TIME politics

On July 4, Remember America’s Promise

America offers a powerful, countervailing force to terrorism in the Middle East

The same week that terrorists attacked Kuwait and Tunisia, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down laws banning same-sex marriage. These events might seem unrelated. But they are symptomatic of the stark split in our world.

The contrast was vivid. The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg tweeted:

The pageant of barbarism of the events in Kuwait and Tunisia has become the tragic hallmark of much of the Middle East. The oppression of women, the persecution of gays, anti-Semitism, and a drive to terror grips many in the Muslim world. Across the Middle East there is a terrifying descent into cruelty that is justified in the name of religion but has much more to do with the wanton liberation of the darkest devils hidden in human souls. To claim divine warrant for beheadings is simply to give your sadism wings.

In the U.S., while bigotry and cruelty also exist, there is a powerful, countervailing force. The drive to accept rather than anathematize the other is a growing force in our culture. It can lead to absurdities and contradictions: People’s self-definitions often seem more whimsical or deliberately provocative than serious, and we know that in the name of not offending there are demands that infringe on others’ freedom of speech. To be thin-skinned is too often defended as a “right,” and normal discourse too often has to be hedged with qualifications and “trigger warnings.” But these are correctible excesses of a fundamentally sound principle, the drive to embrace the other.

America, which was founded to gather the “wretched refuse”—people of different types, from different places, opened its arms to a new kind of diversity in approving same-sex marriage. In the Middle East, people who were nominally practitioners of the same religion were not only fighting, but deliberately blowing up non-combatants. One was a license to love; the other was a drive to destroy.

On July 4, you will hear about the ways in which America is falling short of its promise. There will be accusations, and politics will inevitably intrude. But when you read the doubters and detractors, remember what we stand for in the world. For some people who felt unwanted and even disdained, America just became a little bit more of a home. Happy July 4, and God bless America.

TIME politics

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: America’s Not Ready To Dump Trump

Donald Trump Chicago
Michael Tercha—Chicago Tribune/Getty Images Donald Trump speaks with the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board on June 29, 2015 in Chicago.

TIME columnist Abdul-Jabbar is a six-time NBA champion and league Most Valuable Player. He is also a celebrated author, filmmaker and education ambassador.

At least he's good for entertainment value

Donald Trump has united American voters, though perhaps not in the way he’d envisioned. More than 200,000 petitioners demanded that NBC cancel any association with Trump, while 700,000 petitioners requested that Macy’s remove Trump merchandise. Both petitions succeeded, and NBC and Macy’s joined Univision in the nationwide Dump Trump movement. Fox News, Bill O’Reilly, and The Wall Street Journal editorial page have all declared recently that racism is gone from American society. But Donald Trump has proven them all wrong — as has his bump in the polls immediately following his racist comments.

Trump would portray his comments — that Mexicans coming to America are drug-runners and rapists — not as racism but as an example of (to borrow a phrase from defrocked Real Housewife and Celebrity Apprentice contestant, Brandi Glanville) his straight-shooting “truth canon.” However, it’s really more of a truthiness pea-shooter. In the Real World, a seldom-visited land in politics, his comments were the definition of racism: to negatively characterize an entire ethnic group based on the actions of a few. Following Trump’s logic, America is a nation of home-grown murderers, drug-users, and pornographers.

The most damning statement Trump made during that speech wasn’t the racist characterization of Latinos, it was his follow-up comment that “some, I assume, are good people.” I assume? As if there was no way for him to assess the character of Latino immigrants except by watching Scarface and American Me.

And that is the essence of Trump’s classic, tragic fall: hubris. The tragic hero falls from grace because his pride makes him think that all his success is due to his own efforts and therefore he can reject the teachings of the gods. Basically, that’s what happens to Oedipus, Othello, and Adam and Eve. Their success blinds them to the reality that they are just another person under a divine authority. From high up in the cloud-enshrouded, gold-plated penthouse in Trump Towers, it must be difficult to see the reality of people’s lives way, way down below. And to believe that all glory belongs to Trump, amen.

