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Marriage Equality

WATCH: Why Kennedy Affirmed Marriage Equality, and What Happens Now

WATCH: Why Kennedy Affirmed Marriage Equality, and What Happens Now

The marriage equality victory has been a long time coming -- nearly 130 years, in fact. Here's why the court had to uphold the freedom to marry, and what to expect.

The most important part of the Supreme Court's ruling on marriage equality is that it didn't create a new right to "gay marriage" -- it opened the existing right to marry to more people.

This is as big a victory as we could possibly have hoped for, since it means that same-sex couples have the same right to marry as everyone else, and everyone else's right to marry isn't harmed at all. In other words, everybody wins.

So, what happens next? The ruling takes effect right away, which means lower courts will just have to issue a little paperwork and marriages can start very soon -- in fact, in some jurisdictions, they've started already.

Of course, the fight for marriage equality is still far from over. Officials in various states have said that they'll do whatever they can to make it difficult for couples to marry or have their licenses recognized.

If this sounds familiar, it's because it's similar to what officials did in the 1950s when the Supreme Court ordered an end to segregated schools. The opponents of progress dragged out the process of ending segregated schools for decades. And it's possible that their modern-day equivalents will try to do the same.

But anti-equality politicians like Mike Huckabee and Roy Moore don't understand what's happening. Marriage equality is coming. There's no stopping it -- and that's a good thing, because expanding the freedom to marry for same-sex couples makes this country stronger.

In fact, the Supreme Court has been preparing for this ruling for a long time: 130 years. Their marriage rulings date back to the 1880s, with a decision in a land dispute involving a husband and wife. The court called marriage "the most important relation in life. ... more than a mere contract ... the foundation of the family and society."

That set the stage for future rulings by saying that marriage is special, it deserves extra attention. What kind of extra attention? They didn't get around to that until 1923. That when the Supreme Court ruled that the Due Process Clause -- that's right here in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution -- protects various rights, like the right to learn, live, have kids, worship, and marry.

Then came more rulings on reproduction and marriage. Until 1965, you could be arrested for using contraception. And even after that was overturned, in some states you were only allowed you to use it if you were married until 1972. You could be arrested for providing someone with contraceptive devices until 1977 (so be careful not to give out any condoms). And until 1992, some states made it a crime for a married woman to get an abortion unless she informed her husband. In other words, getting married changed the kind of medical care women were allowed to seek out.

There were also a pair of cases establishing that marriage laws even apply to poor people. Boddie v. Connecticut, 1971, overturned a state law that said you can't have a divorce unless you have the money to pay a bunch of court fees. And MLB v. SLJ, 1996, overturned a lower court's ruling that stripped a mother of parental rights because she couldn't pay the court. "Marriage involves interests of basic importance to our society," the court wrote. "Choices about marriage, family life, and the upbringing of children are ... 'of basic importance in our society.'"

Affirming the Constitutional guarantee of due process and equal protection is a win for same-sex couples, but it's also a win for freedom, for equality, and for the US Constitution. Now is a great time to celebrate, whether you've supported marriage equality for years, just come around, or still have a ways to go. With this ruling, we've all won. And we can all celebrate together.

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Matt Baume