And in one fell swoop, the highest court decreed, once and for all, that all men are created equal. One of the great social injustices of our time was righted. So long as marriage is an institution in this country, all loving couples shall have access to its warm embrace; its legal rights; its sacred bond. The clarion calls of freedom, justice and equality sound untarnished for all the world to hear. Five noble justices called out in one voice, “Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
The institution of marriage is nearly as old as humanity itself. Whether for love or protection, passion or survival, it has been an integral thread in the fabric of personhood. The ability, nay the privilege, to choose the person with whom you will share your life is perhaps the very essence of what it means to be human — to actively choose love and unity, to band together, making the whole of ourselves greater than the sum of our parts. To accept another’s problems as your problems; whose triumphs shall be your triumphs; whose hopes and dreams shall become your hopes and dreams. There is no more intimate and important a choice a person can make.
If freedom and choice be the guiding lights of this country, how can its government bar the altar from any who come before it? The marriage decision is perhaps the most crucial, the most human act one will ever undertake. And if we are not free to make that choice equally before the law, we are nothing. Our country is broken.
So long as loving couples choose to enter into sacred matrimony, that right should not, and now shall not, be denied to any person because of who they love. The government should not be in the business of defining love, and it certainly shouldn’t be in the business of ill defining it. If you are one of we lucky few, those who have found true love and cherish it, no government ought stand in our way. You have the right to join together with that person now and forever, and your government ought recognize and celebrate that union. Marriage is about love and commitment, and no government should make it harder for anyone to enter into that sacred bond.
Many opponents of the ruling couch their objections in legalese, claiming states ought to have the right to define marriage for themselves, or simply that the Constitution does not guarantee a right to wed whomever one chooses. While there might be some merit hidden within this line of thought, the exercise is folly. The 14th Amendment guarantees equal protection under the law. If marriages are legal in this country, then those seeking marriage ought to be treated equally therein.
Still more opponents cite religious doctrine, which provides a perfectly understandable objection. However, this country is governed by secular laws, not religious ones. The 1st Amendment demands there be no national religion, and it ensures religion shall not govern the actions of this country or its citizens. While a religion may refuse to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples, that does not and should not have any bearing on the legal right of two consenting adults to wed.
What undergirds most of the dissent at large, however, is not actually religion or legal arguments; it’s fear — fear of the unknown; fear of the misunderstood; fear of change; fear of progress; fear masked as religion or disdain or hate. But, in the months and years and decades to come, these dissenters will appear as no more than the addle-minded cranks they are. They will be remembered by history similarly to those who stood against interracial marriage because it was “unnatural.” They will be remembered similarly to those who sought to leave slavery up to the individual states to decide for themselves. They will be remembered similarly to those who fought against women’s suffrage because of woman’s “inferiority to man.”
America’s history is littered with disenfranchised groups fighting tooth and nail to claim the rights promised to them in our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution. The timeline of this country can be divided by the enfranchisement of one group after another as they take the rights guaranteed them. And as history judges those in opposition, we see hatred, ignorance and deplorability.
When Americans think of slaveholders, we’re deeply ashamed. When Americans think of denying women the right to vote, we shudder. When we imagine denying access to marriage to loving couples of differing races, we cringe. That this country ever sought to deny loving same-sex couples the right to marry will be remembered thusly. We will look back at this time and wonder how could this nation ever have barred its citizens from claiming a right so fundamental as marrying the one you love.
America is nothing if not imperfect. But, as a nation, we have forever been dedicated to self improvement. Our original sin mars our history and affects our present; but for all the injustices we perpetrated or condoned through silence, we have worked relentlessly to make amends. We abolished slavery. Women exercise every right their male counterparts enjoy. Men and women are free to marry outside their race whenever they so choose. And finally, we no longer have to make any such distinction at all. Any citizen may claim his or her right to marry another citizen, and they will be equal before the law.
This is a historic judgement with monumental consequences. It places Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan upon the precipice of history for all generations to come. And as we look back upon our history, littered with shameful injustices, we can cross one more injustice off the list. We will come to revere these brave five as those who delivered freedom and choice and love to all who seek it. We can now be that much prouder of our nation. We as a people will remember this day forever.
It’s about time.