We could give in to cynicism and interpret Trump’s rise in the polls following his public endorsement of racism (he’s now second, behind front-runner Jeb Bush) as proof that Americans support racism. But I prefer to believe it’s just America’s way of keeping him in the race for entertainment value. “Who knows what craziness he’ll say next,” people might be thinking. “Let’s keep him around to find out. It’s better than the stale, packaged drivel we get from the rest of the interchangeable Lego-like candidates.” Down on the street level of the real world, Trump has no chance to win or to even come close. At best, he hopes the nothing-but-hype candidacy will improve the value of his name for branding on products. He may be right. People have short memories. A year or two down the road they might be willing to buy products just because they carry the Trump name, which makes his candidacy a wise business investment, however destructive it is to America socially.

Rather than using this opportunity for thoughtful reflection on his comments and how to be a more inclusive candidate, Trump has responded to the defection of businesses and barrage of criticism with lawsuits, insults, and — justifying voters’ faith in keeping him in the race for entertainment value — even more outrageous statements. In an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon, Trump supported his assertion that Mexicans were rapists by citing a 2014 Fusion article that claims that 80% of Central American migrants traveling through Mexico were raped. When Lemon pointed out that the article was about rape in Mexico, not rapist Mexican immigrants, Trump explained, “Somebody’s doing the raping, Don.” Say what now?

When CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Trump about his supposed support of traditional marriage, despite having been married three times, Trump responded, “I don’t really say anything. I am just, Jake, I’m for traditional marriage.” Huh? Is he doing the moonwalk here? Further evidence of his keen analytical mind came with his comment that he blamed himself for the failure of his marriages “because my business was so powerful for me. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.” He doesn’t know whether his obsession with making money, which destroyed two marriages and affected his children, was good or bad. Perhaps that tells us everything we need to know about the man’s values regarding business success versus human cost. Will the bottom line always outweigh what is just and right for those people who stand in the way of his personal success? In other words, the people on the street level.

The mistake Trump made is as understandable as it is devastating. He would never have said African-Americans are a bunch of drug-peddling rapists (even if he thought they were) because he’s savvy enough to know that’s not true — and to know that he’d be hit by a perfect storm of blacklash. But when it comes to the Latino community, there’s less vocalized opposition in the media, despite the fact that Latinos are the largest ethnic minority in the U.S. at 17% (54 million) versus 13.2% (41.7 million) identified as African-American.

There’s an old saying from the ’60s that summarized racial attitudes of the time: “If you’re white, you’re all right; if you’re brown, hang around; if you’re black, get back.” This illustrates the current passive “wallpaper racism” (in the background so it’s not as noticeable) against Latinos that made Trump think it was socially acceptable to be derogatory toward the community without anticipating consequences.

We must give Trump credit for aggressively affirming that our democratic process works. Pundits often ridicule our lengthy vetting system of presidential candidates, which can last for two years before the actual election. But this gives a candidate plenty of time to reveal the true self hiding behind a polished political facade. But while most candidates fade out over months, the hyper-efficient Trump did it in the speech announcing his candidacy. Now that’s a fiscal conservative, saving so much time and money on the way to self destruction!

In the meantime, he will continue to respond to any thoughtful criticism by quoting his political guru, Taylor Swift: “The haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate. Baby, I’m gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake. I shake it off, I shake it off.”

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME animals

A Dog Is Running for Mayor in Upstate New York

The 13-year-old pooch is running as "Schenectady's best friend"

The latest candidate to enter the race for mayor in Schenectady, N.Y. doesn’t just have a leg up on her competition—she has two. Diamond, a 13-year-old dog, is running as a write-in candidate in the city’s race. And according to the Daily Gazette, she’s running as “Schenectady’s best friend.”

Diamond’s entrance into the race for mayor—which features three human candidates, Mayor Gary McCarthy, Roger Hull and Chris Gibbs—isn’t the first time a four-legged friend of the upstate town has made a foray into local politics. In 2007, Sparky the cat ran for mayor, followed by Roger the cat in 2011. In 1999, the Gazette reports, Loffredo the dog entered a mayoral race. No furry candidate, of course, has actually won, but McCarthy and Hull told the paper they welcome the competition.

