The rock will wear away

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Friday's judicial victory for marriage equality in New Jersey put me in mind of a women's music movement anthem of  the 1970s, when the notion of gay weddings struck many - including many gay people - as a fantasy.

Singer-songwriter Holly Near's powerful ballad, "The Rock Will Wear Away," was about sexual and economic violence against women. But Near, whom I once heard perform on the same stage with Jane Fonda (what a liberal hootenanny), also described how change happens:

Can we be like drops of water falling on the stone/splashing, breaking, dispersing in air/Weaker than the stone by far but be aware/That as time goes by the rock will wear away/And the water comes again

While dramatic decisions by judges often have propelled the progress of equal civil rights for gay people, the fact that same-sex couples may be able, at last, to legally wed in New Jersey as soon as next month much to do with the inexorable force of change Near sang about. As boomers began to come out more than 30 years ago, the sheer number of individuals willing to acknowledge the truth about their lives changed how gays as a community were perceived by the majority.

Water imagery can be evocative, but also facile, so I'll forgo the tidal comparisons. The fact that my state will soon allow people like me to exercise a right that has long been inherently ours -- but that we've been prevented from  exercising due to the baseless fears of a dwindling few -- is evidence that Holly Near sang the truth.

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