By a 5-4 majority, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today [26 June] that laws denying same-sex couples the right to marry violate the "due process" and "equal protection" guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. With or without the court ruling, full-scale marriage equality was an inevitability thanks to rapid trans-ideological generational change in how this issue was perceived; today's decision simply accelerated the outcome.
All the legal debates over the ruling are predictable and banal. Most people proclaim -- in the words of Justice Scalia's bizarre and somewhat deranged dissent -- that it is a "threat to democracy" and a "judicial putsch" whenever laws they like are judicially invalidated, but a profound vindication for freedom when laws they dislike are nullified. That's how people like Scalia can, on one day, demand that campaign finance laws enacted by Congress and supported by large majorities of citizens be struck down (Citizens United), but the next day declare that judicial invalidation of a democratically enacted law "robs the People of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves."
Far more interesting than that sort of naked hypocrisy masquerading as lofty intellectual principles are the historical and cultural aspects of today's decision. Although the result was expected on a rational level, today's ruling is still viscerally shocking for any LGBT citizen who grew up in the U.S., or their family members and close friends. It's almost hard to believe that same-sex marriage is now legal in all 50 states. Just consider how embedded, pervasive and recent anti-gay sentiment has been in the fabric of American life.
In the 1970s -- just 40 years ago -- the existence of gay people was all but unmentionable, particularly outside of small enclaves in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. If your first inkling of a gay identity took place in that decade, as mine did, you necessarily assumed that you were alone, that you were plagued with some sort of rare, aberrational disease, since there was no way even to know gayness existed except from the most malicious and casual mockery of it. It simply wasn't meaningfully discussed: anywhere. It was so unmentionable that Liberace, of all people, long insisted to his fans that he was a "bachelor" due to his inability to recover from his tragic break-up with his fiancee, the Norwegian figure skater Sonja Henie. With exceedingly few exceptions, openly gay figures in politics, sports, or entertainment were nonexistent (that is one reason why one of my childhood heroes was Martina Navratilova, who in the early 1980s came out as a lesbian despite being a young female immigrant from the Soviet bloc to the U.S., faced with the certainty of losing enormous amounts by being one of the few public figures to do so: she even had a trans woman as her coach).