When I started covering gay issues for Slate, every new positive development felt like a game-changer. I distinctly remember the thrill of reporting on the first post-DOMA green card given to a gay couple, the military’s sudden endorsement of gay marriage, the revolt of pro-gay marriage clerks in pre-gay marriage New Mexico.
Nowadays, I’m a good deal less enthused to see big gay legal news flood my Twitter feed or breaking-news emails on the Outward email list. It’s not that I’ve lost interest in the cause, or that I’m tired of reporting on the LGBTQ beat. It’s just that—and please forgive me for this—the biggest civil rights issue of our time has also been a pain in the neck for my Fridays.
I know, I know; that sounds so shallow, so selfish, so millennial. But please, hear me out. You might not realize it, but some of the biggest gay marriage rulings have arrived on a Friday afternoon. New Jersey got gay marriage on a Friday. So did Utah and Michigan. Marriage equality came to Arkansas just last Friday, late in the afternoon. Virginia’s gay marriage ban was overturned in the later hours of a Thursday night, mandating coverage in the wee hours of Friday morning and throughout the next day. Iowa and Connecticut’s marriage bans both met their deaths on a Friday. David Weigel calls this “the war on Mark Stern’s Fridays.”
Why does this late-week gay marriage news dump keep happening? Fun as it is to imagine a vast, judiciary-wide conspiracy to ruin the start of my weekends, it’s probably because federal judges are just like everybody else: They wait until the last minute to do their most important tasks. There’s nothing in the Constitution that forbids Article III judges from procrastinating—although if it were possible, I wouldn’t mind passing an amendment to that effect. Plus, every judge knows that a gay marriage ruling is going to draw the lunatics from their lairs; if you sneak your opinion into the Friday afternoon news dump, you might manage to avoid the bulk of NOM’s wrath.
I can understand all of that, in theory, and I can sympathize with it. But when you’re just about the leave the office, the anticipatory thrill of a great weekend buoying you—and then a bunch of judges in New Jersey suddenly decides that it’s time for marriage equality in the Garden State, it can get a little frustrating. My response to the New Jersey news, in fact, was a succinct “Goddammit!” (Sorry, Plotz.) Laura Helmuth overheard and rightfully chastised me, but I like to think, deep down, she was a little sympathetic, too. I had dinner plans, and now they were ruined—all thanks to gay marriage.
It’s not lost on me, of course, that I’m incredibly lucky I can be so blasé about gay rights. When California legalized marriage equality (the first time), I wept with joy; when New York passed its gay-marriage bill, my friends and I threw an impromptu party in celebration. The fact that we can yawn (or groan) about the latest pro-gay ruling indicates just how far we’ve come. But it also makes clear that the engine of history is pushing every state down the same path, and there’s no rule that social progress can only occur on Fridays. There are 33 more states yet to legalize gay marriage. If a judge in one of them issues the fateful order on, say, a Monday morning, I’ll marry the guy.