Fifty years from now, we hope that Americans will be celebrating the anniversary of the end of discrimination against same-sex marriage in much the same way that, this week, we marked the 50th anniversary of the historic March On Washington and the subsequent passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.
Today, it is difficult to imagine a time when racial segregation was legal and police brutality against minorities was considered an acceptable practice. Without the vivid newsreel footage of the emotionally-charged demonstrations that eventually turned the tide against racial discrimination, younger Americans might not believe it ever happened.
But reliving that era on television has been an important history lesson. It is a reminder of how individual citizens, driven by the courage of their convictions, helped pave the way for a more equitable society and opened doors of opportunity for the next generation.
This year, we have watched a similar emancipation taking place. Beginning with the protests surrounding the misguided Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), adopted in 1996, to the demonstrations leading up to its repeal by the Supreme Court earlier this summer, another barrier to equality is being demolished.
This week, the Supreme Court's decision to overturn DOMA was converted into tangible benefits for married gay couples. They are now eligible for all of the federal financial benefits accorded opposite-sex marriages, including exemptions, deductions, employee benefits, child tax credits and estate taxes.
That will come as a huge relief for many same-sex couples, especially when it comes to the hardships of losing a spouse.
Importantly Thursday's federal ruling also applies to married same-sex couples in Utah, even though the state does not recognize their union.
Many Utah citizens applauded the Court's decision to overturn DOMA and long for the day when discrimination against gay marriage is no longer tolerated anywhere in the country. But they are facing resistance from a handful of powerful Utah institutions. Fortunately, the federal government has stepped in, as it did in 1963 and 1964, to ensure justice for all.