AU Ambassadors

Student Life at American University

My First College Sleepover

January 23, 2018|Posted in: DC Life

Morgan Stahr is a senior majoring in Communications, Law, Economics, and Government (CLEG) and minoring in Chinese. She had the amazing opportunity of being able to hear a landmark case at the Supreme Court in December 2017!

On December 4, 2017, I decided to camp out at the Supreme Court of the United States. This would be my first ever college sleepover where I would wait 15 hours to hear the oral arguments for the case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. In this case, a cake shop owner refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

Only about 50 people are allowed in to see the arguments for each case. I arrived earlier that evening to find a line full of people with sleeping bags. My friend, Leela, and first-year resident, Mya, came along with me. There were already around 50 people so my hopes for getting in looked slim, but why not camp out anyway was sort of my thinking behind it all. Throughout the night I had the opportunity to meet some incredible people. I met Joe, an older grad student at the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), where this case was part of his final art project. He had two boxes full of the same cupcakes, one said “this is art” and the other said, “this is cake.” We also met David who was from Lakewood, where the cake shop is and had a vested interest in the case as a gay, Colorado man. Right before us in line was a group of students from a high school government class in Maryland. Everyone was extremely friendly and kind as we spent the night mingling and studying for finals. It was a long night in the cold with complete darkness.

The next morning we woke up promptly at 5 am to defrost at Starbucks and freshen up. By 7 am, the line became more organized knowing any moment that they would pass out tickets to get inside. Then, it happened! The police officer handed us numbers 48, 49, and 50. We were the last three people to get a ticket inside the court. After 15 hours, this felt like winning the lottery. There was a rush and excitement flooding through my bones. I was going to see the Supreme Court of the United States. All the years of history and landmark decisions had come rushing back and I realized the magnitude of power this court possessed.

Inside, the court was as beautiful as I imagined with marble columns, wide arches, and fancy red curtains. We met a lawyer who helped us navigate the process and members of the Human Rights Campaign. We had the opportunity to see the gay couple from Colorado and meet Jack Phillips, the cake shop owner.

As soon as we took our seats, directly behind Senator McCaskill, the buzzer rang, we rose, and the justices came in. They were intimidating, quick on their feet, and extremely intelligent. The women justices were extremely engaging and paid attention to the lawyers the entire time, while Justice Thomas slept through the oral arguments.

Masterpiece Cakeshop argued that this cake is art and you do not have to create art for people you do not agree with. However, Masterpiece Cakeshop could not agree that a makeup artist or a florist also created art, they felt only a baker did. Justice Sotomayor was troubled by this and exclaimed that food is meant to eat and that’s it. The couple’s side argued that according to Colorado law you cannot discriminate against sexual orientation. At the end of the arguments, I was confused but grateful I got to see the leading figures of our democracy. I am unsure what the court will decide, but I have certainly made my decision. If the cake shop owner will make a non-customized wedding cake for a straight couple, then he must make that same wedding cake for a gay couple. If not, it is the basic definition of discrimination and I hope the court sees this.

I am so incredibly grateful to my SPA professor, Professor Griggs, who encouraged me to head down to the Supreme Court to have this experience. I am so lucky to live in a city where the Supreme Court is so accessible! This was truly a once in a lifetime sleepover that I will be telling people about years to come.

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