Sarah Palin can see gay marriage from her house

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With last night’s news that a federal judge had struck down Alaska’s ban on gay marriage, it looks like Sarah Palin will soon be seeing gay marriages from her house.

Alaska is the latest state in a virtual tsunami of (pro) gay marriage court decisions since the Supreme Court struck down section 3 of the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act in the US v. Windsor decision less than a year and a half ago.

That decision was written in a way that almost appeared somewhat narrow at first. One could argue that the Windsor decision simply said that “if” a state wants to recognize gay marriage, the federal government should not refuse to recognize that marriage for the purposes of federal benefits (and federal programs more generally).

Alaska state flag, via Shutterstock.

Alaska state flag, via Shutterstock.

In fact, Windsor was a gay marriage time bomb set to explode in teeny tiny increments over the coming years.

The court recognized that it didn’t want another Roe v. Wade on its hands. Meaning, a decision which caused so much social strife that it risked dividing the country, and undermining the legitimacy of the court. But how to rule in favor of gay marriage without overtly ruling in favor of gay marriage?

The answer was to write Windsor in such a way that no lower court could ever rule against gay marriage in the future. So rather than the Supreme Court ruling that gay couples had a nationwide right to marry, the court issued a ruling that would force lower courts, on a state-by-state basis, to give gays a nationwide right to marry.

Gay couples could only win the right to marry by suing in each state (or each federal appellate region), citing Windsor, and waiting for each court, on its own timeline, to rule in their favor. This guaranteed victory, but it guaranteed it would be slow, and piecemeal: that individual state victories would happen on different dates, so as to give the American people time to get used to the idea, and sense its inevitability.

And that’s what happened. Since Windsor, we’ve had 43 wins and only 2 losses in state and federal courts. Before Windsor, 12 states (plus DC) permitted gay couples to marry. Now, including Alaska, the number is going to be 30.

In the last week alone, we saw pro-gay rulings affecting more than a dozen states. Rulings that pretty much guarantee that marriage equality (as we like to call gay marriage, which is really just “marriage,” but if you write just “marriage,” it’s confusing, not to mention it makes for a lousy Google search) will become the law of the land in each state soon.

I’m still amazed at what the Supreme Court did, and how it handled all of this. It’s really quite brilliant.

I’m also rather amazed that I’ll have the right to marry, nationwide, in my lifetime. That was something most gays never imagined. We grew up “knowing” that our love would never be legally sanctioned. And now, it pretty much has.

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