Back in 1996, President Bill Clinton signed a law stipulating that the federal government would not recognize marriages between same-sex couples. On Friday night, the White House was illuminated with rainbow colors in celebration of the Supreme Court ruling legalizing such marriages in every state of the nation.
For gay-rights activists, the two decades between those moments were marked by a dramatic mix of setbacks and victories. As recently as 2004 there was widespread despair as voters in 13 states approved constitutional amendments entrenching bans on same-sex marriage.
At that stage, some activists questioned whether marriage equality was a realistic goal. Others, while wary of appearing too optimistic, suggested gay marriage might take hold by 2020.
That once audacious timetable proved to be overcautious.