In August of 2013, Sean Holihan and Danny Barefoot had been together for more than four years and decided it was time to tie the knot. But the couple lived in Virginia, which at that time denied gay people the right to marry. Still, Holihan and Barefoot, who are friends of mine, trudged down to the county clerk’s office, explained their predicament, and awaited the response. It arrived about a week later, in the form of a blunt denial.
Thanks to the Supreme Court’s surprising decision on Monday, no Virginian will ever have to see a letter like this again. Gay marriage is now the law of the land throughout the state. Holihan and Barefoot’s letter has now been consigned to the history books.
With all this good news, of course, it’s easy to forget that at least 20 states still treat gay couples like legal strangers. At the rate the courts are moving, that number should continue to shrink as the marriage equality debate approaches its inevitable finale. But until that day comes, a letter like this one serves as a powerful reminder of how far gay people have come this decade—and how far we have left to go.