From 1956 until 2010, CBS television’s daytime lineup included America’s longest-running soap opera: “As the World Turns.” But times change, and now a real-life human drama of profound importance has debuted in America: “As the Generations Turn.”
It’s the inspiring story of our society’s continuing struggle to evolve toward dignity and mutual respect... as well as love. The moment came on June 26, 2015, when Justice Anthony Kennedy proclaimed from the ornate chamber of the Supreme Court: “The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the 14th Amendment couples of the same sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty.”
Kennedy and Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan and Sotomayor voted to make this higher level of inclusiveness the law of the land, but they are not the producers of it. Indeed, while the court’s ruling debuts a new day, it is the culmination of generations of painful struggle by brave gay and lesbian activists and advocates. And it is particularly the product of a defiant and determined LGBTQ movement for equality that arose from the brutal police riot at the Stonewall Inn in New York on June 28, 1969.
This democratic evolution from rank inequality literally came out of America’s closet, rising through only a few neighborhoods at first, but then entering the consciousness of today’s youth. Rejecting the shibboleths, ignorance, fears and bigotry that previously permitted such intolerable discrimination, young people have, in a remarkably short amount of time, created a generational shift in the nation’s consciousness.
The true Supremes are the people themselves, and it’s their awakening enlightenment that has transformed marriage equality from taboo to simple justice.
It is unfortunately true, however, that not everyone has evolved on the issue of equality in our Land of the Free. The Supreme Court’s ruling that states can no longer ban same-sex marriage has set off a cacophony of howling hyperbole by the GOP’s far-out presidential wannabes.
“I will not acquiesce to an imperial court,” blustered Fox News political huckster Mike Huckabee. “Resist and reject judicial tyranny,” he bellowed. Huck even couched his cry for continued discrimination against gay people by likening it to Abe Lincoln’s principled refusal to honor the court’s 1857 ruling that African-Americans could not be citizens. Sure, Mike, you’re a modern-day Lincoln – except that he was opposing discrimination, while you’re demanding that government enforce it.
Then came the wild hair of the GOP’s presidential menagerie, Donnie Trump, trumpeting his keen insight that the court’s gay marriage decision is Jeb Bush’s fault. Really. The Donald explained that Jeb’s brother George appointed Chief Justice John Roberts to the court, so ... there you have it. Shhhh – let’s not spoil Trump’s hallucination by telling him that Roberts actually voted against letting gays marry.
Now on to Scott Walker, widely touted by the GOP’s billionaires as the “serious” contender. Yet, he is seriously pushing a constitutional amendment to allow states to keep prohibiting same-sex marriages. “No one wants to live in a country where the government coerces people to act in opposition to their conscience,” said Walker, apparently oblivious to the fact that state governments have long been coercing LGBTQ people to do exactly that. And now Walker is promising, if elected, to coerce them right back into a life of unconscionable injustice.
Every one of the 13 Republican presidential candidates is marching backward into the bigoted past, piously thumbing their noses not only at millions of gays and lesbians and their families, but also at the ever-growing majority of Americans – especially young people – who support marriage equality.
Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist and author.