Wow, is public school history that woefully bad now? The Declaration was signed in 1776. The Articles of Confederacy were signed in 1777. The U.S. Constitution, which superseded it, was ratified in 1788. The Declaration is a statement of purpose, not a legal document. It was never ratified by the people, nor by any governing body. The earliest that you can say the United States of America existed as a legal proposition was 1777 when the Articles of Confederacy were signed, but the date at which the currently existing United States of America came into being was 1788, when the constitution was ratified. It didn't actually take effect until March 4 of 1789, when the first Congress came into power. It is certainly true that the words in the Declaration were highly influential in the writing of the Constitution, but the Declaration itself has no legal authority. It is a lovely aspirational document, though, and today's decision is another step in the direction of living up to its stated intent.