It started in 1989.
Andrew Sullivan wrote a cover story for The New Republic arguing for gay marriage. It was at the time a radical proposition — although Sullivan’s argument came from a philosophically conservative place.
This was a key paragraph:
Legalizing gay marriage would offer homosexuals the same deal society now offers heterosexuals: general social approval and specific legal advantages in exchange for a deeper and harder-to-extract-yourself from commitment to another human being. Like straight marriage, it would foster social cohesion, emotional security, and economic prudence. Since there’s no reason gays should not be allowed to adopt or be foster parents, it could also help nurture children. And its introduction would not be some sort of radical break with social custom. As it has become more acceptable for gay people to acknowledge their loves publicly, more and more have committed themselves to one another for life in full view of their families and their friends, A law institutionalizing gay marriage would merely reinforce a healthy social trend. It would also, in the wake of AIDS, qualify as a genuine public health measure. Those conservatives who deplore promiscuity among some homosexuals should be among the first to support it. Burke could have written a powerful case for it.
There is plenty of history of the gay marriage movement before Sullivan’s essay, but his advocacy helped bring it in to the mainstream.
In a post on his blog, The Daily Dish, Sullivan recalls a moment debating gay marriage on TV shortly after his essay came out. “It was Crossfire, as I recall, and Gary Bauer’s response to my rather earnest argument after my TNR cover-story on the matter was laughter. ‘This is the loopiest idea ever to come down the pike,’ he joked. ‘Why are we even discussing it?'”
No one is laughing anymore.
A lot of the themes from Sullivan’s original essay — inclusion, social cohesion, responsibility, and family support — are echoed in today’s decision, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy. This is the powerful last paragraph:
No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilisation’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.
Sullivan is now officially a retired blogger. But he returned today to write about the decision. This is his response:
I never believed this would happen in my lifetime when I wrote my first several TNR essays and then my book, Virtually Normal, and then the anthology and the hundreds and hundreds of talks and lectures and talk-shows and call-ins and blog-posts and articles in the 1990s and 2000s. I thought the book, at least, would be something I would have to leave behind me — secure in the knowledge that its arguments were, in fact, logically irrefutable, and would endure past my own death, at least somewhere. I never for a millisecond thought I would live to be married myself. Or that it would be possible for everyone, everyone in America.
Twenty-six years later, Sullivan’s seemingly radical idea is the law of the land.
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