“I assume our paths will cross in the campaign,” McCarthy said of Diamond.

[The Daily Gazette]

TIME 2016 Election

Former Virginia Senator Jim Webb to Run for President

Jim Webb speaks in Baltimore on June 30, 2015.
Patrick Semansky—AP Jim Webb speaks in Baltimore on June 30, 2015.

He joins a field of Democrats challenging Hillary Rodham Clinton for the nomination

(WASHINGTON) — Former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb is running for president, joining a field of Democrats challenging Hillary Rodham Clinton for the nomination.

Webb says in a message on his website that the nation “needs a fresh approach to solving the problems that confront us.”

Webb was the first Democrat to form an exploratory committee, announcing his interest in a presidential campaign last November.

A Vietnam veteran and former Navy secretary under President Ronald Reagan, Webb was elected to the Senate in 2006 and served one term.

Webb has made frequent trips to the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire. But he faces long odds in a field dominated by Clinton that also includes Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee.

TIME politics

John Roberts’s Principled Mistake in the Obamacare Decision

supreme-court
Getty Images

Instead of 'textualism,' the chief justice chose 'purposivism'—much to the benefit of progressives

Chief Justice John Roberts’s decision in King v. Burwell, upholding the capacity of federal exchanges to provide insurance subsidies, has drawn fire as an unprincipled expression of support for Obamacare. This charge is unfair. It is a principled decision, implementing a well-established, if wrong-headed, theory of statutory interpretation, giving greater weight to what the court sees as the overriding purpose of legislation rather than its text. Unfortunately, that theory is one that is likely to aid progressivism, because it tends to make judges partners in legislative programs to expand state power.

The essence of King v. Burwell comes down to the divide between Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia. The case turned on the question of whether insurance subsidies would be available for those who signed up to federal exchanges as opposed to state exchanges. The statute clearly restricts subsidies to “an exchange established by the State.” “State,” in turn, is expressly defined as “each of the states and the District of Columbia.” Thus, for Scalia, the case is an easy syllogism. Subsidies are available on exchanges established by a state; exchanges established by the federal government are not exchanges established by a state.

For Roberts, however, this interpretation would defeat what he sees as the purpose of the Act: to expand insurance for those previously uninsured. If a state didn’t set up an exchange, the federal exchange operating in the state could not accomplish this purpose, because most people without insurance could not afford to purchase at market prices. Worse still, the lack of subsidies would create a risk of a “death spiral” in the availability of insurance. Because Congress prohibited insurers from excluding people with preexisting conditions, many people would wait to purchase insurance until they got sick—a rational decision for some, since even the cost of paying a fine for failing to comply with the mandate to buy insurance would be small compared with the amount required to buy unsubsidized insurance.

Roberts’s approach privileges the purpose or intent of the statute over the most plausible import of its text. It is not a novel move in statutory interpretation, and it has many adherents among legal theorists. The method works well, for instance, in interpreting the contracts made between two people—understanding their language not in terms of its plain meaning but in terms of the shared intent of the parties, i.e., the overriding purpose that the contract was intended to serve.

But as law professor Mark Movsesian has suggested, while such a method of interpretation may be appropriate for contracts, it is not appropriate for statutes. One formidable difficulty is that while a contract, when it is an agreement between two people, may have a single overriding purpose, federal legislation is a product of 535 legislators plus the president. It’s hard to distill an overriding intent or purpose from such a collection of wills, particularly in complex statutory schemes.

The Affordable Care Act is a case in point. While one objective was indeed to insure the uninsured, another was to encourage the states to experiment and to prevent undue location of authority in the federal government. As the now famous video by Jonathan Gruber shows, some of the ACA’s supporters embraced the natural purpose of the plain meaning of its subsidies provision. Permitting only state exchanges has the advantage of motivating each state to establish exchanges. Otherwise, their taxpayers will wind up paying for the subsidies in other states. Indeed, now that subsidies will become available on federal exchanges, a number of states will likely give up their exchanges, further centralizing power in the federal government.

