When . . . in the course of human events . . . it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands that have connected them with another — and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them — a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.  We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Sorry.  I couldn’t refift editing the punctuation a little and more explicitly including Martha Jefferson and Sally Hemings in the declaration by adding “and women” — which I think Jefferson would be delighted to see is now how we roll.

Because hard as some have fought to keep from expanding the circle of brotherhood . . . Irish need not apply . . . I can’t imagine Thomas Jefferson —  or George Washington or Ben Franklin or John Hancock or John Adams or James Madison — being among them.

Antisemitism is by now largely a non-issue in America.  Thomas Jefferson’s role as our first Secretary of State is by now routinely filled by a woman.  And, most dramatically, Barack Obama is not counted as three-fifths of a person — he has George Washington’s job.

And there’s more.  Last Saturday saw a wedding reception for one of the Facebook founders and his husband attended with great good feeling by (among hundreds of others) two big foundation heads and their wives, a senator and her husband, another senator (didn’t see his wife), the House majority leader and her daughter, another newly married Facebook founder and his wife.  And this coming Saturday I’ll be in the wedding of the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee and his soon-to-be husband, who are scheduled to be married by the Governor of Massachusetts.  (This is why I opposed gay marriage: precious summer weekends spent in suits and ties?  Really?)

In parts of the country — and the world — we’re nowhere near “there” yet.  But increasingly, we are.  When Laura Bush and Dick Cheney favor marriage equality, it’s not just for Democrats anymore. (The Cheneys recently celebrated the marriage of their daughter Mary to her partner of 20 years Heather.)

Major opponent of gay marriage switches sides,” reads a recent headline.  “‘Whatever one’s definition of marriage, legally recognizing gay and lesbian couples and their children is a victory for basic fairness,’ says founder of Institute for American Values.”

So Anderson Cooper is gay and Ellen DeGeneris is gay and, basically, who cares?

Here’s what I wrote in this space six years ago:

Experience thus far suggests that allowing GLBT Americans and their children equal rights and first-class citizenship does not wind up diminishing the rights – or breaking up the marriages – of everybody else.   It’s important to respect the discomfort many people still feel with these topics . . . and to allow Kansas and Mississippi more time to chew this over than California and Massachusetts.  But, increasingly, people see Rosie on “The View” or Ellen on “Ellen” or Barney Frank on Bill Maher, and simply welcome them as part of the American family.

I got this email from a reader tonight, and it left me wondering what proportion of America, in 2006, would still find it repugnant:  “In 1962 after having just arrived in Los Angeles at 20, I met a young fellow, 21, who knocked my socks off.We stayed up all night in my tiny furnished apartment in Hollywood and talked until we both fell asleep.  When I woke up, he was gone and I was disappointed.  He showed up at my door two hours later with his bags packed and asked if he could move in.  We’ve just celebrated the 44th anniversary of that night and his very presence still brightens any dark corners in my world.  We’ve never been apart one night since then.  For two guys with minimum education, we’ve managed to build a really good life together, and at 65 and 66 we are co-parenting two children, a boy aged 7 and a girl 2 1/2.  They live three days a week with us and four days a week with their two moms.  We have created a great family and when another boy asked our son how he had two moms and two dads, his reply was ‘I guess I’m just lucky.’”  No question, some will find that repugnant or threatening.  But I think by now a large proportion of the citizenry would actually find themselves rooting for these characters.  Love and happiness are precious wherever they are found.  Would Jesus really disagree?

It’s a beautiful thing to see America lurching ever closer toward the ideal of liberty and justice for all.  Thanks, Mr. Jefferson.

Have a terrific Fourth of July.



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