By asking for the legal right to marry, gay and lesbian Americans paid "a lavish compliment to an institution that needs it," said Frank Bruni, author and op-ed columnist for The New York Times.

They were advocating for their rights "using the language of love, the language of commitment, a language mainstream America understands," he said Sept. 30 at Goucher College.

Recalling that, as a youth, the only book about gays he could find had the "alliterative but not reassuring" title Alien Affections, Bruni described how much mainstream American attitudes toward gay and lesbian rights have changed. These days, the debate about whether to legalize gay marriage "is not 'if' but 'when,'" he said. "It's happening, and no one of any political stripe doubts that."

Introduced by College President Sanford J. Ungar as a "journeyman journalist," Bruni served as The New York Times' chief restaurant critic from 2004 to 2009. His memoir, Born Round (Penguin Press, 2010), and his chronicle of George W. Bush's campaign, Ambling into History (Harper Perennial, 2003), are New York Times bestsellers. He was the Fall 2013 Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Visiting Professor; the professorship brings to campus distinguished speakers in current affairs and politics.