The premise used to be that homosexuality was an activity, that gays were people who chose to behave badly; or, if they weren’t choosing to behave badly, were nonetheless suffering from a form of sickness or, in the words of the Vatican, an “objective disorder.” And so the question of whether to permit the acts and activities of such disordered individuals was a legitimate area of legislation and regulation.
But when gays are seen as the same as straights—as individuals; as normal, well-adjusted, human individuals—the argument changes altogether. The question becomes a matter of how we treat a minority with an involuntary, defining characteristic along the lines of gender or race. And when a generation came of age that did not merely grasp this intellectually, but knew it from their own lives and friends and family members, then the logic for full equality became irresistible.
This transformation in understanding happened organically. It began with the sexual revolution in the 1970s, and then came crashing into countless previously unaware families, as their sons and uncles and fathers died in vast numbers from AIDS in the 1980s and 1990s. It emerged as younger generations came out earlier and earlier, and as their peers came to see gay people as fellows and siblings, rather than as denizens of some distant and alien subculture. It happened as lesbian couples became parents and as gay soldiers challenged the discrimination against them. And it percolated up through the popular culture—from Will & Grace and Ellen to almost every reality show since The Real World.
What California’s court did, then, was not to recognize a new right to same-sex marriage. It was to acknowledge an emergent cultural consensus. And once that consensus had been accepted, the denial of the right to marry became, for many, a constitutional outrage. The right to marry, after all, is, as the court put it, “one of the basic, inalienable civil rights guaranteed to an individual.” Its denial was necessarily an outrage—and not merely an anomaly—because the right to marry has such deep and inalienable status in American constitutional law.
Contribute to LGBT Members of Congress - Progressive values have never been more under attack. Please join us in showing your pride in, and support for, LGBT members of Congress with a generous do...