Everyone grew quiet. Well, relatively quiet. It’s hard to have absolute silence when hundreds of people are packed into an area less than a block wide. But they grew quiet the moment they saw the first television reporter sprinting through the door, opinion in hand.
Slowly, pockets of people grouped into circles, anxiously looking from their phones to each other and back again, waiting for the first tweet to break the news. A palpable tension rippled through the crowd; no one was certain if Friday would be the day.
But it was.
The Supreme Court announced that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states last week, bringing victory to many who had been fighting for decades.
When the news broke, the crowd’s tension released like an earthquake’s massive fault line that had been fighting friction for decades and finally slipped, finding relief and sending shock waves.
Camera at the ready, I squinted into the view finder and spotted a group of women in their early 20s. I lightly pressed the shutter, but the camera refused to capture the moment. The lens jerked forward and backward, shifting from the blonde who couldn’t hold back her tears to the brunette whose cheers out-powered all her friends. The camera struggled to find focus, and, in all honesty, so did I. Two parts of me battled for the forefront, my attention torn between being an objective journalist and a compassionate participant.
In moments like these, staying detached becomes a bigger obstacle than getting the right angle or the correct spelling of a name. Invested or not, compassion and human empathy relentlessly tug at the tail end of every thought.
That’s the fight journalists have and have always had. When history is being made and thousands of lives are forever changing, and you are standing in the center of it all, how can you possible think of it as just another day at work?
Some may argue that it is a matter of willpower and strength, of making yourself maintain detachment through objectivity. It’s not. Feeling the weight of unequal treatment being lifted is not a symptom of weakness, but of heart. It’s a symptom of being human.
As a journalist, I’m not supposed to admit that it was hard. Since the decision, my news feed has been inundated with journalists questioning how much support they can show before they are sacrificing their ethics. Don’t let them fool you; a lot of journalists support marriage equality. But unapologetically vocalizing that support is a type of journalistic blasphemy.
Yet, I do support marriage equality because I support equality. As crazy as it may seem, sometimes I’m a person first and a journalist second, and as a person, I’m proud that the U.S. has taken a step toward equality.
So, I took control of the camera, and my thoughts, manually forcing both to focus. Decidedly, I pointed the lens and captured history.
Reach reporter Jaelynn Grisso at [email protected] or (202) 408-1493. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.