Friday, March 29, 2013

Local gay law student gets into the Supreme Court for marriage equality arguments

Waiting Game

Posted by Susan Cohen on Fri, Mar 29, 2013 at 1:48 PM

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  • Courtesy of Nick Shalosky
Nick Shalosky got engaged this past New Year's Eve, but it'll be a few more months before he sets a date for the wedding. Shalosky and his partner can't get married in South Carolina, and if they were to tie the knot in Maryland or Massachusetts or Canada, they still wouldn't be eligible for federal benefits.

That's one reason why Shalosky felt it important to travel to D.C. this week, to wait for hours in frigid temperatures for the chance to get into the U.S. Supreme Court building. And it paid off. Shalosky made it into the building to hear oral arguments about California's Proposition 8 on Tuesday and about the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on Wednesday. Prop 8 looks at the constitutionality of marriage equality (or inequality) at the state level, while the DOMA case deals with the federal law.

It was also important for Shalosky to get inside on a more significant level: Getting to hear the case in person will be a great story to tell his kids one day, even if he had to spend a few chilly nights in a sleeping bag out on D.C.'s streets to do so. "No matter what happens with the decision, it's going to be a historic day that lawyers and law students and that everybody throughout the country is going to talk about for the rest of time, for the rest of U.S. history," he explains. Shalosky is also a third-year student at the Charleston School of Law who hopes to practice constitutional law one day. And he happens to be the first openly gay politician in South Carolina to win public office when he was elected to one of Charleston County's constituent school boards in 2008.

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  • Courtesy of Nick Shalosky
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  • Courtesy of Nick Shalosky

Shalosky says that everyone wants to hear what it was like in the courtroom. But he spent the majority of his time outside, waiting to get in. He stood in line with people on both sides of the marriage equality argument, along with some who just wanted to witness history. "Even if they didn't have a personal stake in the fight, they were interested in the newsworthiness and the experience of it being a landmark case," he says. Like the woman behind him. She brought her middle-school-aged grandchildren all the way from Wisconsin for their spring break.

As with any line, the wait got pretty boring. To keep the masses entertained, one marriage equality supporter organized a National Anthem singalong, one of Shalosky's favorite experiences from the whole trip.

Shalosky is now back in Charleston and finishing up the semester. Despite his personal investment in the Supreme Court's decision, he's still able to approach the two cases from a law-student perspective. "It's a hard question, which is why it's in front of the U.S. Supreme Court," he says. "With equal protection, it's hard to argue that there isn't a fundamental right to marriage ... It's hard to say that gay people are being treated equally."

Ultimately, Shalosky thinks it'll come down to whether states' rights trump the federal government — and he points out that historically, states have had a purview over family law. But he has a feeling Proposition 8 has a much better chance of being upheld than DOMA.

As for his impending nuptials, Shalosky and his partner are waiting to see what the Supreme Court decides before they make any definite plans. They're not expected to hand down a decision until June.

"We get asked that question a lot, if we've set a date," he says. "I doubt South Carolina is going to be a gay marriage state any time soon, even after the rulings, but it would still be great to be able to go after the rulings if they strike down DOMA, to be married in D.C. or somewhere and come back to South Carolina and have a legally recognized marriage."

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