June 26, 2013 was an impossibly long day. At the time, I was living and interning in Kathmandu, Nepal, which is ten hours and forty-five minutes ahead of Washington, D.C. and the Supreme Court. I awoke to reports of Wendy Davis's ongoing filibuster in Texas and ran two miles, through monsoon puddles, wearing my own pink sneakers, all the way to my office, where I could use the more reliable internet to stream coverage. (1) I did not even attempt to explain the procedures of a filibuster to my officemate, saying simply that there was a woman in the United States breaking barriers for reproductive rights.
June 26, 2013 was the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. (2) By mid-morning, the filibuster had ended, my sodden pink sneakers were drying in a corner, and I needed to accomplish some real work. After finishing my first year at Columbia Law School and becoming an editor of this Journal, I had traveled to Nepal to set my newly trained legal mind to work at a human rights NGO. That night, my office was releasing its annual torture report on Nepal's criminal justice system, headlined by the statistic that 22.3% of interviewed detainees had been subjected to torture or ill-treatment. (3) The report was titled "Is the Government Unable or Unwilling to Prevent and Investigate Torture?"
June 26, 2013 was also the final day of the Supreme Court's term--the day when the Justices would have to announce their decision in United States v. Windsor. (4) I made it home that evening just as news reports began stating that the decision was imminent. I miraculously had both electricity and internet access that night, and while the city fell asleep around me, I refreshed my browser continuously until I saw the news: DOMA was dead.
Though the events of my day had spanned two days in the United States, I found it fitting that I experienced them together. Linking the heroism of a State Senator and the success of a long-fought court battle, linking reproductive rights and marriage equality, was the pointed question: if citizens are not treated justly, is it because their government is unable or unwilling to protect them?
In the United States we benefit from electing politicians to protect our interests. When federal and state governments debate laws, we can contact our representatives, share our concerns, tell our stories. Once laws are passed, they are not static. If laws violate our rights, we can challenge them, go to court, and argue for...