home, and since we filed the Tennessee case with two other couples in 2013. We’ve enjoyed the support of local organizations including the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Center and the Tennessee Equality Project. These were organizations pivotal in linking us up with larger, national organizations, such as the National Center for Lesbian Rights that helped bring the case all the way to the Supreme Court.

What we experienced when we made our way out of the Supreme Court—strangers high-fiving us, hugging us, thanking us—was more than inspiring, it was something I’ll never forget, and will carry with me. It was the feeling that not only were we fighting for our marriage, we were fighting for all couples who love each other, care for each other, and want to share a life together.

As I write this, I’m now home in Memphis, sharing the sofa with one of our cats and my husband, Thom. It is absolutely surreal that a few days ago we were two people, best friends and husbands, sharing a breakfast in anticipation of what was the most significant moment of our marriage.

This case is for everyone. And I’m hopeful about its impact, optimistic about its result, and excited about the opportunity it could bring to millions of people.

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