Moreover, unlike a contract, a statute is written for people who are not parties to its making. This difference provides another reason to interpret a statute according to its plain text rather than forcing citizens to figure out which of many purposes the text should be thought to serve—let alone trying to divine the intentions of the legislators who passed it. In this sense, “textualism” reflects the rule of law, rather than that of particular people.

“Purposivism,” by contrast, makes the task of progressives easier. Textualism requires progressives to change the world expressly, one line of text at a time, but purposivism enlists the courts as allies. They can then use the broad purposes of the legislation to smooth out obstacles that compromises, mistakes, and tensions among multiple objectives may have created.

One section of Roberts’s opinion demonstrates how his method of interpretation transforms the judiciary and the legislature’s role under the separation of powers. In response to the argument that interpreting away the clear import of the text would traduce the venerable rule against treating language as without effect, Roberts noted that the statute as a whole seemed so badly drafted that this rule—against “surplusage”—might not apply. And indeed, the statute was badly drafted, because it didn’t go through the regular order of a House and Senate conference committee, where different objectives are often reconciled and language is revised. The reason was that Senator Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts deprived the Democrats of their filibuster-proof majority and forced ACA proponents to enact the original unrevised version that the Senate had already passed. Thus, Roberts’s method of statutory interpretation allows progressives to push legislation fraught with contradictions and tensions through the legislature, confident that the Supreme Court will refine it through interpretation to advance its broadest and most abstract purposes. Conservatives, in contrast, rarely enact the kind of comprehensive legislation reordering markets or society that requires such help to make it coherent.

Justice Scalia decried Roberts’s opinion as showing favoritism toward the Affordable Care Act. Perhaps. The more substantial concern is that the chief justice has endorsed a method of statutory interpretation that aids the progressive agenda more generally.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Opinion

How the Declaration of Independence Can Still Change the World

Declaration of independence 1776 from the Congress of Representatives. Signed by John Hancock, President of the Congress
Universal Images Group / Getty Images Declaration of independence

The key is that its language is inclusive

Three weeks ago Britain observed the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, the charter of liberties King John was forced to issue to his barons in 1215. Most contemporary commentaries took the opportunity to point out how far short that document fell of modern principles of justice. It benefited only the great nobles, not the common people; it was not, in any case, fully put into effect for a long time; and it contained some provisions, such as those relating to Jews, reflecting medieval prejudices. As the Fourth of July rolls around once again, some commentators will undoubtedly make similar points about the Declaration of Independence. Yes, the Declaration declared that “all men are created equal,” but it thereby left the female half of humanity out of account. It said nothing about slavery, which then existed in every colony and obviously contradicted its principles. It referred to “merciless Indian savages” whom the King had incited against the colonists. In short, the authors and signatories of the Declaration did not use the language that is fashionable in the 21st century, and thus it is a relic from another time that is irrelevant to our world today.

That view misses two very important points. Earlier generations have revered both Magna Carta and the Declaration because they were critical milestones in the development of modern ideas of liberty and government—milestones that can only be understood in the context of their own times, not according to 21st-century views. More importantly, the authors of the Declaration used universal language which has inevitably led to the extension of the rights and freedoms they championed to more and more of humanity. That language is why the Declaration of Independence still has the power to inspire progress.

Because we have taken the principles of the declaration for granted for so long, we must remind ourselves of how revolutionary they were in 1776. It was “necessary,” Thomas Jefferson and the others wrote, “to dissolve the political bonds” which had connected the Americans and the British, because the royal government no longer met the standards for just and effective government that they themselves were defining. The colonists were acting, they wrote, in the face of “a long train of abuses and usurpations,” acts by the King that in their opinion violated the long-standing principles of British law that had developed over the centuries, and especially since the Glorious Revolution of 1688, during which parliamentary control over the Throne was solidified. The King had refused to allow colonial governments to function properly. He had sent troops to the United States to enforce his will, and quartered those troops among the population. He had tried to deprive large numbers of people the right to elect legislators, and much more. But his government—like all governments—did not exercise power by divine right, only insofar as it respected established principles and traditions of liberty. That idea was shortly to set not only the colonies, but much of the western world, aflame.

