By ARI EZRA WALDMAN
In both the run up to and in the wake of historic Supreme Court arguments on gay equality (which you can read about here, here, here, here, and here), several political leaders from both parties have come out in favor of the freedom to marry. We've had Jon Huntsman, a Republican; Mark Begich, a Democrat; Rob Portman, a Republican; Hillary Clinton, a Democrat; Mark Kirk, a Republican; Bob Casey, a Democrat; and many others. And, they are just a tiny fraction of a fraction of the 58 % of Americans that now support our quest for marriage recognition.
Senators Begich, Portman, Kirk, and Casey are 4 among the 52 United States Senators -- more than 1/2 of that august body -- on the right side of history. Senator Tim Johnson, Democrat of South Dakota, is the latest, and Sen. Kirk is the latest Republican to buck the continued bigotry of his party's base and leadership, a position for which he deserves credit. But, let's not put the latecomers above the vanguard, like Senator Ron Wyden (pictured), a Democrat, who came out for marriage equality in 1995, before "marriage equality" was the de rigueur phrase and long before every other proud progressive felt comfortable following his lead.
Conservatives and liberals have blasted some our most recent allies as "phony" opportunists, spineless, or worse. Chief Justice Roberts even derisively characterized them as "falling over themselves" to support us. Others say we should welcome the evolution as either the nature of the political beast or the product of a personal journey. That's a discussion worth having, but at the moment, I am more interested in what got us here.
If you have been reading the news over the past two weeks, your head might be spinning from the tidal wave of pro-equality support. I mixed those metaphors for a reason: it's a surprisingly accurate description. One by one, many of our politicians have jumped on the marriage bandwagon. There were some important moments along the way -- President Obama and Rob Portman come to mind -- but the momentum reached a climax in the week leading up the Supreme Court hearings on Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Prop 8 case, and Windsor v. United States, the challenge to DOMA.
Timing was not our only ally; the law was, too. Federal court challenges to two harmful and discriminatory laws gave us the opportunity to replace the lies and fearmongering of the DOMA Congress and the Prop 8 proponents with truth and justice. And, the public learned, taking to heart the well-publicized lessons of court decision after court decision. Generational shifts are playing their role, but the law was the catalyst of the falling dominoes we read about every day. Hollingsworth and Windsor pushed public opinion, laying bare the emptiness of our opponents' arguments and the virulence of their hatred. There was little for politics to do other than to try and keep up.
I consider the catalytic effect of the law AFTER THE JUMP...