In 1954, the Supreme Court decided in Brown v. Board of Education that segregation of schools was not allowed. The decision stated, rather bluntly, "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." Shortly after this victory for the American people, panic ensued. We just couldn't have integration, that's unheard of.
Starting almost immediately, people with institutional power decided there would be campaigns to limit desegregation, to stop its enforcement, to bully people, and everything else. Any tactic you could think of was used. State Democratic legislators passed a number of laws making it more difficult to integrate their schools. Virginia, for example, fought it by using a policy they called massive resistance.
Massive resistance was a policy declared by U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr. on February 24, 1956 to unite other white politicians and leaders in Virginia in a campaign of new state laws and policies to prevent public school desegregation after the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision in 1954. Although most of the laws created to implement Massive Resistance were negated by state and federal courts by January 1960, some policies and effects of the campaign against integrated public schools continued in Virginia for many more years.
The kneejerk reaction by Democrats was to avoid enforcement of this new constitutional policy. But it went further than that. One of the most clever tactics used was just shutting down public schools altogether. If there were no public schools, nobody would ever have to be integrated. Blacks could still be denied their full rights as Americans.
When faced with an order to integrate, Prince Edward County closed its entire school system in September 1959 rather than integrate. Prince Edward County was the only school district in the country to resort to such extreme measures. In 1963, schools were ordered to open, and when the Supreme Court agreed in 1964, the supervisors gave in rather than risk prison, and public schools were reopened.
During the interruption in access to Prince Edward's public schools, white students were able to get educated at the Prince Edward Academy, which operated as the de facto school system, enrolling K-12 students at a number of facilities throughout the county. Even after the re-opening of the public schools, the Academy remained segregated, losing its tax-exempt status in 1978. In 1986, it accepted black students. Today it is known as Fuqua School.
Other counties, such as Surry County chose to close only their white schools. White students attended the Surry Academy, and blacks continued to attend the public schools.
99 Democrats in the US Congress signed the Southern Manifesto, saying such things as "The unwarranted decision of the Supreme Court in the public school cases is now bearing the fruit always produced when men substitute naked power for established law."
The document, written by Strom Thurmond (D-Racist) also said, "The original Constitution does not mention education. Neither does the 14th Amendment nor any other amendment. The debates preceding the submission of the 14th Amendment clearly show that there was no intent that it should affect the system of education maintained by the States."
Tactics such as shutting down public schools entirely were talked about for years, until integration was finally fully implemented, to the disdain of many elected officials and Americans, including Democrats.
In 1993, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled in Baehr v. Lewin (also known as Baehr v. Miike) that the state has to show a compelling interest to prohibit the freedom to marry for same sex couples as well as opposite sex couples. This scared people on the left and right. They started to fear that Hawaii would enact same sex marriage and that other states, upon being forced to recognize Hawaii's marriages, would choose to do the same.
In a fit of panic, legislators on both sides of the aisle, people in a position of institutional power, wrote and passed the Defense of Marriage Act, by 1996 - for the purpose of keeping states from recognizing this newly and finally accepted right. The stated purpose of the act was to "amend... the U.S. Code to make explicit what has been understood under federal law for over 200 years; that a marriage is the legal union of a man and a woman as husband and wife, and a spouse is a husband or wife of the opposite sex." It was passed 85-14 in the Senate, 342-67 in the House. A majority of Democrats and Republicans teamed together to prevent gays from having access to the fundamental right to marry. Then Democratic President Bill Clinton reasserted his opinion that he "opposes same sex marriage," and he proceeded to sign the bill that passed with Democratic and Republican support.
This happened after, by the way, he ran in 1992 on what he would say was the most pro-gay candidacy we ever had for President.
The passage of DOMA eliminated any possibility that states would follow along and accept marriage rights for its LGBT citizens. It led to the destruction of that concept for over half a decade, but its proponents said that it preserved marriage.
In March 2010, a lesbian teenager named Constance McMillen wanted to attend her prom in Mississippi and bring her girlfriend along. She asked her school and the schoolboard for permission to do so, leading to some very irrational decisions.
McMillen claimed that she had first asked the school principal about bringing a same-sex date to the prom in December 2009, and that he said it was not allowed, due to a concern that pairs of same sex friends who were not in a relationship would buy less expensive couples tickets instead of individual tickets. McMillen said she told him "you can't pretend like there's not gay people at our school, and if you tell people they can't bring a same-sex date, that is discrimination to them."
Two days after this request, in a fit of panic, in order to keep a gay person from attending their high school prom, school officials, people in institutional positions of power, canceled their prom. The school then decided to hold a private prom for students and then banned Constance from attending.
A judge had ruled that canceling the prom or not allowing her to attend it was a clear violation of her first amendment right of expression, but that since a private prom was already being planned, no action would be taken.
They then, under pressure, agreed to let her attend, but instead they held a fake prom in which no one but Constance showed up, and all the heterosexual couples had their own prom, without having to let Constance have her first amendment rights.
In August 2010, Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that since marriage is a fundamental right, it applies to gays and lesbians who wish to get married. Judge Walker wrote a 138 page opinion about the importance of the word marriage, its societal and familial effects and the necessity of gay couples to use the word in order to feel validated, socially accepted and stable. It noted that people in positions of institutional power can and do inflict harms upon those of us who are politically powerless and can't do anything about it.
It noted that marriage is so important and intrinsic to American society that taking it away from a group is drastically harmful to that group and that harm extends to their children and families. Judge Walker ruled that it is irrational to exclude gays from marriage.
Shortly after, liberal bloggers/analysts/law professors all over the place - Democratic party supporters in positions of gender and orientation privilege - raise the specter of using their institutional power against the powerless to eliminate marriages entirely, as always, when a gay rights victory is won.