In its most famous passage, the declaration asserted the ultimate authority of human reason. “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” it said: “that all men 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.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” Yes, it is true that the colonies had not, and for many years would not, extend all those rights to poorer men, or indentured servants, or slaves—but their language made no exception for any of those categories. Thus, the Declaration established a contradiction between their principles and existing conditions in the 18th-century world. That contradiction was bound to lead to further political struggles. So, although the Founding Fathers referred to “all men”—the Constitution, written 20 years later, generally referred more broadly to “persons”—it was equally inevitable that women would clam their rights as well, and that the logic of the founders’ language would allow that progress, too.

No one understood this better than Jefferson himself. Fifty years later, in the spring of 1826, he was invited, along with the few other surviving signatories, to attend a celebration of the signing in Washington. He began his reply by regretting that illness would not permit him to attend. (Indeed, his remaining ambition was simply to survive until July 4, which is exactly what he and his fellow signatory John Adams managed to do.) Yet he proclaimed the enduring significance of the declaration he had drafted:

“May it [the declaration] be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all), the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God.”

And so it was, through most of the rest of the 19th and 20th centuries, on every continent.

The struggle for these principles, however, has proven to be an enduring one. In much of the world reason is once again fighting with superstition, and finds itself in retreat. In our own nation, inequality threatens to create a new aristocracy that will ride upon the backs of the masses. The principles and language of the declaration remain by far the best defense against oppression and superstition. Most importantly of all, it is only upon the basis of impartial principles that new coalitions for justice can form. The Declaration of Independence remains a precious part of our heritage—one which we simply cannot do without.

The Long ViewHistorians explain how the past informs the present

David Kaiser, a historian, has taught at Harvard, Carnegie Mellon, Williams College, and the Naval War College. He is the author of seven books, including, most recently, No End Save Victory: How FDR Led the Nation into War. He lives in Watertown, Mass.

 

TIME politics

Watch a 93-Year-Old Man Sing a Campaign Song He Wrote for Hillary Clinton

"Don't dilly-dally / Let's all start a rally"

YouTube user Katie Miller has uploaded a video of a 93-year-old man named Jerry Rosenblum, who lives in Santa Monica, California, singing a campaign song he wrote for Hillary Clinton at Silvercrest Senior Citizens Residence, where she is a volunteer.

Sample verse:

So don’t dilly-dally
Let’s all start a rally
Don’t hesitate
She’s the one you should choose
No one else can fill her shoes
Give her your vote, and you won’t sing the blues

The kicker: “And maybe some day when you’re old and gray, you’ll vote for Chelsea.”

As Miller wrote in the YouTube description, “A year ago he composed a campaign song for Hillary, recorded it on a ‘compact disc,’ and mailed it to her campaign team. He sadly never heard from her… Regardless of your political views you have to admit Jerry is the cutest and deserves a chance to meet Hillary.”

(h/t Digg)

TIME Civil Rights

The Meaning Behind the Civil Rights Act’s Signing Date

Johnson Signs Civil Rights Act
PhotoQuest / Getty Images President Lyndon B Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act in a ceremony at the White House, Washington DC, July 2, 1964 .

President Johnson signed the bill into law on July 2, 1964

For President Johnson to sign the Civil Rights Act into law on July 2, 1964, was a no-brainer: the date was a Thursday, just as it is this year, and the symbolism of marking the hard-fought victory just before Independence Day would be a shame to waste.

But, as TIME noted in its original 1964 coverage of the landmark legislation, the Fourth of July wasn’t the only significant date in play. The date on which the Senate passed the bill was June 19, 1964—precisely one year after “President John Kennedy sent to Congress a civil rights bill, [and] urged its speedy passage ‘not merely for reasons of economic efficiency, world diplomacy or domestic tranquility, but above all because it is right.'” Though Kennedy had been assassinated the previous fall, the law he had advocated for had actually grown in strength and scope.

After the House also passed the bill and it went on to the President, the season of its signing—and not just the calendar date—would also prove significant.

