It was huge.
Big enough that awareness of the affirmation of LGBT lives still comes in waves, in moments of random reflection or simple quietude. Eyes well up with tears from time to time. Thoughts of friends no longer with us to witness this moment in U.S. history offer a bittersweet tribute to their memory, their lives and longings, and those they loved.
The Supreme Court ruling announced last Friday morning that established a national right to marriage for all Americans was almost universally expected and surprised few. Significant majorities of all but only a handful of demographic groups – notably white evangelical Christians, black Protestants, and Republicans over 60 – supported marriage equality in advance of the decision. Fully three-fourths of the country considered legalization inevitable.
Absent a few anxious heartbeats that there would be an unexpected decision, unacceptable limitation or unanticipated development, the court order unfurled as predictably as the rainbow flags held aloft outside the high court building and the U.S. Capitol. The solitary disappointment was it didn’t come with the concurrence of six, instead of five, justices. Chief Justice John Roberts apparently needs to get out more, given his assertion the country isn’t yet ready to accept what an overwhelming majority have embraced.
A collective awareness within and beyond those directly and dramatically affected that suddenly everything has changed, and will continue to change based on this single critical victory, continues to grow with the passage of each day. A decision that many didn’t dare to dream a mere decade ago, and which occurred more expeditiously than most expected, will produce a plethora of pathways to comprehensive equality in all aspects of our lives. Those with so-called “religious objections” are right to be worried, as fundamental human equality is not, and never should be, limited by the prejudices of any church or sanctimonious belief.
The primary obstacle to the pace of continued progress will prove to be the glacial gears of government. If we could have been spared anything in the run-up to the decision, and after-glow of its announcement, it would have best been the self-congratulation of politicians who until only recently managed the temerity to “evolve” to supporting marriage equality. That and the shocking unpreparedness of other politicians to react in appropriate fashion – yes, Republican presidential candidates, we’re looking at you.
We won because the nation got to know us and came to realize we’re no different than they. The nation’s nonchalant reaction was less disinterest than dismay it had taken so long or that such a fuss was being made.
Yet, no matter how predictable, the complainers immediately began raising their voices. And they were some of us.
Leftist LGBT laments quickly began popping up, criticizing the community for its acceptance of assimilation, perceived pandering to “privilege” and outright rejection of cultural “rebellion.” According to liberal extremists disappointed in developments that will prove in hindsight to be a historical legacy of the magnitude that Brown v. Board of Education is to racial equality, the victory was shameful.
Yes, the “queer revolution” lost, and we’re the reason.
Although Justice Anthony Kennedy’s written opinion for the majority was more prosaic than poetry, more marriage manifesto than clarion call for equality, it accurately reflected an aspiration and concern common to the vast majority of LGBT Americans. For all those who grew up not knowing another gay person, feeling alone and worried about being lonely, Kennedy captured the desire for a life that allows the large comfort of legal companionship.
What the radical lesbian and gay left fails to comprehend is, despite the fact that fewer than anticipated desire to marry based on statistics in states where the right has been relatively long established, we seek the mundaneness of living our lives in a manner those not gay take for granted. We don’t seek something special, but extraordinarily ordinary.
As it turns out, that’s what we wanted to win.