This, from a new Washington Post poll, is a milestone for gay civil rights:

Regardless of your own preference on the issue, do you think that the part of the U.S. Constitution providing Americans with equal protection under the law does or does not give gays and lesbians the legal right to marry?

Does: 50

Does not: 43

This is significant because it goes beyond the question of whether people support legal gay marriage. While we’ve seen a major cultural shift on that question — today’s Post poll finds 56 percent in support — the general idea of legal gay marriage can co-exist with some states keeping it illegal. But now support for a Constitutionally protected right to gay marriage has hit 50 percent.

In recent months, state laws banning gay marriage have been falling like dominoes, largely because of the Supreme Court’s decision overturning the Defense of Marriage Act. As gay rights advocates point out, SCOTUS’s ruling in United States v. Windsor stopped short of declaring a Constitutional right to gay marriage, but it paved the way for gay marriage bans to be overturned on the grounds that they violate equal protection clause, in places like Utah, Oklahoma, and Virginia.

Many advocates expect that one of the many outstanding cases will find its way to the Supreme Court soon enough. SCOTUS is expected to weigh public opinion in making its next decision. Polling like the above suggests rapid evolution in public attitudes on the core Constitutional questions here, which could make a broader ruling more likely.

“This is a highly significant number,” gay rights advocate Richard Socarides tells me. “The Supreme Court came right up to the edge in Windsor, stopping short of declaring a federally protected right to gay marriage, but most people think it is now ready to do so. This poll shows the country is ready for it. This poll and others like it to come will help lay the groundwork for a Supreme Court decision in the next 18 months holding that there is a Constitutional right to marriage equality.”

And once again, Republicans and conservatives are alone on this question. While 50 percent of independents and 54 percent of moderates say the Constitution’s equal protection language gives gays and lesbians the legal right to marry, only 34 percent of Republicans and 29 percent of conservatives say the same.

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Update: It turns out support for Constitutionally protected gay marriage hit 50 percent in our March poll, too. But very few noticed the significance of it at the time. And today’s number is important, because it gives us more confidence in the finding and suggests support could be enduring. It also comes as more states continue to strike down gay marriage bans on this basis.

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 * A DECENT JOBS REPORT: The monthly numbers for May are in: “Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 217,000 in May, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.3 percent.” Steve Benen comments:

All told, over the last 12 months, the U.S. economy has added over 2.38 million jobs overall and 2.36 million in the private sector. What’s more, May was the 51st consecutive month in which we’ve seen private-sector job growth. The year isn’t quite half over, but 2014 is currently on track to be the best year for U.S. job creation since 1999.

* OBAMA ADMINISTRATION FEARED FOR BERGDAHL’S LIFE: The New York Times sheds a bit more light on why Obama officials decided not to notify Congress of the Bowe Bergdahl swap:

A senior Obama administration official said Thursday that the operation to free Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was kept a closely held secret because of fear that splits within the Taliban could lead gun-wielding guards to kill the soldier before he was turned over to American forces last weekend.

It’s likely that critics of the deal — which includes Democrats — will view this with skepticism. But Senators on the Armed Services Committee will have another chance to directly question military officials about this next week, so it’ll be interesting to see if their reaction shifts at all.

* MORE DETAIL ON TREATMENT OF TALIBAN FIVE: Also from the above Times interview with a senior administration official, on concerns that releasing the five Taliban could constitute a national security threat:

The administration official also provided new details about the terms of the five Taliban members’ stay in Qatar, which has promised to hold them for at least a year. He said that while the five were free to leave their homes and engaged in routine activities — “They are not under house arrest, and they can go to the market,” the official said — they would be barred from fund-raising for the Taliban and inciting their brethren in Afghanistan.

* WHAT REPUBLICANS KNEW ABOUT THE BERGDAHL SWAP: Glenn Kessler does a deep dive into John McCain’s shifting positions on the Bergdahl swap, but the real value of this piece is that it lays out in great detail just how much has been out there on the public record for months about the basic outlines of this trade. As Kessler notes, it has been clear for a very long time that these five Taliban would be the basis of any swap.

Now, this available knowledge doesn’t relieve the administration of the legal obligation to notify Congress 30 days in advance of any pending prisoner release from Guantanamo. But it does show that Republican lawmakers should not have been surprised by the trade.

* NEW EPA RULES START OF LONG GLOBAL CLIMATE EFFORT: Paul Krugman takes apart the leading GOP objections to the new EPA regulations, which he calls the “three Cs,” conspiracy, cost, and China. One of opponents’ favorite objections is that China will burn the coal we don’t, but:

China is enormously dependent on access to advanced-country markets — a lot of the coal it burns can be attributed, directly or indirectly, to its export business — and it knows that it would put this access at risk if it refused to play any role in protecting the planet…The new carbon policy, then, is supposed to be the beginning, not the end, a domino that, once pushed over, should start a chain reaction that leads, finally, to global steps to limit climate change. Do we know that it will work? Of course not. But it’s vital that we try.

* CLIMATE FIGHT POSES LONG TERM RISKS TO GOP: Ronald Brownstein has a good piece detailing how the politics of climate change could exacerbate the red state-blue state divide, which could hurt Dems in the short term but hurt Republicans over the long haul:

Like many Obama initiatives, the EPA proposal creates headaches for Democrats defending House and Senate seats in right-leaning heartland states. But it also threatens GOP presidential candidates, who are being pulled toward positions on climate change (including denying its existence) that could alienate the voters and states they must flip to capture the White House. In more ways than one, those Republicans stampeding to condemn the EPA climate rules may be missing a change in the weather.

As noted here the other day, there are reasons to believe climate will hurt the GOP in 2016 at least as much as it will hurt Dems in 2014.

* AND NO END TO GOP EXCUSES ON IMMIGRATION: The latest from GOP Rep. Bob Goodlatte, a key player on immigration among House Republicans, is to object to Obama’s extension of the program deferring deportation of DREAMers:

“President Obama’s extension of his unilaterally-created immigration program not only violates his constitutional duty to enforce the law, but the changes he made to it proactively invite fraud and abuse…These actions undermine Congress’ hard work to reform our immigration laws and also raise serious concerns about the administration’s ability and willingness to maintain the integrity of our immigration laws.”

Once again, the GOP’s true position is inescapably that the only acceptable response to the immigration crisis is maximum deportations from the interior.

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.