The bill included many obviously important provisions affecting matters of great weight, like voting rights and equal employment. But, as TIME pointed out, it would take months to see the voting rules take effect, and the labor matters included a period during which businesses could adjust. On the other hand, one of the parts of the law—a part that may seem today to be far less important—was, as TIME put it, “effective immediately, and likely to cause the fastest fireworks.”

The law entitled all persons to equal use of public accommodations, from hotels and movie theaters to soda fountains and public swimming pools. In the run up to the final vote, St. Augustine, Fla., proved why pools—long a contentious point, for the necessary closeness that comes with sharing the water with other people—would be a hot topic:

There, five Negroes and two white fellow demonstrators dived into the swimming pool at the segregated Monson Motor Lodge. The motel manager, furious, grabbed two jugs of muriatic acid, a cleansing agent, tried unsuccessfully to splash the stuff on the swimmers. Cops moved in, one of them stripped off his shoes and socks, leaped gracelessly into the water and pummeled the swimmers with his fists. When the fracas was over, 34 people, including the swimmers and other civil righters who kept dry, were hauled off to jail.

Due to the time of year, the new law’s effects would be immediately visible at swimming pools around the country.

TIME politics

The Gay Marriage Victory Is a Reminder of the Importance of Names

Brett Benner is an Emmy nominated casting director. He lives in Los Angeles.

"Husband" and "Father" are more meaningful than what we chose as our family's last name

June 26 will go down in the history books as the day that the U.S. Supreme Court afforded gays and lesbians the right to get legally married in all 50 states. As a gay man, it’s hard not to be struck by the magnitude of this.

My husband Chip and I were married in California shortly after Proposition 8 was struck down as unconstitutional. When we first got together, we never considered getting married. It was something straight people and Disney princesses did. This was 20 years ago, when the only married gay men I had heard of were the ones who had divorced their wives. But somewhere around year 10 the term “boyfriend” graduated to “partner,” as we furnished a house with pictures of a younger us, and we started to feel an insistent itch that quickly turned into babyitis. Even before 
marriage was an option, we decided to create a family.

As a gay couple, we faced a question that many new parents with different last names face: How do we name our children? We made the decision not to hyphenate our last names like other friends had. Instead we chose my last name as our two children’s middle name and my husband’s as their last. Now we were a family—in the eyes of most, but certainly not all.

One of the trickiest parts of being a family has been traveling together. In the summer of 2012 we were coming back from a vacation we take every other year in Canada. The four of us were in Toronto, waiting to go through Customs to enter the U.S. Our declaration form had been filled out per the instructions that said one per household.

Chip had the two kids with him at the Customs officer’s kiosk, and I came up behind struggling with the bags. When I went to hand the agent my passport, he looked at Chip and said, “Who is this?” 
Even after Chip replied to say that we were together, the customs agent insisted that I fill out a separate declaration form. He told me, “Your state might recognize you, but your federal government doesn’t. Go back to the end of the line.”

As I walked back to the line, 
I felt my face get hot as a flush moved up from my shirt collar. My son began to ask what was happening. When I finally reached them, Chip told me to take the kids through the security gate checkpoint, and he’d be right behind. The next agent looked at my passports and then my kids’ and questioned if they were mine because we didn’t share the same last name. He then had me go through extra screening.

The whole situation was absurd. We were furious.
 I was an American citizen being treated this way by another American citizen. It confirmed for me some deep fear I had of what someone else could think of us, and the names he was attaching to us in his mind. Had our last names been hyphenated, would there have been a different outcome? I don’t think so.

People say that change happens slowly, and yet we’ve seen unbelievable leaps and bounds in regards to marriage equality in the last seven years. My hope based on the ruling is a cautiously optimistic one—that it’s no longer gay marriage or traditional marriage, but simply marriage.

When marriage became legal in California, my not-yet husband became simply my husband.
 We married for two reasons: One, we’d been together nearly 20 years and thought it was time to not only validate our union, but to celebrate it in front of a group of people we loved. And two, more important, we wanted to do it for our children. I imagine they will grow up and look back and think how silly it was that at one time gay people couldn’t get married.

