The Lesson of Gay Marriage

Thanks to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) every gay person who wanted to get married in the United States should have had the chance to, by now. The longest waiting period in the nation - a requirement in both Minnesota and Wisconsin - is only five days. The majority of states have no waiting period at all. Florida's law states that taking "marriage preparation classes" can abridge the three-day delay. Certainly, staying in a committed relationship while waiting indefinitely for equal rights must qualify for training in the "worst of times" category.

Actually, the SCOTUS didn't shake up an entire nation. By June 26, 2015 only 14 states still barred gays from equal marriage rights. Logic would dictate that SCOTUS trailed the national prevailing wisdom that had already relegated prejudice against same sex couples to the betrothal trashcan. As in most things concerning human beings, the nation's highest court merely rips the last gnarly fingers of cruelty from the necks of the oppressed. Trendsetters they ain't.

Heck, it wasn't until Shelley v. Kraemer in 1948 that blacks could legitimately own property. Yep, took 89 years for that august body to move from people of color being property to having some.

Most folks don't know about Shelley v. Kraemer. No, the better-known equality granting SCOTUS ruling is Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka in 1954. And while folks remember that this granted equal access to public education, few know how quickly their ruling was enforced. And by quickly, I mean slowly.

Nope, the law came down from the highest court and then certain hold out states resisted it mightily. Much like equal access for same sex couples to marry, equal access by folks of color to education met with resistance by those same hold out gnarly fingers of cruelty the Supreme Court occasionally steps in to stop. For Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka, Central High School stands out as the iconic civil rights battlefield. And in today's ruling, Casey County, Kentucky may become the same. County Clerk, Casey Davis, says he'll stop granting marriage licenses all together now that he has to give them to gay people. Oh how Governor Faubus, 1957, of you, Mr. Davis.

Yep, the little known story of Faubus and the Little Rock Nine - as the high school black children who bravely attempted to attend Central High School became known - was that after President Eisenhower enforced the SCOTUS ruling integrating the schools and everyone considered it a done deal, Governor Faubus shut the Little Rock schools down all together: for an entire year! After a whole pile of white kids lost their ability to get an education, the schools were integrated. Of course, not until the white folk felt a little of the pain that black folks had experienced for centuries.

So yeah, Davis' ignorance may well bring Kentucky kicking and screaming into the 21st century. When a few straight people lose their right to marry, things might sink in better, as they did nearly 70 years ago.

And speaking of 70 years, some of the same sex couples now marrying are that old as well. They lived through the civil rights movement for blacks even as they doubted they'd see equality themselves. Take Jack Evans and George Harris: These octogenarian Texans finally tied the knot after 54 years in a committed relationship. Of course Texas could've removed the cowboy boot of oppression from their necks as 36 other states had for their residents, but they didn't, so the SCOTUS had to rule.

So what's the lesson of gay marriage? Simple: it's love.

Few Supreme Court rulings rub elbows with such a dignified and universally sought after human condition. And most Americans don't even know about Loving v. Virginia. That's the other noble ruling made by our highest court. It nullified laws against interracial marriage, forcing the 16 states denying equality, to change. Perhaps Evans and Harris remember when their black and white brothers and sisters got the right to wed back in 1967. Of course, they were only together six years then. Maybe they hadn't talked about marriage yet.