With the rise of the Tea Party and fiscal conservatism, I truly hoped -- and believed -- that Republicans had moved on from divisive culture wars. I sincerely thought the days of forcing gay marriage bans was in the past, an ugly history that would be rectified when the libertarian strains emerging across the nation solidified.
Apparently I was wrong, for Republicans in both Minnesota, North Carolina and potentially elsewhere are gearing up for a fresh battle around marriage equality.
Maybe it is 1994, after all.
Sixteen years ago, in the first Congressional election of Bill Clinton's presidency, the Grand Old Party swept state and national races in an event that would become known as the Republican Revolution.
With their new-found power, the Republicans helped force through DOMA and sparked a gay marriage craze across the nation, with great success. By taking control of the state levers, that party helped set the nation's agenda for the next decade, at least. Now they are at it again.
Pundits, politicos and the press have spilled massive amounts of ink comparing this year's midterms to those of 1994. And, yes, we can all admit the parallels are striking: a new Democratic president with a "radical" agenda under siege by a newly emboldened right. Back in 1994, however, the dominant ideology was social conservatism.
This year it was fiscal conservatism, leading many, including myself, to have faith that the new Republicans had bigger political fish to fry than marriage equality. We were sorely mistaken.
Now that they're in power, Republican leaders across the nation are stirring the pot of anti-gay sentiment. North Carolina's GOP, for example, has started laying the ground work to ban gay marriage in the Tar Heel State. And they feel entirely justified.
Said Rep. Justin Burr, "If you look at the last two years when the Democrats and the liberals here have pushed their ultraliberal social agenda in Raleigh, that's what really pushed the grass roots to fight back here and helped us win a majority."
In Minnesota, meanwhile, where Republicans have also seized control of the state government, conservatives are fully prepared to introduce a prohibition on same-sex nuptials. According to State Sen. Warren Limmer, there's "a lot of bottled-up desire" to pass such a law.
Considering this trend, the Human Rights Campaign is predicting similar moves in other states, like Pennsylvania and Indiana. "With the new Republican majorities, it's going to be a whole different ball game," explained state legislative director Sarah Warbelow.
This is quite the distressing development.
I've been accused in the past of being a "Pollyanna," because I've tried with all my might to put a positive spin on what can be an increasingly unsettling situation: gay progress. I took offense at the time, but now I'm feeling quite foolish, for my naive idea that Americans, regardless of political party, were starting to have a change of gay heart has started to crumble.
The light at the end of the tunnel I saw wasn't the end at all; it was simply a reflector, warning equality allies to prepare for a swift turn, one that will take all our might, ingenuity and stamina to surpass.
While some of us wanted to steer this old Jalopy of equal rights into a garage and enjoy a new era of American politics, it's time to refuel and get back out there to run down the prohibitive initiatives that are sure to pop up from coast to coast.