Sometime this June, the Supreme Court will finally put to bed the defining civil rights struggle of the past generation. With the expected backing of a majority of the justices, same-sex marriage is likely to be made legal for Americans in all 50 states.
On Wednesday, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke to Bloomberg about how she expects the public will react to the all-but-inevitable decision. And as she is apt to do, the Brooklyn native delivered a quiet but deeply moving portrayal of how much has changed.
"In recent years, people have said, 'This is the way I am,'" Ginsburg told Bloomberg. "And others looked around, and we discovered it's our next-door neighbor — we're very fond of them. Or it's our child's best friend, or even our child. I think that as more and more people came out and said that 'this is who I am,' the rest of us recognized that they are one of us."
The road ahead: Same-sex marriage is currently legal in 37 states. On Jan. 16, the court formally agreed to resolve challenges to the remaining bans. Should the justices rule, as expected, in favor of the couples bringing the suits, the legal questions surrounding marriage equality will, after decades of legal fights, be settled.
Even conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, a vehement opponent of marriage equality, has conceded that the court will likely recognize the rights of gays to marry. Writing in a dissent to his colleagues' decision to allow marriage ceremonies to begin in Alabama, where a lower court has ruled the state ban unconstitutional, Thomas said, "This is not the proper way to discharge our Article III responsibilities. And, it is indecorous for this court to pretend that it is."
Simply put, Thomas is annoyed that his colleagues were so quick to deny Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange's petition to make same-sex couples wait for another court appeal before being able to exercise their new marriage rights. Their decision, he grudgingly notes, "may well be seen as a signal of the court's intended resolution" of the same-sex marriage issue.
"The change in people's attitudes on that issue has been enormous," Ginsburg said in her Bloomberg interview. Now, with the 81-year-old liberal hero leading the way, the Supreme Court is set to deliver its end of the bargain. And not a moment too soon.