We’ve come a long way

Americans’ approval of gay marriage changed swiftly, and the high court followed

Looking back at the last two decades, it’s clear that the issue of marriage equality has been a slow evolution in the hearts and minds of Americans. Support for gay marriage—and affording to gay couples the same rights enjoyed by straight married couples—waxed and waned between 1996 and late 2010, with a minority of the U.S. favoring legalization, according to annual Gallup polls.

But something magical happened in 2011. We like to call it enlightenment. For the first time in history, a majority (53 percent) of the nation came out—no pun intended—in support of legalizing same-sex marriage. Moreover, as of this May, a full 60 percent of Americans concurred. We are elated now that the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion on Obergefell v. Hodges has caught up with the times, giving our friends and loved ones across the nation equal footing under the law.

During this long road to equality, we’ve seen the political winds change on this issue. We were disheartened years ago, when then-Sen. Hillary Clinton would support only so-called civil unions, noting that marriage was “a sacred bond between a man and a woman.” She was in good company, of course. During his first term, President Obama was in the same camp.

POTUS, like many others, fell back on the same tired arguments, citing religious opposition and the concept that marriages should be between a couple and their church, rather than the state. But, the fact is, the government is in the marriage business and gay couples have been excluded from it on the basis of their sexuality. That’s always been unconstitutional. It just took a long time for America to figure that out and for the high court to act.

Both the president and Clinton have changed course on gay marriage, coming around to it shortly after the public did. It’s now time for our conservative representatives to take their medicine. Like petulant children, Sen. Ted Cruz says states should ignore the Supreme Court’s ruling while Sen. Rand Paul would rather privatize marriage than share it with gay couples. These two presidential hopefuls and everyone else opposed to same-sex marriage are in the minority and on the wrong side of history.

But that won’t change the public will or stop the celebration over this just and long-overdue decision.