In weighing its biggest decisions, one of the key issues the U.S. Supreme Court considers is balance. How will a ruling affect the liberties and interests of each side?
One of the things that make the same-sex marriage case so important is that no loss of liberty would be suffered by anyone if the court chose to grant the legal right to marry to marry anyone you choose.
Behind the court cases and legal briefs lay actual individuals. Their lives today have been enriched immeasurably by both the actual legal ability to marry anywhere in the country and the legal acknowledgement that they are as much a part of the life of this nation as anyone else.
And what has the opposition lost? An exclusionary definition of marriage that discredited the love and commitment of others? The right to have their religious beliefs validated by secular governments? A sense that their way of living and loving is the only right way?
This change was surely coming, someday if not this day. The mainstream acceptance of gay people has been lightning fast in this country, particularly compared with the long slogs women and blacks have faced to garner equal rights. Already, same-sex marriage was legal in 36 states, and opinion polls have steadily moved further in favor of same-sex marriage and away from "traditional," exclusionary definitions.
Five decades ago, the Supreme Court ruled in Loving V. West Virginia, that interracial marriages were protected and had to be granted nationwide. That ruling was controversial to many. But it's not at all controversial now. Nearly everyone would find the banning of marriage between white and black people evil and even laughable today.
It seems likely same-sex marriage will tread the same well-worn path of increasing acceptance. Polls show that the idea of banning such marriages is particularly baffling among the young people who will become the teachers, parents and leaders of tomorrow.
The decision will be parsed endlessly, the fact that the vote was 5-4, the reasoning of the decision, the dissent of the opposing justices.
But for now, the crucial, joyous reality is that a large group of Americans has been empowered to pursue happiness, as our nation always promised. Our nation isn't perfect, but as President Barack Obama said so gracefully in a speech after the decision was released, "Today we can say in no uncertain terms that we have made our union a little more perfect."