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
Update, 6/24/2015: On Tuesday, with momentum continuing to build against the public display of Confederate iconography, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) proposed removing the statue of Confederate president Jefferson Davis from his state's capitol. (So did Matt Bevin, the state's Republican gubernatorial nominee.) The debate has even spread to Washington. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters on Tuesday "we need to make sure the states understand who they have" in Statuary Hall. Read below for the original story on the US Capitol's white supremacist problem:
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."
On Monday, an Arizona House of Representatives committee took its most serious step yet to prevent the state from descending into a post-apocalyptic Thunderdome—it passed legislation too allow gold and silver bullion to be used in private transactions and tax payments. Per Bloomberg Businessweek:
These doomsayers are pushing forward legislation that would declare privately minted gold and silver coins legal tender, no different under state law than the U.S. dollar printed by the federal Department of Treasury.
The measure is Arizona's latest jab at the federal government, which prohibits states from minting their own money. It also reflects a growing distrust of government-backed money.
"The public sees the value in it," said Republican Rep. Steve Smith, of Maricopa. "This is the type of currency we have had over the history of mankind."
As I explained back in 2011, there has been a renewed push by state legislators, motivated by former Rep. Ron Paul's candidacy, to return their states to so-called "sound money" systems. Currently, Utah is the only state that has passed such a bill—but without a system for storing and transferring gold, it hasn't really gotten off the ground.