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The Constitutional landmark of a generation

For those of us of a certain age, we grew up in a different era where we never thought we'd see this kind of progress. Tomorrow, the US Supreme Court takes up the topic of gay marriage and is expected to soon rule in favor of a nationwide right to same-sex equality. It's not just the legal and Constitutional right to spousal healthcare benefits on the line, but (as we've seen lately with RFRA legislation) a growing movement to free people from all discrimination--employment, housing, educational, etc.--because of their sexuality or relationship status. It's just as much a fight for the unmarried and the transgendered...those will follow close behind. Tomorrow's high-profile battle in front of the highest court in the country marks a shift in national attitude that many a Millennial felt decades ago, but only now is the public catching up.

If you grew up in the 80's and 90's, you remember the shocking early portrayals of gays and lesbians on tv and film. It was difficult for those early pioneers to come out for fear of the backlash. It was a scandal to show a same-sex kiss. We remember the fight against healthcare and school discrimination during the height of the AIDS epidemic. We remember as state after state passed ugly, close-minded amendments and policies against ever allowing same-sex marriage. We remember the cold appeals to God as creating men and women for procreation. These appeals still exist but ring even more shallow and irrational to a modern ear. We remember the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy of the military where we denied the sacrifice and honor of men and women fighting for our country who had to sneak around in their private lives because of the risk of being outed for who shared a bed with them.

Those of us who grew up during those times always had a different kind of take on the situation. We watched as society debated and fought over the issue. My generation always with a bit of a hands-off attitude wondering what the big deal was. And it's strange to be on the other side of the topic now where a large majority of Americans agree with our equality-minded stance. In fact, it's probably difficult to find someone younger than us who understands just how unlikely this would have sounded in the 1990's.

Or, heck, even the 2000's. Remember that President Obama ran in 2008 with a sort of coy lip service to equality. For awhile, civil unions were ok but politicians and polite company couldn't quite admit that the reality was tilting towards full marriage equality. Liberal Democrats knew what he meant. The time was not right and he had to say he was against gay marriage. But we also voted for him knowing he'd be the man to see us through this eventual victory. The writing was on the wall.

As a nation, we're still arguing over the tail end of it. There are hangers on to traditional marriage and who still try to articulate discrimination and intolerance even if it's no longer acceptable to outwardly and explicitly say it in the old, harshest of terms. Bigotry still dresses up disguised as religious freedom arguments and a plea to the old ways. And those of us who have long been in favor of gay marriage are having our own debate about how we should feel towards and treat these people. With respect? Do we put them in their place? Now that 37 states have gay marriage, they're more a nuisance than anything. Let them be?

Tomorrow marks a major shift that would have been unthinkable when I was a child. That scares people from an older and more conservative time. But it's a victory for those of us who have longed to see a society more forgiving and tolerant...especially of behaviors and beliefs that don't harm anybody else. That's my position going forward is that we must judge based on whether or not we're leaving people free to live their lives as they wish. It's no coincidence that marijuana legalization is reaching new public acceptance at the same time we say, as a society, that it's nobody else's business who you choose to raise a family with.

As I look at my children, I sometimes wonder who they will grow up to be. And my biggest hope for both of them is that they don't face obstacles to being their full selves. That's really the argument we're having, liberal vs conservative, in politics these days. How to remove unfair roadblocks to leading an open life of opportunity and freedom to choose your future. My hope for my children is that gay or straight, man or woman, they don't feel limited.

I'm hoping the major lesson from SCOTUS tomorrow is that not only should the government NOT limit freedom but it should be encouraging the equal treatment of all citizens. A ruling for marriage equality is a great victory for many and one we've been waiting for for a very long time. But let's not stop there. We've made huge gains as a nation and this is certainly a measuring stick moment of progress. While we enjoy the moment, however, let's not forget that there is work to still be done.

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