02/08/2012 08:37 pm ET | Updated Apr 09, 2012

The Quality of Equality

It's only fitting that the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled California's Proposition 8 unconstitutional on the same day that the Boston Globe reported on a Boston-area black church proclaiming acceptance for members of the LGBT community. From coast to coast, it seems, equality is winning the day.

I'll always regret that it took me so long to fully accept same-sex marriage. For a number of years, I believed that civil unions were "good enough" for gay and lesbian couples. If they have all of the benefits, privileges, and responsibilities of marriage, I reasoned, there was no need for same-sex couples to actually use the term "marriage."

It wasn't until the end of the debate over same-sex marriage in Massachusetts that I really began to take stock of my own feelings on the issue. I came to the conclusion that my opposition to same-sex marriage reflected unconscious homophobia; there was no logical reason to allow the law to accord separate-but-"equal" status to same-sex couples.

I'm happy to see some courts and churches attempt to remedy decades of discrimination against gays and lesbians. One hopes that the clarion call of justice for same-sex couples will grow loud enough for the Republican Party and the larger conservative movement to hear it.

The attacks on the gay rights movement from the right aren't just bigoted; they're boring. I'm tired of being told that my gay and lesbian friends are responsible for all that is wrong in the world. I'm tired of being told that they're somehow inferior to me, somehow undeserving of full legal protection. I'm tired of being told that I'm supposed to loathe people I like.

Equality is an American virtue. Yes, America hasn't always lived up to this virtue, but with every positive court ruling, with every change of heart and mind, we're getting closer.

I believe a better day is coming. I believe the day is coming when even the most conservative of churches proclaim that all of God's children deserve equal love and equal protection. I believe the day is coming when candidates from both major parties will aggressively compete for the LGBT vote.

I believe the day is coming when my gay and lesbian friends will be able to wake up in the morning and go to bed at night without worrying about the pain of a bigot's fist or a fundamentalist's words.

Equality is coming! Justice is coming! It must come. How can it be stopped? As Victor Hugo once noted, all the armies in the world cannot stop an idea whose time has come.

My gay and lesbian friends deserve justice. They're citizens, damn it! They should have never been denied equality. The love they feel for their spouses and partners is as moral as anybody else's love. They've fought our wars, built our towers, taught our children. How dare we tell them they're less than human, less than equal?

It took me years to accept the wisdom of the four justices on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court who ruled that gay and lesbian Bay Staters had the right to marry, but now I realize they struck a noble blow for justice. I just wish I had had enough wisdom, enough empathy, to recognize that reality at the time.

May God bless the justices in Massachusetts, and the federal appeals court judges in California, who understand that He meant for all of us to live together and treat each other with respect. May God bless the brave churches doing the hard but necessary work of confronting bigotry and limited thinking.

May God bless every married couple -- gay and straight -- who know that love is the answer to every problem, the cure to every ailment, the balm to every wound.

May God bless all of us who understand the quality of equality -- even those of us who needed time to understand.