On at least three other fronts, however, tolerance took a step backwards in a somewhat different direction. Californians passed Proposition 8, to ban same-sex marriage in that state. Similar marriage bans were approved in Florida and Arizona.
While an African American can now win election to the highest office in the land, gays and lesbians remain second-class citizens, and cannot enjoy all of the benefits that the state has to offer, simply because of whom they happen to be sexually attracted to. It is absurd.
I hear all kinds of excuses: If you allow a man to marry another man, the next thing you know, people will want to marry their pets. Sorry, folks, but that Rick Santorum slippery-slope argument is as ridiculous today as it was when it was used to oppose interracial marriage 45 years ago.
And I hear them say that it's God's word. However, the bible also condones slavery, and forbids working on the Sabbath under punishment of death. I have yet to see the homophobes in recent decades give equal time to these other words of God.
Conservatives point their fingers and denounce the "gay agenda". Yet, the gay agenda is nothing more than a desire for equal treatment under the law. No special rights, just the same rights that we heterosexuals enjoy.
Conservatives claim that same-sex marriage will destroy the institution of marriage. But they don't answer the question of how. Anyone who feels that his own heterosexual marriage would be threatened if gays could marry obviously has some very deep personal issues that cannot be fixed through legislation.
And their fears have already been proven baseless. For example, Massachusetts has permitted same-sex marriages since May of 2004, and that has not led to the end of civilization in that commonwealth as feared by the right-wing homophobes.
I have no doubt that the anti-gay double standards will fade over the coming generations, just as Jim Crow has become a thing of the past, at least on paper.
In the meantime, though, the bigots are hard at work trying to write inequality into their state constitutions.
And these extreme reactions to a nonexistent threat lead me to ponder: What are these people really afraid of?