Father, Mother, Son, Daughter, Husband, Wife. These are the names that ground us. They identify us. They have purpose and meaning, and they evoke commitment, duty, and love. And on June 26, love won.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME politics

Sen. Elizabeth Warren: Constitution Had Everything To Do With Gay Marriage Ruling

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) delivers remarks during the Good Jobs Green Jobs National Conference on April 13, 2015 in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) delivers remarks during the Good Jobs Green Jobs National Conference on April 13, 2015 in Washington, DC.

Elizabeth Warren is a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts.

Because of our Constitution, senseless discrimination cannot survive when it is brought out of the darkness

Our Constitution fiercely guards freedom and liberty, and strongly disapproves of state-sanctioned discrimination. The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Obergefell v. Hodges recognizing a fundamental right to equal marriage for LGBT Americans sits squarely within both text and tradition. Indeed, what is truly remarkable about this case is not the outcome, but rather the people who made it possible — all of the many individuals across our nation who came forward to fight for the liberty and equality that our Constitution guarantees for all of us.

The inclusion of a Bill of Rights, with its protections for religious liberty, freedom of speech, and due process, was an essential condition of ratifying the Constitution and bringing the colonies together into one United States of America. Ratification of the Reconstruction Amendments, including the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection, was a necessary component of rebuilding our union after the Civil War. Without these rights and liberties, there would be no Constitution — and no nation.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in Obergefell that “the generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning.” Some would prefer to pretend otherwise, but the Constitution did not come with an owner’s manual of how-to instructions for working through every conceivable situation across the centuries — instead, it outlined principles to serve as guideposts. Applying the Constitution’s terms to unforeseen circumstances does not go beyond the job of a judge; that is the job of a judge.

Even so, for generations, these broad constitutional protections stood side-by-side with state-sanctioned discrimination against LGBT Americans. States criminalized same-sex relationships, banned same-sex marriages, and excluded their own citizens from anti-discrimination protections. This story isn’t new. For nearly a hundred years, systematic, state-sanctioned discrimination against African Americans coexisted with constitutional protections adopted after the Civil War specifically to prevent it. The lesson in both cases is that constitutional freedoms and liberties are meaningful only when our nation is courageous enough not to look away from them.

As a nation, we see now that discrimination heaped on LGBT Americans violates protections laid out in the Constitution. We see it because countless Americans have stepped forward to make themselves seen and to expose ugly discrimination for what it is: a denial of liberty and equality for our fellow citizens.

We see it because of judges like Margaret Marshall, the former Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, who wrote the first decision legalizing same-sex marriage almost 12 years ago. A native of South Africa and a former anti-Apartheid activist, Marshall has said she had given no thought to the issue before the case came to her court — but she knew discrimination when she saw it.

We see it because of civil rights lawyers like Mary Bonauto, the legal architect of the marriage cases who argued that Massachusetts case and earlier this year stood before the Supreme Court seeking national recognition of those same rights in Obergefell, and because of her colleagues at Boston’s Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, who worked tirelessly for more than 30 years to fight government discrimination against LGBT Americans in areas like criminal prosecution, adoption, medical treatment, and marriage.

We see it because of people like Jim Obergefell — who married his husband John on the tarmac at the Baltimore airport in 2013. Months later, John lost his fight with ALS. Years later, Jim took his fight to be listed on John’s death certificate in their native Ohio all the way to the Supreme Court — and won.

In America, because of our Constitution, senseless discrimination – discrimination that demeans the worth of our neighbors and our coworkers and our family members – cannot survive when it is brought out of the darkness. It has never been easy for us to shine the light on such discrimination. But when we see it, when we stop looking away and finally acknowledge it, it is never long before we formally recognize what is compelled by our Constitution. We recognize what has always been there: equality and dignity under the law, for all Americans, no matter who they are.

When looking at this equal marriage decision, Chief Justice John Roberts asserts that the Constitution “had nothing to do with it.” He’s wrong. Our Constitution had everything to do with it — with the liberty of two adults to have their love treated the same as that of any other couple. And it is because of the tireless work of jurists, lawyers, husbands like Jim Obergefell, and countless other LGBT Americans who stepped forward to speak out, that our nation will no longer look away from what our Constitution requires.

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