Ruben Diaz, a 69-year-old Democratic state senator from the Bronx, was one of the best-received speakers at the National Organization for Marriage's March for Marriage on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. His message, shouted out in two languages (with a sidekick yelling the English), was fairly succinct:
"One man! Un hombre! One woman! Una mujer! One man! Un hombre! One woman! Una mujer! One man! Un hombre! One woman! Una mujer! One man! Un hombre! One woman! Una mujer! One man! Un hombre! One woman! Una mujer! One man! Un hombre! One woman! Una mujer! One man! Un hombre! One woman! Una mujer! One man! Un hombre! One woman! Una mujer!"
You get the picture. Diaz is the Edith S. Childs of the anti-equality movement.
Though NOM's rally features the loud music and chants of a pep rally (also: bagpipes, grown men dressed like Buckingham palace guards, and dudes wearing red sashes), it has a different vibe: that of coping. With public opinion swinging wildly in favor of marriage equality, dozens of politicians in both parties following suit, and the Supreme Court poised on the brink of one (if not two) landmark decisions, the once dominant campaign against gay marriage is up against the ropes. Even a majority of young Republicans now believe same-sex marriage should be legal. The movement that conservative columnist George Will noted is "literally dying" decided to hold its rally in front of the Museum of Natural History—just a few paces, that is, from actual fossils.
NOM is attempting to convince its political allies, the media, the public, and perhaps itself that, despite appearances, it has been a good year for the anti-equality movement—that its argument is still a winning one.
On the National Mall, this happened in several stages. The first was grief. Diane Hess of Maryland was standing stage left with a sign that left little room for ambiguity. "Same sex marriage + the liberal media + Obama = the new Axis of Evil." From her perspective, the nation is totally screwed. "I do see us in a worse place, in a more godless place in 20 years," she said. Same-sex marriage is here, and it's only the beginning. "There is going to be a persecution of the Christian church." Sarah Stites, a student at Grove City College and one of the few actual young people at a rally was only a bit more bullish. "It seems to be heading that way," she said, when I ask about marriage equality. "I feel like people my age aren't getting all the information. They're being swayed by the media."
"Eventually there is gonna be a backlash," she remarked, "but I do think think we're going in the direction of same-sex marriage."
The second stage was doubt. As this line of thinking goes, everything you've been told about support for marriage equality should be questioned. "The Field Poll only said there was  percent support for traditional marriage," said NOM president Brian Brown, referring to a poll of Proposition 8 in California. "And guess how that turned out!" (Never mind that the survey was taken five years ago.) Martha Marsh of Maryland told me much the same thing: "First of all, I don't think the majority of Americans are behind same-sex marriage—I think a lot of politicians are for it." Wei Feng, who drove down from Rochester, New York, with his two daughters for the march on the Supreme Court, insisted that there's a "silent majority" that still opposes marriage equality. They'll speak up; just give them time.
The last stage of coping set aside the skepticism entirely and fixated on a fact-free assertion: young people really are on our side. "They are perpetually telling you in the media that young people are supporting same-sex marriage," Brown said at one point. "I'm gonna tell you something: That is not true." Never mind that the Pew study last week found that 70 percent of adults born after 1981 support marriage equality. Brown had something more powerful than a scientific survey: an anecdote. That is, a child: Grace Evans, an 11-year-old from Minnesota who became the next great hope of the anti-equality movement earlier this month when she testified before the Minnesota legislature in opposition to same-sex marriage. Evans, after explaining why her parents were awesome, posed a question to the lawmakers: "Which parent do I not need—my mom or my dad?"
On Tuesday, Brown showed a two-minute video of Evans' testimony on the big screen. When the audience had settled down, he got to the point: "The next time someone tries to intimidate you or they call you a name because you oppose gay marriage, think about that 11 year-old girl."
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of California's ban on same-sex marriage. On Wednesday, the court will hear oral arguments on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, which for the last 17 years has prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex couples. With new polls showing a significant majority of Americans endorse marriage equality—and three new Senators announcing their support in the last week—it's tough to shake the sense that attitudes about the once-polarizing issue have shifted irreversibly. Even RNC chairman Reince Priebus now suggests that support for marriage equality may no longer be a deal-breaker for conservatives.
Over the last three years, dozens of politicians have, to use the phrase du jour, "evolved" on marriage equality, starting with a trickle of mostly progressive politicians and culminating in recent months with mainstream figures in both parties calling for an end to the marriage wars. (Maybe it was all that sushi.) Here's a look at how it went down:
Update: The article original stated that Gov. Chafee came out in support of gay marriage in 2009. It has been updated with new information.
