I had just finished speaking at a Northern Virginia church when an attractive young woman with a pixie haircut introduced herself, saying she'd just moved here from Boston.
"This," she said, gesturing at her female companion, "is my wife."
"Nice to meet you!" I said, asking how they were enjoying Washington and praying that no one could tell that inside, I was reeling.
But from what? Surprise, even though I knew that hundreds of such newlyweds have existed since the recent explosion of gay marriages? Confusion that such warm, likable women would be dismissed by some as hell-bound underminers of a God-fearing nation?
From change smacking me in the face?
The next night, I sat before the TV, digesting President Bush's increasingly evident win. I'd sat in the same spot in February and again in May watching footage of same-sex couples whooping with joy over finally exchanging vows in San Francisco and Massachusetts. Back then, my feelings of fascination and apprehension were overwhelmed by an internal whisper:
This is awful for the Kerry campaign.
Since Tuesday, people have convincingly cited terrorism, war in Iraq, Republican election high jinks, young, "PlayStation-beats-standingin-line" non-voters and other factors for Kerry's loss.
I think I called it right earlier this year.
In a recent column, I noted that the Bible mentions poverty more than 2,000 times. The Good Book refers to homosexuality fewer than a dozen times, often obliquely. Jesus never mentioned homosexuality; same-gender sex didn't even make God's Top Ten list of no-nos. Adultery and premarital sex, also biblically frowned-upon, abound.
Yet gay marriages, and the legal decisions that fueled them, sparked a firestorm that helped consume Kerry's presidential hopes.
In the past year, Americans endured numerous moral outrages, including mounting casualties in Iraq, fresh-faced U.S. soldiers torturing helpless prisoners and a thin but rested-looking Osama bin Laden scolding us from a TV studio. There wasn't a thing we felt we could do about it.
But gay newlyweds' in-your-face exuberance provided a "Fear Factor" moment many Americans didn't have to sit still for.
On Tuesday, strong majorities voted for 11 state ballot initiatives rejecting same-sex marriage. In swing states, the Bush campaign successfully capitalized on the president's call in February for a constitutional amendment restricting marriage to the union of men and women.