In 1776, when the Founding Fathers wrote “all men are created equal,” entitled to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” they were not thinking of women. Nor blacks. And they certainly were not thinking about homosexuals.
But freedom, once released, tends to spread. One by one, those oppressed groups seized the newly-crafted tool of freedom to strike off their chains.
In the first half of the 20th century, women won the right to vote and work. In the second, African-Americans began to win civil rights. While both of those struggles go on, we live in an extraordinary era of progress for gay Americans, change that was cemented in place Monday, when the United States Supreme Court declined to hear five pending same-sex marriage cases, essentially upholding the legality of gay marriages in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.
There have been many milestones, such as Gov. Pat Quinn signing the Illinois gay marriage law last November; couples taking their civil union vows in Millennium Park on June 1, 2011, and on and on.
But this court ruling — or precisely, this court declining to get involved, letting the lower court rulings stand — is a truly significant moment because this might have been the last stand, when the steady progress that gay American citizens have made could have hit the road block of a conservative Supreme Court. It only takes four justices to ask to review the case; four justices obviously didn’t ask.
One milestone was the ruling Sept. 4 by Judge Richard Posner, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, who eviscerated the Indiana and Wisconsin cases in such strong language that even a revanchist blowhard like Justice Antonin Scalia would be reluctant to grapple with his white hot logic.