Then there were 10. No, wait. Nine.
But there may be no better measure of this historic change and its disorienting speed than what has happened among the Democrats of the U.S. Senate. They are often representatives of an urban party in rural places. That makes them the zebras of Washington’s little world: perpetually vulnerable, sniffing the wind.
As recently as the last election, 17 of those Democrats did not support same-sex marriage. By this week, however, the number was smaller.
And getting more so by the day.
“After much thought and prayer, I have come to my own personal conclusion that we shouldn’t tell people who they can love or who they can marry,” Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) said Wednesday in a statement posted on her Facebook page.
A day before, Sen. Jon Tester (Mont.) had announced his own change of heart. A day before that, it was Sen. Mark R. Warner (Va.). A day before that, Sen. Claire McCaskill (Mo.) posted her announcement on a Tumblr page, above a frittata recipe.
After Hagan, nine Democrats left.
And on Wednesday, even that group seemed to show limited enthusiasm for the cause of limiting marriage to unions of one man and one woman.
One senator’s office issued a terse statement, reiterating his support. Two senators said they wanted to leave the matter to the states. One was described as “evolving” — although it was not clear into what. The other five just didn’t call back.
It’s easy to see why they might be disoriented. In U.S. politics, the cause of same-sex marriage has still lost far more often than it has won. In all, 38 states have passed laws outlawing it. And it wasn’t until last fall — in Maryland, Washington and Maine — that voters in any state actually voted to approve it.
Not five months later, however, the world looks different. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll showed a clear majority in favor of legalizing the marriages. It also showed that 81 percent of adults under 30 — today’s voters and tomorrow’s — support it.
For many Democrats, support for same-sex marriage no longer seems like an option. It seems like an obligation.
“Many more family members have come forward, whether it’s somebody’s sister, brother, cousin, uncle, mother, father, whatever it is, have come forward as to their interest in marriage equality, and that’s been then translated into our popular culture. . . . So, we’re in a different place,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday, describing how she’s seen other lawmakers change their opinions.
Republicans, of course, are going through their own self-examination on this issue. This month, Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio) announced that he had reversed his earlier position and now supported gay marriage. Portman cited his son’s decision two years earlier to come out as gay.