(WASHINGTON POST) — LAST THURSDAY, people started spending nights in the ticket line outside the Supreme Court, and we can’t blame them.

Over the next two days, the justices will consider two of the weightiest civil rights cases in years, both about the continuing struggle of gay men and lesbians to obtain equal recognition under the law. On Tuesday, the court will consider the constitutionality of Proposition 8, a California initiative that banned same-sex marriage in the state. On Wednesday, the justices will turn to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law enacted in 1996 that bars the federal government from offering benefits to same-sex couples, even if they were legally married in their home state.

The justices have many options as they consider how to rule. But more important than the particulars of their eventual holdings is the general direction they choose to take: They must move the country forward, not back.

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