Twenty-two months ago, the Supreme Court — perhaps not fully realizing that it was doing so — set off a constitutional revolution. In a decision that spoke somewhat tentatively about an “evolving understanding of the meaning of equality,” the Court in United States v. Windsor saw in that understanding a deep even if new respect in America for the dignity of same-sex couples who choose to marry.
What followed from that, with astonishing speed, was that the list of states where such marriages became legal expanded from twelve to thirty-six. Lower federal courts, in particular, led the way. On Tuesday, at a two-and-a-half-hour hearing, the Supreme Court confronts a simple question: did those courts go astray, and misread what Windsor really meant?
A cabinet shelf full of about one hundred and fifty briefs introduced the Justices to that question from many angles. But the