I grew up with kids calling each other “fag” and “queer.”  Most of us grew up with those words thrown around. I still hear it from time to time.

But not like I used to.  Now, I know I live in an educated bubble of intellectuals and liberals. I know my views on the world are skewed.  But even so, I think it’s changing.  I can feel it.  It’s that feeling of minds turning, of gears moving and my country moving forward, of the clock’s hand shifting to the next number.  It’s the feeling of a new day in civil rights.  I think most of us can feel the change, but we have to let ourselves.

emily fedorko / photo editor
A crowd gathers to support LGBT rights at Central Square in Keene, on March 25, 2013, in protest of The Defense Against Marriage Act.


emily fedorko / photo editor A crowd gathers to support LGBT rights at Central Square in Keene,  on March 25, 2013, in protest of The Defense Against Marriage Act.

emily fedorko / photo editor
A crowd gathers to support LGBT rights at Central Square in Keene, on March 25, 2013, in protest of The Defense Against Marriage Act.

Two weeks ago the Supreme Court started hearing opening arguments in two cases: one involving California’s Proposition 8 and one involving the Defense of Marriage Act, both laws effectively outlawing same-sex marriage.  There are many possible outcomes and they are all at least three months away, but this feels like a big one.

It’s dominating the news cycle.  It has turned my Facebook newsfeed red.  It’s engendered debates, revitalized stale arguments and forced both sides to hone their talking points.  Even if the Supreme Court decides to throw out the cases or give narrow rulings on them (both real possibilities), the debate will not be settled.

The tide is turning and the tide will not be stopped.  We are moving towards a more perfect union, one based on freedom instead of fear, on inclusion instead of exclusion.  Do I sound hopeful?  I am.

The questions that Supreme Court Justices are asking are complex.  While our Congressmen and women make blunder after blunder in an effort to satisfy their base and donors, the Justices’ lines of reasoning are refreshingly thoughtful and intellectual.  These are some of the best minds in the country.  They have studied and practiced the workings of our democracy for years.

Sure, some are conservative, some liberal, but their thinking is logical, informed, and backed up by facts.  Read the transcripts or listen to the tapes of these opening arguments.  The elevation of the discussion does this country good.  There is hope in being reminded that there are still serious men and women in Washington.

I know what they’re saying out there.  They’re saying our government’s broke and broken.  Our economy is slow.  Our leaders are ineffectual.  They’re saying that the nation is crumbling and the kids don’t care.  The young ones swear allegiance to Call of Duty and Pinterest, content to live in a world where the rules don’t keep changing.

The ones old enough to remember the ‘90s don’t hold faith with anything.  They’re bored, and passionless; they’ve been thrown to the wind by the wolves in the towers.

People have been disillusioned for centuries with one thing or another, but now it’s all built up.  The institutions have lost their shine and the outdated chains of command are too busy chasing their own tails to notice how they’ve been perverted.  The gains we’ve made are hard to see, blocked out by all those we haven’t.

See, it’s easy to let ourselves give in to the fear, and the reactionary scandals and the innumerable injustices we read and hear about on the internet.  It’s easy to go home every night and let Jon Stewart tell us about the latest vehicle for the country’s trip to hell in a handbasket.  It is easy to think that the only fashionable thing is to point out the flaws and to tear down every last bastion of authority.

But then what?  If we hold hope in nothing, what do we swear allegiance to?  It is easy to let our minds turn to doubt, but cynicism becomes just another institution, and it only lasts so long before it’s all been said.  Pessimism about the state of our country is easy and yet it’s tiring, too.  Tiring to point out every flaw.  Soon enough, the flaws are all we see.

This week the Supreme Court is doing exactly what it should be doing, no campaign contributions, no SuperPACs, no fuss. They are doing what the American people have entrusted them to do, just as the judicial branch was designed. Whatever the ruling, whatever side of the debate you are on, we must see the democracy at work and be proud of it.

Something is still working in Washington.  It is a beautiful thing for 315 million people to put their faith in the hands of nine men and women, to respect their office and their decision.  When they finally speak, we will listen.

I hope that they do not dismiss the cases on technicalities.  I hope that they rule as broadly as possible.  I hope with all the hope I have left to give these United States that the nine Justices rule that same-sex marriage is a constitutionally guaranteed right under the Fourteenth Amendment.  I hope love conquers fear, and freedom conquers prejudice.  When that ruling comes down this summer, I hope they are on the right side of history.  I hope.


Scott Riess can be contacted at 



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