WASHINGTON – Gay marriage is now a seamless part of the American fabric.
The Supreme Court ruling Friday was an affirmation that public sentiment has not only shifted dramatically, but the rainbow revolution is permanent and will not be reversed.
Opponents will keep fighting, and vow now to take the issue to the states.
But the Supreme Court's ruling caps an extraordinary few years when gay rights and gay marriage became widely accepted, thanks partly to popular culture portraying gays as "people next door," and partly to a growing intolerance for intolerance driven by a new generation of Americans who easily embrace gay rights.
"People who support more traditional marriages realize they're outnumbered," said Stuart Rothenberg, a political analyst. "The march of history is against them."
It was telling that most political opposition was muted.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who last fall helped raise money for an openly gay candidate, expressed dismay but did not call for legislative relief.
"We should respect the sincerely held religious views of our fellow citizens, just as we respect those on the winning side of this case," said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.
Democrats were more wholeheartedly supportive, another sign of how much the nation has shifted. Just a few years ago, President Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton and other leading party officials were opposed.
The issue won't entirely disappear. There was some talk of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. But that's a political impossibility.
Gay marriage raises questions not only of religious beliefs but also of discrimination, and the nation has shown for years that it wants to move away from intolerance.
Public attitudes have shifted dramatically in favor of such unions. A solid majority now think same-sex marriages should be legal.
Fighting same sex marriage state by state is likely to be even tougher. Getting traditional marriage laws enacted would be a lengthy, often difficult task, and unlikely to succeed in many states.
"The lift would be heavier and a longer haul," said Gregory Angelo, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay Republican group.
Many Republicans would rather move on. There's concern that being too adamant against gay marriage reinforces the view that the party is intolerant.
Priebus issued a carefully worded statement Friday touching on states' rights and religious freedom, without expressing outright opposition to same-sex unions.
This desire for religious freedom is now the conservatives' rallying cry. But even under that banner, trends are going against them.
Indiana lawmakers tried in March to protect businesses that wanted to deny service to those whose beliefs they didn't share, but pressure from businesses and others forced a quick softening of the law. The passion among opponents will live on, but not the political will. "They understand they've lost the fight," Rothenberg said.