Never has the power of an idea whose time has come been demonstrated more dramatically than in America’s rapid shift toward approval of same-sex marriage. The trickle turned to a steady stream and now, with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to open the way to gay marriage in California and strike down key provisions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, it has become a flood.
Once regarded as an abomination that would never find acceptance, marital unions of a man with a man and a woman with a woman are being normalized in state after state. Even more powerful, the force of law is now heavily weighted against traditionalists who, only a few years ago, were comfortably in the mainstream of public opinion. They must be reeling from the speed with which they have been bumped to the margins.
When it came down to it, ancient religious teachings could not trump personal experience and common sense. The simple fact that so many gays and lesbians are longing to marry and live conventional lives pretty much like the rest of us worked against the contention that homosexuals are a bunch of hedonistic perverts who are out to destroy marriage and recruit kids to their lifestyle.
Now, the Supreme Court has ratified the view that marriage is a civil institution that can be made available to all citizens, no matter what their sexual preference may be. The justices did not go so far as to legalize same-sex marriage in every state, but the majority in the DOMA case did say that all marriages are equal under the law and, if a state chooses to expand the definition of marriage, the federal government cannot discriminate between married couples.
The court also tossed out an appeal of a lower court ruling that said California’s Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage, was unconstitutional. Prop. 8 backers claim that they still have some legal maneuvers left to try, but there seems little doubt that, within about a month, the nation’s largest state will join 12 other states, the District of Columbia and five Indian tribes that have already legalized same-sex marriages.
It may be a generation before states such as Alabama, Kansas and Utah join the club (actually, Utah may take several generations), but the Supreme Court’s ruling is a watershed. On this issue, America has made an abrupt turn and will not be turning back.