Some might see the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling Wednesday, striking down a key part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which denies same-sex married couples federal benefits, as too little, too late.
Those critics believe basic equality should not be voted on, should not need to be argued.
In reality, Wednesday’s decision caps a surprising turnaround in public sentiment on the right for same-gender couples to be wed legally – in some states.
And it is the first step in a continuing journey.
It was only in 1996 that even the staunchest liberals in Washington voted to create the Defense of Marriage Act, defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
In less than 20 years, nearly every national poll shows acceptance of same-gender marriage to be far beyond those against. And that number continues to grow.
Not only is the left – including those who voted for DOMA in 1996 – in virtual unanimous agreement, but many conservatives and libertarians who favor less government intrusion in private lives believe in this basic right.
The court certainly feels this sea of change. While the justices should not make political decisions, it’s also obvious that the court wouldn’t have made this decision even just a few years ago. Looking at its decision on California’s Proposition 8, it is clear it is not all the way there yet.
But what has changed?
Probably the realization that this choice is more representative of the community of the United States, and is hard to be against when weighing life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The churches will continue to marry – or annul – couples at their discretion. Let’s not forget, some U.S. churches do bless same-gender unions, too.
Ultimately, the states that do not recognize same-gender marriages will become fewer and fewer. Though South Dakota recognizes only opposite-gender marriages in its constitution, we expect it will have to face this issue again. Next time, it might not be foregone conclusion.
Pro-marriage advocates should take comfort this week knowing the court now stands fully behind the rights of loving, consenting adults to commit themselves together for life.
– American News editorial board
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