When justice was finally served and same-sex couples began to marry in California late Friday afternoon, my thoughts shifted to people who oppose marriage equality on religious grounds.
I felt badly for some of them because too often the faith-based opposition to marriage equality is dismissed as the work of zealots who "hate" gay people.
It's easy to find fault with organized religions when church leaders commit their own sins while decrying the "sin" of same-sex love. We're all sinners.
As a Catholic, I know my church stands for good throughout the world, even though I've wrestled with its strong opposition to marriage equality.
Catholic lay people have been key foot soldiers in the fight against gay marriage.
Here in Sacramento, the brains behind the Proposition 8 initiative that made gay marriage illegal from 2008 until Friday was Frank Schubert, a hugely successful political consultant and devout Catholic who also engineered a political campaign to block gay marriage in Maine.
Many Protestant groups have been allies with Catholic bishops in a struggle they view as a defense of "traditional marriage."
Bishop Jaime Soto of the Diocese of Sacramento and the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez of Elk Grove, an influential voice among Protestant evangelicals, are both strongly opposed to same-sex marriage on religious grounds. Both are admirable men of conscience who tend to the sick and downtrodden and who are key advocates on a national level for immigration reform.
They also represent religious people they see as being in the firing line of popular culture, folks who can become the target of harsh judgments for resisting change.
Last week, when the U.S. Supreme Court effectively allowed same-sex marriage in California to resume and struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, Rodriguez told Christian journalists that people of faith could pay a price in the wake of these momentous rulings.
"(The Supreme Court rulings open) the door for inevitable intolerance for people of faith who repudiate bigotry, defend the image of God in all human beings, and also believe that marriage is a sacred union defined by him," Rodriguez said.
The world is changing rapidly and it's natural for some to view the change with trepidation.
By the time Nicola Simmersbach and Diana Luiz arrived at 4:30 p.m. Friday at the Sacramento County clerk's office the first couple to wed in Sacramento after a federal appellate court lifted the stay on gay marriages it was breathtaking to consider the seismic cultural shifts that have occurred since Proposition 8 in 2008 designated marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
Same-sex marriage is now legal in 13 states and the District of Columbia, meaning that roughly 30 percent of Americans now reside in states that support marriage equality.
Within five years, gay marriage could very likely be legal in all 50 states. Public opinion has tilted in favor of marriage equality so quickly, it seems history is on fast forward.
Watching same-sex couples arrive at the Sacramento County clerk's office on television Friday reminded me of the night the Berlin Wall came down.
Years of pent-up emotion suddenly found a release. Old restrictions dissolved into thin air. There were tears. There was exultation and a sense of giddy disbelief. Isolated people suddenly joined a broader community.
With due respect to fellow Christians who disagree, this was cause for celebration one that doesn't have to come at the expense of religious freedom or with intolerance toward religious people.
You can support the idea that government has no business restricting same-sex marriages while loving your church and trying to live the Gospel.
Ten to 20 years ago, I would have been called an "a la carte Catholic" for promoting ideas that sidestep church doctrine.
Maybe I am, but I have a lot of company. According to a recent Pew Forum study, a slight majority of Catholics support marriage equality, as do a majority of mainline Protestants.
Over time, some of us learned to reconcile why our church leaders cited Scripture when opposing same-sex marriage. Personally, I choose not to argue with my bishop over Leviticus or whether Jesus ever said anything about gays or gay marriage.
The courts and Constitution provide another option. In a ruling that the U.S. Supreme Court chose not to invalidate, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker wrote: "Affording (same-sex) couples the opportunity to obtain the designation of marriage will not impinge upon the religious freedom or any religious organization, official or any other person; no religion will be required to change its policies or practices with regard to same sex couples, and no religious officiant will be required to solemnize a marriage in contravention of his or her religious beliefs."
With religious freedom affirmed, the hope is that people of faith don't wind up on the wrong end of intolerance for their views on marriage equality, as Rodriguez and others fear.
It says in the Constitution and the Bible that we can disagree while still living side by side. There is great wisdom in the Bible, words on compassion and understanding toward those on the other side of this and every other argument.
Choosing love over anger is always the answer.