Brittney Griner, Glory Johnson: first comes love, then comes legal battle


By Igor Derysh

WNBA stars Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson have announced that they are engaged to be married. Unfortunately, their road to matrimony is not paved with gold like other star athletes' marriages, instead filled with legal proceedings and legislative appeals.

At its core, there is nothing more common than two people meeting, falling in love, and getting married.

On Friday, Phoenix Mercury star Griner posted a photo on Instagram of her proposing to Tulsa Shock star Glory Johnson.

"Last Night was a Night to Remember I became the happiest person on this earth! (almost pass out but then that one word came out I came back to life) Me and my baby @missvol25 are in it for Life!" Griner wrote.

The two later posted multiple other photos kissing, canoodling, and celebrating their engagement. You know, couple stuff in its most common form.

For most athletes, the next step would be to set a date and splurge on decorations.

Griner and Johnson are not most athletes, however.

Not only have they been far more courageous in their openly gay lifestyle than the countless athletes we know remain in the closet for fear of animosity or ridicule, they have now injected themselves into one of the most divisive legal battles going on in the country.

Though the couple has not announced where they plan to get married, both states in which the WNBA standouts play forbid gay marriage, pending multiple future court decisions.

In Arizona, where Griner is a two-time All-Star for the Mercury in her two years in the league, two lawsuits challenging the state's definition of marriage as between one man and one woman are pending review by federal District Courts.

In Oklahoma, where Johnson was an All-Star last year for the Shock, the state is appealing a federal judge's ruling that overturned their gay marriage ban and all same-sex marriages in the state are currently on hold.

In reality, gay marriage will soon be legal in every state in the country because numerous federal courts have already set precedent.

Courts have recently struck down same-sex marriage bans in Colorado, Virginia, Utah, Michigan, Arkansas, Wisconsin, and Indiana. While some of those rulings are still being appealed, anti-gay marriage activists are not winning too many battles these days and it's only a matter of time until every state's same-sex marriage ban is legally challenged and likely overturned.

That's not a consolation to Griner and Johnson, however. Imagine if a straight couple were told, "Yeah, you'll probably be able to get married... sometime in the indefinite future."

But Griner has never had any interest in taking the easy route. After being tabbed as the first overall pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft, Griner told the world that she is openly gay and encouraged others to "be who you are."

Griner and Johnson's impending marriage will be a battle few have to endure in their path to matrimony. But their courage and willingness to fight for the right to live as they are is as important to the human and civil rights movement in America as anything else.

Both are stars in their sport and impressive young women that speak with poise and confidence rarely expected from athletes aged 23 and 24. More importantly, they are public figures in two of the most conservative states in the country where gay marriage is one of the most hotly contested issues.

Griner and Johnson are putting a human face to a very important issue, just like Michael Sam in St. Louis, Chip Sarafin in Arizona, and other athletes now feeling increasingly empowered to live life openly.

The more human faces, the more images of human love we see attached to an issue in which talking heads pontificate about faceless, nameless people being denied the right that 90 percent of Americans take for granted, the more we begin to question exactly what it is that the anti-LGBT movement in this country is fighting against.

The images of Griner and Johnson celebrating their love for the world to see are a reminder that politics almost always overlooks the human impact of legislation. There is not one person in America that would be affected negatively by these two young talented women being officially recognized as a married couple.

Hopefully, this high-profile engagement in two states where gay marriage is being contested can make more people realize that there is no virtue in keeping two people in love off the state's books. Hopefully, the images of two people in love can at least appeal to the humanity that even those fighting to deny people rights surely possess. Hopefully, at least one young girl or boy in Oklahoma or Arizona realizes that they do not have to live their life in hiding, no matter what the surrounding community thinks.


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