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William & Mary Law Review

Abstract

The marriage equality movement won its first state victory in 2003, and within a dozen years fifty states were handing out marriage licenses. The swiftness of the constitutional triumph was only possible because public opinion underwent a sea change in that period. Sexual and gender minorities achieved this remarkable turnaround once a critical mass, widely dispersed in the country, came out of their closets as committed couples (often raising children), and mainstream America found their stories more consistent with their own lives than they did a generation earlier. Other lessons of marriage equality’s success, however, are how hard it is for a social movement to change longstanding norms and perspectives and how prejudice and stereotyping survive court victories and migrate to other issues and social groups.

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