Andrea Renault/Globe Photos/ZumaPress.com; Pete Souza/Flickr
The Senate is expected to reject an assault weapons ban when it's introduced as an amendment to a large gun control package next month. But Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) isn't taking any chances. On Friday, the first-term conservative is planning on filing an amendment to the Senate budget resolution making it impossible for any gun control legislation to pass the Senate without a two-thirds majority—a standard currently reserved for the ratification of treaties. (That's an even higher threshold than that imposed by filibusters, which can be broken with 60 votes.)
"[I]f the Lee amendment is passed, the practical effect will be that gun control can never again pass the Senate," the far-right Second Amendment group Gun Owners of America boasted in an email to members on Friday.
Lee's amendment won't pass. But the fact that Republicans would consider carving out an entirely new voting threshold just for gun control legislation tells you just how little ground they're willing to concede, at least publicly, on this fight.
In a new book, former senior Obama administration official Cass Sunstein compares former Fox News host Glenn Beck's harsh attacks on his record to George Orwell's 1984, and blasts what he calls the "the true terribleness of the contemporary confirmation process."
Sunstein, a former law professor at Harvard and the University of Chicago, was nominated in 2009 to be director of the little-known Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs—a job that quickly took on the sobriquet of "regulatory czar." His long record of books and speeches quickly became fodder for Beck, who dubbed Sunstein "the most dangerous man in America." In his soon-to-be-released book, Simpler: The Future of Government, Sunstein notes that Beck "developed what appeared to be a kind of obsession with me" and says that the unrelenting criticism from this tea party leader and other conservative pundits triggered more threatening messages:
In Orwell's 1984, there is a brilliant, powerful, and frightening scene of the "Two Minutes Hate," in which party members must watch a film depicting national enemies. (As it happens, the leading enemy is named Goldstein.) At times, Beck's attacks on me, featuring my smiling face, were not entirely unlike those scenes. A new website was created, stopsunstein.com, filled with inflammatory quotations, some taken out of context to suggest that I endorsed views that I rejected and was merely describing.
I began to receive a lot of hate mail, including death threats, at my unlisted home address. One of them stated, "If I were you I would resign immediately. A well-paid individual, who is armed, knows where you live."
Beck wasn't the only right-wing leader who had Sunstein in his sights. In 2009, Wayne LaPierre, the National Rifle Association's executive vice president, bashed Sunstein as "a radical animal rights extremist who makes PETA look like cheerleaders with pooper-scoopers," and he alleged that Sunstein "wants to give legal standing to animals so they can sue you for eating meat."
In his book, Sunstein's response to the attacks from hunting and agriculture groups is succinct: "OMG."
Despite all the conservative opposition to Sunstein, he survived the confirmation process and was approved by the Senate on a 57-40 vote—after having to ensure fence-sitting senators he would not in his new post ban hunting or steal guns. Following the vote, he met with Obama in the Oval Office, and Rahm Emanuel greeted him with a sarcastic exclamation: "Fifty-seven to 40! That's a landslide!"
Wade Hampton, Robert E. Lee, John C. Calhoun, and Kirby Smith
When a statue of civil rights icon Rosa Parks was unveiled in the Capitol's Statuary Hall in late February, it joined an exclusive club. The collection includes generals and statesmen, inventors and priests—as well as some of the most notorious leaders of a five-year armed insurrection that left 600,000 people dead in the name of protecting white Americans' rights to own black Americans as slaves. What all the people portrayed in Statuary Hall have in common, with few exceptions, are two things: They are white, and they are men.
There is one Latino represented in the collection today. There are six American Indians, one Hawaiian, and zero African Americans. (Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. are both featured as part of a separate collection.) If it were any less diverse it would look like the Senate. But if the Architect of the Capitol is uncomfortable with the composition of its collection, it has an odd way of showing it. The biographies of the collection's most notorious members make no mention of their hard-earned legacies perpetuating and reinforcing a culture of white supremacy.
According to Hilary Shelton, the Washington director of the NAACP, the collection's biographies amount to a "whitewash" of history.
"It becomes revisionist when they don't talk about the real context in which these struggles that are going on," Shelton told Mother Jones. "We would not want to see them edit it out either. But we would like to make sure that there is a clear understanding of what was going on in the country at those times."